Justice League: Warworld
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Digital – July 25, 2023
Synopsis: DC’s Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman find themselves in mysterious lands and precarious circumstances with no memory of how they arrived there and only vague recollections of their true selves in Justice League: Warworld, bringing together DC’s “Trinity” for the first time during the Butch Lukic-helmed DC Universe Movies arc.
Reprising their roles as DC’s key trio of Super Heroes are Jensen Ackles as Batman and Officer Wayne, Darren Criss as Superman and Agent Kent, and Stana Katic as Wonder Woman and Diana Prince.
Also featured in the voice cast are Ike Amadi as Martian Manhunter/J’onn J’onzz, Troy Baker as Jonah Hex, Matt Bomer as Old Man, Roger R. Cross as Machiste, Brett Dalton as Bat Lash, John DiMaggio as Lobo, Robin Atkin Downes as Mongul, Frank Grillo as Agent Faraday, Rachel Kimsey as Mariah Romanova, Damian O’Hare as Deimos, and Teddy Sears as Warlord. Additional voices include Trevor Devall, David Lodge and Kari Wahlgren.
Jeff Wamester directs Justice League: Warworld from a script by a trio of screenwriters – Jeremy Adams, Ernie Altbacker and Josie Campbell. Producers are Jim Krieg and Kimberly S. Moreau. Executive Producer is Michael Uslan. Butch Lukic and Sam Register is Executive Producer.
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By James Harvey
Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman find themselves thrust into bizarre worlds, stripped of their memories, in Justice League: Warworld, an intriguing if imperfect entry into the ongoing in-continuity DC Universe Movie series. While bursting with creative and inventive worlds and ideas, the undercooked script and labored pace tends to jumble the proceedings and deflate the massive stakes the film’s trying to sell. There’s a lot of cool stuff to see here, but Justice League: Warworld just can’t make them all click together.
Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman they are swept away to Warworld, a place of unending brutal gladiatorial combat ruled by the the insidious Mongul, in Justice League: Warworld. With no knowledge of their own identities and dropped into alien surroundings to fend for their survival, here the three heroes and their assorted companions must somehow unite to form an unbeatable alliance to win the day.
While there will be some specific moments discussed here, please note this review is as spoiler-free as possible.
Mixing together old west heroics, sword and sandal epics, noir thrillers and epic-scale sci-fi action, Justice League: Warworld throws a lot at the viewer while it’s world-hopping story unfolds, all building to a massive climactic slugfest. It’s an ambitious tale to be sure, but unfortunately the story isn’t able to bring all these disparate elements together in a satisfying way. There’s a wealth of imaginative ideas and moments peppered throughout, definitely, but the final product ends up feeling a little empty and crushingly anticlimactic.
One of the main issues with Justice League: Warworld is that us, the audience, we already know the Trinity are stuck in bizarre illusions on Warworld and that they each need to figure their way out. But the film takes far too long in getting our heroes to that revelatory point, which turns the movie into something of a waiting game. Coupling that with the relative slow pace of the first two “worlds” makes the movie feel languid, though this is also partially due to the film’s structure, and the holding of some major reveals until the climax feel like creative missteps as a result.
Still, it’s understandable that the creators behind Justice League: Warworld want to spend some time exploring each of the three worlds the Trinity are trapped in, as each are genuinely captivating. Wonder Woman’s “western” segment puts our heroine way outside of her comfort zone and, for the most part, it’s interesting to watch her navigate this world and its characters while she herself is lost and unaware of who she really is. Despite some telegraphed twists and turns, it ends up a fairly riveting segment.
Batman’s world, here a “sword and sandals”-type fantasy landscape, ends up being a bit of a slog despite a couple surprises and fantastic design work within. This segment, easily the weakest of the bunch, seems to mostly just repeat a few beats similar to Wonder Woman’s journey. It does try to hit some epic notes, but it just lacks energy and instead slowly limps along until we finally switch to Superman’s world. Batman, here a self-described mercenary, is also pretty unlikable, which just adds to the segment’s dour and deflated feeling.
