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Reviews - Film
 
Justice League: The New Frontier
Original Release Date - February 26th, 2008 (DTV Only)

Inspired by the best-selling graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke and produced by the multiple Emmyģ award winning animation legend, Bruce Timm, The New Frontier is the epic tale of the founding of the Justice League. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all here of course, and so are Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Flash - whose incredible origins will be told for the very first time. Strangers at first, these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable, even the mighty Superman can not stop it. If they fail, our entire planet will be ďcleansedĒ of humanity.

Reviews by Zach Demeter and James Harvey
Reviews contain spoilers for the film.

Credits:
Creative Consultant Darwyn Cooke
Voice Direction Andrea Romano
Music by Keven Manthei
Editor Elen Orson
Written by Stan Berkowitz
Additional Material by Darwyn Cooke
based on the DC graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke
Executive Producer Bruce Timm
Line producer Kimberly A. Smith
Supervising Producer Michael Goguen
Directed by David Bullock
Executive in Charge of Production for DC Comics Gregory Noveck
Animation Services Dongwoo Co., LTD.
Voices:
David Boreanaz as Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern
Miguel Ferrer as J'onn J'onzz / Martian Manhunter
Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen / The Flash
John Heard as Ace Morgan
Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman
Kyle MacLachlan as Clark Kent / Superman
Phil Morris as King Faraday
Alan Ritchson as Aquaman
Kyra Sedgwick as Lois Lane
Brooke Shields as Carol Ferris
Jeremy Sisto as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Joe Alaskey as Bugs Bunny
Jeff Bennett as Sportscaster
Corey Burton as Abin Sur
Townsend Coleman as Dr. Magnus
Keith David as The Centre
Sean Donnellan as Haley
Robin Atkin Downes as The Guardian
Shane Haboucha as Robin
David Hunt as Harry
Lex Lang as Rick Flag
Vicki Lewis as Iris West
Joe Mantegna as Crooner
Vanessa Marshall as Amazon Woman
Jim Meskimen as Slam Bradley
James Arnold Taylor as Captain Cold
Screen Grabs

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Review (Zach Demeter)
WellÖholy crap. I must say after the mediocre first attempt with Superman Doomsday, I was already wondering if this DC Universe line was going to take off at all. Then I watched The New Frontier footage and I began to get some hope again. Sure, weíve seen the Justice League in animation before, but nothing like The New Frontier was going to be. This was going to be a return to the silver age, with gosh and golly geeís thrown in for good measure. My reading of the original comic only furthered my excitement for the title and by the time the film arrived in my hands, I could hardly wait to throw that disc right into the DVD player.

In The New Frontier our Justice League has disbanded after questioning from the government over their tactics. While Superman and Wonder Woman still ally themselves with the US Government, other heroes like The Flash and Batman become vigilantes, despite their instance on doing good. Itís not until the advent of a new Green Lantern and the coming of a dark evil known as the Centre arrives on Earth do we see our heroes join forces once again to defeat the forces of darkness. With near a dozen heroes making appearances throughout, The New Frontier has set a stage for the DC Universe DTVs that I wonder if will ever be met again.

Thereís so much to talk about with The New Frontier that I hardly know where to begin. My mind is racing, trying to remember every detail, every glorious detail, that is sprinkled throughout the film and even after three viewings I still donít feel like Iíve had enough. The New Frontier is the first animated feature in a long time that Iíve felt completely satisfied while walking away from. With years of mediocre ďadult animatedĒ efforts by western studios that have very little pay off from what they hope to accomplish, Iím very happy to say that The New Frontier obliterates any feature length superhero film Iíve seen in recent years.

From the start you get the feeling that youíre into something special with The New Frontier. With a storyboard type intro thatís treated as if it were comic book panels being drawn and colored before our eyes, the film does sacrifice the original comics dinosaur island intro, but as stated on the commentary, it would have added quite a chunk of runtime to the film had it been included. Regardless of what was left out in the film, either from the beginning, middle or end, The New Frontier ultimately remains faithful to the original comics in more ways than one. Thereís just something about the films intro with the still panels and the like that just makes for a rousing intro to the world weíre about to experience for the next hour and twenty minutes.

Without a doubt the films strongest points reside in the character designs and animation that accompany them. While I found Wonder Woman to break model to the point where she just seemed overly awkward at times, everyone else remained dead on throughout. The costumes worn throughout are really a treat to see in animation and I canít explain what makes them so wonderfulóitís just a beautiful sight to see after seeing the same old animation styles repeated and reused for superheroes in the past decade or so.

One thing that I truly enjoyed about the film was that it earned its PG-13 rating not because of the violence or language but because the story was more adult. It wasnít like Superman Doomsday where Superman had the snot kicked out of him and that was the extent of the ďadultĒ areas of animation. With The New Frontier, thereís politics involved and the mention of presidents and just a general sense that what weíre viewing isnít meant for little kids. Although thereís nothing too objectionable in the film that little kids wouldnít be able to see, itís just refreshing to be able to watch an animated superhero film that feels like its written for an older audience. Thatís the benefit that the DC Universe DTV line hasóif it continues to adapt strong and mature storylines such as The New Frontier (and not something like Superman/Doomsday) then it has a good chance of being able to be entertaining as well as thought provoking.

Of course the film manages to pack in its fair share of brutal mayhem and destruction. Amid the adult themes with Superman and Lois and the moral struggle that Hal Jordan struggles with in and out of the Korean War, The New Frontier drips with action that is bolstered by the films use of animation that is more impressive than anything Iíve seen as of late. At many times in the film it felt panels from the comic book and the way the film plays with the shadows is simply astounding to me.

Moving on past the eye candy we also have one of the strongest array of voice actors Iíve ever heard. Despite being so used to certain voice actors portraying the superheroes we see in this film, I didnít have any real adjustment to make while listening to these guys talk through these avatars that Iíve seen used so many times before. Kyle MacLachlanís Superman sounded perfect from the start and Jeremy Sistoís Batman created a deep and dark voice that I never imagined possible for The Dark Knight. While Batman did take me by surprise a bit, by and large everyone pretty much nailed their roles from the start. Neil Patrick Harris as The Flash and Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman were no-brainers and Miguel Ferrer and Keith Davidís bass filled role as Martian Manhunter and The Centre respectively made for an aural delight through and through.

If there were any flaws to be found in The New Frontier it would be the films rapid cutting between scenes. Occasionally we would be given a random sequence with Martian Manhunter then cut to another hero for whatever reason. It was done to keep us updated on each of the heroes as the story progressed, but it just felt odd at times to transition so fast. There were also times it felt like we were supposed to have a commercial break, which made for a weird sensation as well. I donít know if itís leftovers from working in TV animation for so long or what, but those were the only two real hindrances I saw the film struggle with. I realize a lot of the cuts were done because there was so much story to tell, but Iím struggling to write a review that isnít just simply filled with a slew of positive things to say.

Where would a movie be without its soundtrack? The New Frontier has such a terrific and monumentally awesome score by Kevin Manthei that captures the spirit of the film in remarkable fashion. Iíll wait to expand on the score in the review for that when the soundtrack hits (March 18th), but I will say that I can definitely foresee myself listening to it fore a couple weeks at least.

The thing with The New Frontier, however, is that even in its weakest moments it simply obliterates anything like it. While I absolutely love Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, there are things in The New Frontier that are simply new and fresh feeling. Itís a truly terrific film that I simply loveóit will likely be one of the best animated efforts for all of 2008, although with another DC DTV still on the horizon for this year, it may encounter some competition.

I wish there was more I could say about The New Frontier, but Iím afraid if I start wandering through the plot piece by piece Iíll be here for another twenty pages. There are moments in animation that stick out to me, however, and the portrayal of Hal Jordan and the voice work that David Boreanez does for that character will remain in my mind for a long time. Combined with the Kennedy speech closing of the film with absolutely beautiful stills that again look like they were lifted from the comic book, The New Frontier is something that will stay in your mind long after you shut the DVD player off. Highly Recommended.

Review (James Harvey)
As the movie opens, you know Justice League: The New Frontier will be something different. Whether you've read the graphic novel that inspired the film or have no idea what to expect, the opening scene is something special. The movie opens with a beautiful sequence showing the creation of a children's book, a rather ominous children's book, telling about the coming of The Centre, and its plans to eradicate all life from the Earth? As the author finishes the book, we see him put down his art utensils and reach over for a gun. Cue the gunshot and then cue the beautifully rendered opening credits. How's that for an opener? And it only gets better from there.

