Nostalgia and newness mix in the direct-to-dvd animated movie Justice League: The New Frontier. This story, based on the comic book of the same name (or "graphic novel," for those who don't like to admit they enjoyed a comic book), imagines a time when superheroes were both feared and loved.
It's the 1950s, and public resentment and government legislation have driven many heroes into retirement. The Flash (Neil Patrick Harris) and Batman (Jeremy Sisto) are outlaws, Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless) travels overseas engaging in some rough help for women, and Superman (Kyle MacLachlan) has accepted the government's restrictions. Meanwhile pilot Hal Jordan (David Borneaz) is on his own journey to fly to the stars -- and the martian J'onn J'onzz (Miguel Ferrer) was transported to Earth.
As for plot, Justice League: The New Frontier can be divided in two halves. The first half involves a mysterious force called the Center, that affects the weak-minded and results in cultist followings and suicides. The second half has a giant monster that the heroes must fight.
The focus of this movie isn't any of the big three -- Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman -- but rather three other characters. The Flash has to deal with being a public hero that no one trusts or likes, while Hal Jordan keeps trying to do the right thing on his road to heroics. (If you don't who he becomes, I won't spoil it for you.) And J'onn J'onzz functions as the character providing an outsider's view on the state of the world.
Justice League: The New Frontier is for more mature audiences, both in its older visual style and the large amount of violence and blood present. (There's a suicide before the opening credits.) Unfortunately, by working in so many characters the movie can't focus on many of them. Except for the Flash, Hal, and J'onn most characters get very little time in the movie. Heck, Green Arrow spends more time flying a plane than shooting arrows! And except for the social commentary, the story isn't that unusual.
The voice talent is excellent here. Lucy Lawless is such a natural choice for Wonder Woman, it's surprising this is her first take on the role; and Neil Patrick Harris shines as the Flash, balancing his idealism in being a hero with the frustration at the world around him. There is also support from Kyra Sedgwick as Lois Lane and Brooke Shields as Carol Ferris.
Justice League: The New Frontier is a decent movie, strengthened by its voices and visuals but weakened by an overabundance of characters. This isn't required viewing, but it's a fun romp for those who freely admit that they read comic books.
(The dvd comes in both a standard edition -- with commentaries, history, and a preview of the upcoming Batman anime cartoon -- and a deluxe edition with a feature on the Legion of Doom, plus three episodes from the Justice League cartoon.)
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch