I’ve always loved comic books, and I’ve always loved comic book movies. From the time I was a child, superheroes have always fascinated me, from their humanity to their purpose and justification for fighting crime, and it’s a great day when I can sit down for seventy minutes and watch an animated film like “Justice League: The New Frontier,” a new adaptation that approaches the heroes behind DC with an adult sensibility and intriguing psychological analysis that features a world on the brink of a new frontier, and its heroes and protectors facing the prospect of not being needed. On the flipside their view of humanity is waning as they see cruel violence, and hatred take form in the shape of a black activist tortured and murdered by the KKK, Indo China female prisoners who tortured and murdered their captives, and a war that may reveal its lasting effects for decades. Yes, this is an animated film geared to kids, believe it or not.
Director Bullock and co. dare to present a film that takes a second look at humanity, and brings forth an alien named J’Onn J’Onzz who is also able to discover humanity in all its caveats and rage once he’s accidentally teleported by a scientist. In one excellent sequence, he gains a knowledge of our culture and language by watching television and transforming into characters like Groucho Marx, and Bugs Bunny. “The New Frontier” is a look at superheroes who aren’t so sure where their allegiances lie, nor are they so definite on what their purposes are. In the past, DC has set down on super powered individuals who were clear on their objective from Batman, Superman, and Aquaman, but the line becomes blurred with this civilization seeks to over throw them based on their superior abilities, and then it stops becoming a fight worth pursuing.
But when a sentient being named The Center begins possessing individuals all around the world, the heroes decide that it’s time to stop bickering among one another and band together for a common cause to stop this menace. “The New Frontier” has a slew of engaging characters in it with rather sympathetic sub-plots; particularly there’s the story of Hal Jordan who has a violent confrontation with a Korean soldier on the cusp of peace talks, and is forever mentally damaged. He then becomes this daredevil pilot who is called into duty as the Green Lantern in the climax of the film. There’s also Superman who is more of a moral equalizer who seeks to bring everyone together to save Earth and pursues a resolve among their issues of prejudice and race.
Along with a wonderful cast of actors like Kyle McLoughlin, David Boreanaz, and Neil Patrick Harris, respectively, there is the excellent animation which is a fluid hybrid of the Fleischers and Bruce Timm. It’s an often sleek and appealing change of pace from the usual blocky trademark style Timm pioneered in the nineties. “The New Frontier” is much more of a sophisticated outing this time around, and while it may go over the heads of younger audiences, there’s a lot to be gained for older folks looking for more than one-liners and knockdown drag out tussles between titans.
As for the DVD itself, be sure to buy the Two Disc Edition, as there are three bonus episodes from Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” animated series that feature key players from the movie like the Green Arrow, Batman, and Martian Manhunter! There’s also a wonderful guest spot from the talented John C. McGinley as the Atom! That should keep the fans feasting for a while. There’s also a ten minute glimpse at the making of “Batman: The Gotham Knight” a compilation of shorts delving into the escapades of Batman a la “Animatrix” which is meant as a midquel of “Batman Begins” leading into “The Dark Knight.” There’s also a great commentary from Darwyn Cooke, as well as the complete history of the Justice League, and a look at the villains of the Justice League.