Justice League: The New Frontier takes viewers on an action-packed adventure, exploring the origins of the Justice League. DC Comics legends Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all featured in the film, as well as Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and The Flash, as they band together to form the legendary super team. Strangers at first, these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable, even the mighty Superman cannot stop it alone. If they fail, the entire planet will be "cleansed" of humanity.

So there we go. That's the gist of the plot right there. Now, for those who have read DC: The New Frontier, you already know how everything is going to turn out. For those who are newbies to the story, you're in for a surprise. This is not the kind of Justice League story you'd fine on Justice League Unlimited. It's a movie with a tone all it's own, completely different than what we've seen before in both the level of maturity presented and even the content. While some may call Superman Doomsday a product of juvenile excess, this movie is a product of maturity. This movie approaches the topic of superheroes, and the subsequent ramifications, with such a level of maturity not seen before in animation. Maybe comparable to some of the live-action stuff, but nothing before in animation . . . at least the animation I've watched.

I have to hand it to both Stan Berkowitz's script and director Dave Bullock's steady hand for helping to achieve that level of sophistication here. Whether it's Berkowitz bringing together the abundance of plot lines or Bullock keeping the camera still so we can actually watch the scene develop, both manage to create a fascinating experience for this movie. There are also some scenes in here that have just a huge impact thanks to the excellent marriage of the script and the directing. There's the tense scene between Wonder Woman and Superman, and there's a touching moment between Superman and Lois, The absolutely crushing scene where Lois breaks down during a news report or the amazing scene where Batman faces down Detective John Jones. I could go on and on, but there's just an abundance of great scenes to be found, and both Berkowitz and Bullock deserve a lot of praise for them. Of course, those two can't take all the credit. There's a whole crew here that deserves a huge heaping of praise, and I'm going to get to them. Now, I'm not saying this movie is perfect, as I do have a grunt or two about it, but this is one of the best Direct-To-Video efforts I've seen. No lie.

What I really appreciate about this movie is the attention to detail. Whether it's the little cameos peppered throughout, the use of the actual "New Frontier" speech by John F. Kennedy, or the simple nuances in each character, this movie pays attention to every little detail. There's a short cameo by Robin. Jimmy Olsen appears. We get a quick visit to Themyscira. Hal and Carol kissing before he leaves for his mission. A boy being scared of Batman. The dead-on recreation of the 1950s. I could go on about all the little touches and scenes here and there, but I don't want to spoil the entire movie. All of these touches (and more), some from the original graphic novel and others original to this movie, really make the ideas of this one big universe housing all these characters believable. Not only that, but it helps to cement the time frame of the movie, too. I have to make note of the color palette and absolutely amazing design work done for the film. Everything here was done by scratch, and you can tell. Everything looks fresh and new, and the designs are just beautiful looking. The clothes look authentic, the cars look awesome, and the film just drips that 1950's class.

Justice League: The New Frontier is really ambitious, and you can tell that by how they approach the look of the film. The movie has huge set pieces, wardrobe changes, character flares, all of it. It all works. Toss on a really excellent script by Berkowtiz, who does an amazing job at squeezing a rather large graphic novel into a 75 minute run time, and some superb direction by Bullock, and you have a movie that, overall, is excellent. Again, I mentioned this above, but I feel that it warrants mentioning again, and that is Bullock's directing. I want to specifically point out two instances. There are two sequences, one a fight between Batman and a bunch of cult members, and the second being the huge aerial battle at the end between the good guys and The Centre. Instead of rapid cuts, Bullock lets the camera sit and watch the action unfold. We don't get a bunch of quick cuts, but we get to see the action unfold naturally and gracefully and it really seems . . . old-fashioned. Movies today are filled with quick cuts and rapid-pace editing, but here? No, Bullock lets the camera linger to allow the scene to unfold and it works beautifully. Hats off on Bullock's superb directing choices (and his amazing work on the film's opening credits).

Now, thankfully, Berkowitz and Bullock are in good company for Justice League: The New Frontier. Not only is the creative team sharp, but the voice talent is just top quality. And, before I go any further, I want to say that Bruce Timm was right. Jeremy Sisto was just amazing as Batman. Not only him, but the rest of the cast are top-notch. Neil Patrick Harris brings the perfect sound to the Flash, mixing youth and doubt. Miguel Ferrer is pitch-perfect as the Martian Manhunter. He brings such a quality to his performances that you feel for the Martian. He really added depth to a character that could have been easily overlooked. Lucy Lawless is great as Wonder Woman, absolutely flawless. She really brings a commanding presence to the role that I haven't heard anywhere else before. Kyle McLaughlin and David Boreanez are superbly cast as Superman and Green Lantern, and get the most face time among the big-name heroes. McLaughlin has this quality about is voice that makes his Superman sound classic while Boreanez really brings a 1950's-vibe to Lantern. Keith David's brief role as The Centre is also very exceptional; his voice really commands the presence of a deadly threat that will eradicate everyone on a whim. Overall, the casting is sharp across the board. And before I forget, Brooke Shields and Kyra Sedgwick deserve special shout-outs for their roles as Carol Ferris and Lois Lane.