Up next and easily the best of the three “worlds” our heroes find themselves trapped in, Superman is thrown back into an old The Twilight Zone-inspired black-and-white 1950s noir thriller where he’s working as a federal agent tasked with uncovering the origins of some bizarre alien sightings. Packed with smart story-telling, palpable tension, a swifter pace and a wicked set-up, it’s here that Justice League: Warworld starts to enjoyably piece itself together, and properly leads us into the film’s hefty third act.
Unfortunately, the film’s third act becomes a little vexing with muddled reveals and uninspired motivations, in addition to some bizarre character choices and an out-of-nowhere and unearned cliffhanger. It’s legitimately exciting seeing the Trinity finally come together and start to realize who they are and where they come from. It just unfortunately feels wasted as Justice League: Warworld‘s attempts to explain itself, along with a completely unnecessary death, seem to totally undercut the movie’s previous 65-ish minutes.
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Even with its setbacks, director Jeff Wamester again does solid work on Justice League: Warworld, leveraging every tool at his disposal. Whether it’s a rustic western town, a danger-filled decrepit kingdom, a dark diner in the middle of nowhere, or a futuristic alien ship, his directing choices for each always hit the mark. When the script slips or ends up lacking in weight, Wamester steps up to make as much of this film work, and succeeds more often than not. Michael Gatt’s incredibly versatile scorework also does a lot of the heavy lifting.
However, the underdeveloped script seems to lack crucial plot details, though partially so to build the mystery and tension, and connective tissue needed to successfully bridge every part of Justice League: Warworld together. There are attempts to be sure, such as other members of the Trinity appearing in other “worlds” as clear hints to the audience that something is up, but they feel inadequate. Yes, there’s the movie’s title but we needed more in the actual movie. There’s no framing structure or enough moments clearly connecting everything together, making this movie feel more like an anthology than a single, complete narrative.
Justice League: Warworld doesn’t really start to hit its stride until Superman’s segment, which is a little too late by that point. And even from there, a lot of what our heroes learned and endured during their respective stories seem not to matter as we shift into the movie’s final act.
Without going into spoilers, it feels as though this DC Universe Movie outing could be easily skipped on the way to the big “crisis” already teased in Legion of Super-Heroes. If anything, Justice League: Warworld inadvertently comes off more like a pit-stop on the way to the story audiences are actually waiting for.
Thankfully, there’s still plenty of good to be found within Justice League: Warworld. Once again, the character designs, supervised by Jon Suzuki, are absolutely top-notch and look fantastic brought to life, especially Wonder Woman’s “modern” design. As with the other “in-continuity” DC Universe Movie titles, design work is clean and simple, making for a gorgeous-looking presentation. While the animation stutters and stilts on occasion, as per usual, characters pop off the screen in nearly every frame regardless.
Helping out considerably is the team’s voice cast, led by Stana Kanic, Jensen Ackles and Darren Criss as Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, respectively. Kanic is a knock-out as Wonder Woman, bringing a strong but soft touch to the Amazonian. While Kanic already found her footing with the character firmly in Justice Society: World War II, here she absolutely nails the role in every conceivable way. Ackles and Criss, also returning to their respective roles, put in equally commendable work and appear to have fun with the situations their characters are tossed into.
Despite bristling with creativity, Justice League: Warworld ends up far short of expectations. While each segment is packed with excellent concepts and compelling situations, the script fails to adequately dive deep into either, nor can it successfully stitch all the film’s varying elements together cohesively in time for the big finale, which itself lacks a gratifying resolution.
Justice League: Warworld includes some great design work and good animation, a stellar cast across the board – not just the three leads – and a bunch of really neat ideas. However, the movie’s pacing issues and insufficient story frustrates and fails to completely deliver. There are strong moments to be sure, but those can’t overcome the script’s assorted shortcomings. Fans of the in-continuity DC Universe Movie titles, along with hardcore DC Comics followers, might want to give Justice League: Warworld a shot, but they (or anyone else, really) also wouldn’t be faulted for skipping this one. Enter at Your Own Risk.
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Please note that while Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment provided The World’s Finest with a copy of Justice League: Warworld to review, that had no bearing on the product’s final assessment.