Canister X Movie Review #52: Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
Written by Stan Berkowitz
Directed by Dave Bullock
Runtime 75 min.
4 out of 5
In the fifties, the world doesn’t know what to make of superheroes. Some of them are accepted and beloved, others not so much. When a mysterious entity known as The Center rises to thwart the planet, the core Justice Leaguers—Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter—must unite for the first time to stop what is seemingly an unstoppable threat.
Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke, Justice League: The New Frontier is unlike any Justice League movie out there. For starters, it’s a period piece. Nothing modern day here, with the story taking place between 1953 and 1960. Even more so, it’s art direction is based on Cooke’s art from the graphic novel, where each character was drawn in a very forties-style way: simple, with minimal muscle and heavy lines for eyes. No bodybuilding superheroes in this flick. And, of course, all the backgrounds, supporting cast and tech in the film were all time-appropriate as well. Even the “advanced tech” in the film was old school in its presentation and style.
The story was good—very much an origin story for the Justice League, with the overarching origin story being that of Green Lantern—and each character was faithful to their source material. The pacing was a bit slow at times, with lots of talking—there were a few moments where I was, like, “Get on with it!”—but at the same time, it being a period piece, TV and movies back then had lots of talking, too.
Not that talking is a bad thing. Just wished for a few more fast-paced sequences—not necessarily violence or fighting—to move things along.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics are amazing at their direct-to-market animated features, each one meant to stand on its own instead of where one story feeds off another. By doing that, they pick and choose the best graphic novels to adapt and don’t have to worry about the baggage of continuity as a result. Doing Justice League: The New Frontier afforded them an opportunity to do something wholly original and deliver something that modern day audiences haven’t seen in recent years: a superhero story that takes place in the past. After watching this, I wish someone in Hollywood would do a live action version of Superman or Flash or whoever, but set it in the past. You can still be true to the characters, as this story has shown, but give something fresh at the same time and, from a marketing and creative standpoint, give something original as a result.
Justice League: The New Frontier is a fantastic movie, and for those who want more of their favorite heroes but sometimes wish something new was done with them, then this is the flick for you.