Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

This animated adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s comic is good, but has some elements that stopped me from fully enjoying it. The bigger story is about the Center, an eon old entity that wants to erase humanity from the face of Earth. This happens against the backdrop of an USA that’s began to mistrust its first generation of superheroes and most of them have stopped acting, went official or became vigilantes. But when the Center appears a new generation of heroes has to step up.

The first half of the movie is concerned with introducing the main players, six of the seven standard Justice League members. Of them Batman (vigilante), Superman (state employed) and Wonder Woman (retired) embody the old generation of heroes, while Green Lantern, Flash and (arguably) the Martian Manhunter are part of the new generation of heroes. The character designs and their portrayals harken back to original conceptions of the characters and feel quiet different than for example their depiction in the DC animated universe.

This is where I had the most fun, as the characterization is top-notch and the slow approach is really suited to rediscover some of the heroes in the context of this alternate DCU setting. The best sequence had the Martian Manhunter, whose attempts to find a place on Earth worked really well. The moment when you see him watching TV and changing into various characters from TV is pure gold. But the best line of dialog had Batman, who upon hearing that the Martian Manhunter wanted to leave Earth because of its unpleasantness dryly answered that some don’t have that choice.

The second part of the movie is devoted to the conflict with the Center entity. It has some truly excellent actions scenes and some truly awful speeches by the good guys. I thought the movie too easily glossed over the problems raised in the first part (the mistrust towards superheroes). One moment the movie managed to evoke the paranoia of the McCarthy era perfectly, the next moment it turned into another bright superhero action-fest with simpleminded, gung-ho and can-do speeches. Still, the action in the second part is good.