It's this superb casting, the excellent directing and script, the amazing attention to detail that help Justice League: The New Frontier overcome a couple of its flaws. And I suppose, in a way, it's even a bit unfair to call these flaws, but more like limitations pushed onto the creative team of the movie.

The first one, and probably the most damning, is the limited running time. Like Superman Doomsday before it, here we get 75 minutes, including credits, to tell a rather large tale. And, yes, it does hinder the movie. I think whether you've read the book or not, you're going to notice that some scenes or characters were very truncated in the film. And due to the running time, a lot of the story from both DC: The New Frontier and the actual movie had to be cut down. As I recall Timm stating in the commentary track, it came to the point where if they included on extra scene, another would have to be excised, and you can tell in the final product. Now, I could be seeing this through biased eyes, as I've read DC: The New Frontier, but I think it's something that even casual viewers may be able to notice. However, it's not as damaging as one may think. The story still flows, very briskly at times, and everything manages to wrap itself nicely, but some relationships are cut down to the bone. There are moments where I wish they could've just let the scene stay for a couple more beats.

Thankfully, in one way or another, Berkowitz was able to at least reference a lot of the cut material. Whether it's through newspaper headlines or news reports, we do get references to some of the material from DC: The New Frontier that just can't completely fit into the movie. A lot of the stuff wasn't necessary to the plot of the animated movie, but did expand upon the era and the characters, so it is a shame to lose. It does cut back a bit on the character development for the movie, but I can understand why it cut. However, it's all in the book so, after checking out this movie, go read the books if you haven't already. I can only imagine how difficult it was to trim and alter the material to make it fit within the 75 minutes running time and I applaud Berkowitz for making it work. Still, I can't help but wonder what those extra few minutes may have brought.

My other complaint is that, sometimes, the animation does seem a bit average. Now, mind you that this is few and far in-between, but there are moments where it's not strong, and it's even noted from time to time in both commentaries. Now, again, this is something that is generally out of their control so I can't really slight them; they do try to fix up the odd mistake, but there are a couple moments that I thought really could've used some stronger animation. Thankfully, it is only a handful of moments. The two that seem to distract me are Superman's arrival for an outer-space rescue and Green Lantern dispatching something into outer space. Those really stood out to me, for one reason or another, but it's just minor quibbles. Personally, I can be overly picky so I don't know if people will notice these or not, but these are just a couple that jumped at me. Overall, the animation is still gorgeous and a few scenes are absolutely breathtaking.

At the end of it all, I can't praise this film enough. Like I said, my complaints are really minuscule, small, but that doesn't stop this from being a great film. It's a really well done movie and probably one of the greatest Justice League stories ever told (and it's technically not even a Justice League tale). It's such a different approach to these characters in animation. It's gutsy, you have to admit. There's no way this story could have worked if they contemporized it, and I'm glad they didn't. The setting is a crucial aspect to the story and they really sell it, making the setting of the movie just as important as the main characters.

When you add the truly excellent creative team behind it, with Bullock directing from a Berkowitz script, a brilliant voice cast, an amazing score, and a host of brilliant professionals working behind the scenes, you have a movie that really shows how much everyone cares for the source material. And with Darwyn Cooke stepping in to help (he worked on the script and storyboarded a few sequences), it's obvious what everyone set out to accomplish here and they succeed in spades. Justice League: The New Frontier is my favorite film of the year so far, and it comes Highly Recommended for fans of both the comics and the DC Animated Series. Justice League: The New Frontier is probably the best direct-to-video effort to date, and it's one that all fans really should check out. There's just something really special about this movie, something that helps it overcome any of its flaws, something that really pushes and makes it something special. There are moments from Justice League: The New Frontier that will stay with me for some time.
Justice League: The New Frontier, and related characters and indicia are property of DC Comics and WB, 2012.
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