In 2008, Warner Home Video released Justice League: The New Frontier – a feature-length animated movie from director Dave Bullock. The direct-to-video movie – starring the voice talents of David Boreanaz, Miguel Ferrer, Neil Patrick Harris, Phil Morris, and Lucy Lawless – was the second release under Warner Bros. Animation’s DC Universe Animated Original Movies banner.
Based on Darwyn Cooke’s celebrated comic, DC: The New Frontier, Justice League: The New Frontier featured an extensive cast of characters including Batman, Superman, J’onn J’onzz, and Wonder Woman. The film was set during the 1950s and explored the formation of the Justice League.
Of all the titles that fall under the DC Universe Animated Original Movies banner, Justice League: The New Frontier is one of the films that I have seen the least. When it was released back in ’08, I thought it was fairly ‘so-so’ and as such, I tend not to revisit it all that often.
Today I have decided to give it a re-watch, to see if my opinion of the movie has changed. Since its release, Warner Bros. Animation has released many, many animated films, so how does it shape up alongside its peers?
As I watch Justice League: The New Frontier, I will record my thoughts below. If you have not watched the movie before, and you don’t want any spoilers, then you may want to skip this next part.
Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
10secs – Before the movie begins, I should note that Justice League: The New Frontier was granted a PG13 rating in the US for violent content and images. In the UK, the movie received a 12 certificate – so it is not suitable for those below the age of 12.
2mins – Well… there was a suicide within the first two minutes, so that explains the ratings. If I remember correctly, there is also some blood in a few scenes later on in the movie.
2mins 30secs – Justice League: The New Frontier is set sometime after World War II, during the Cold War. Fear, paranoia, and McCarthyism is the order of the day.
5mins – Hal Jordan is being introduced, and voiced by David Boreanaz. The actor voiced this role while he was working on the popular television series, Bones. Thought you might like to know that.
7mins 30secs – J’onn J’onzz is being introduced. For those unfamiliar with J’onzz, he is also known to comic book fans as the Martian Manhunter.
8mins – Superman and Wonder Woman appear for the first time. Supes is voiced by Kyle MacLachlan, while Wonder Woman is voiced by Lucy Lawless. Lawless is such a perfect bit of casting for Wonder Woman.
10mins – The animation style used in this movie is great. It is a mix of Darwyn Cooke and Bruce Timm.
15mins – A brilliant scene now. Iris West is at a club in Las Vegas, when all of a sudden Captain Cold shows up being all evil and such. Barry Allen is on the phone to Iris when Cold bursts in, so when he hears all the commotion he instantly transforms into the Flash and heads to the club to take on Cold!
15mins 45secs – Captain Cold has planted six bombs around the city. He figured that the Flash would show up to get in his way, so he created this distraction to aid his escape. Clever guy.
17mins – The Flash has foiled Cold’s plan, but what’s this? It looks like Captain Cold has temporarily had his mind taken over by someone… or something.
21mins – You know, visually Justice League: The New Frontier is gorgeous to look at, but in terms of the story, it is all over the place. It has spent 20 minutes jumping from character to character and I am really struggling to connect with anyone – and this is coming from someone who knows these characters inside out!
21mins 45secs – Enter: The Batman!
22mins – Batman looks very much like he did during his initial comic book appearance. Pretty menacing, except for this purple gloves.
23mins 20secs – OK, so another character has had his mind taken over by something which is calling itself ‘The Centre’. The Centre was mentioned during the opening sequence of the film (the bit with the suicide), and is the same thing that took over the mind of Captain Cold.
26mins – The movie is continuing to switch back and forth between multiple characters.
27mins 30secs – The plot is starting to kick in. There is something extra-terrestrial on Earth and Hal Jordan is being recruited to pilot a ship to Mars!
29mins – Meanwhile… Batman is investigating who or what The Centre is, and has approached J’onn J’onnz to find out some information.
30mins – Back with The Flash, and the US Government wants to capture the Scarlet Speedster in order to study him. This all fits into the general paranoia/Cold War theme of the story, but I can’t help but feel this all falls a little flat.
32mins – The Centre has infiltrated the US!
34mins – After all that business with the US Government trying to capture the Flash, the Scarlet Speedster has made the decision to quit being a super hero. He doesn’t want to be seen as the enemy, so is walking away from it all.
36mins – And now J’onn J’onnz wants to leave the planet because he’s fed up. Oh, dear.
41mins – I’m going to reiterate what I said earlier – the story is all over the place. There are far too many characters in this movie, with no real focus and while I can see all the great ideas in play, they are all jumbled around.
I appreciate this is a Justice League picture, so it is an ensemble piece, but even so, this film needs a central character, such as Batman or Superman, to lead the way. Hal Jordan or J’onn J’onzz are the closest the film comes to central characters, but that is simply because they have had the most screen time.
43mins – Speaking of Jordan, he is now on a journey to becoming the Green Lantern.
47mins – Meanwhile… back in the Batcave, Batman has ditched the purple gloves and is now joined by Robin, the Boy Wonder!
48mins – Over in Metropolis, a pterodactyl has attacked the city… and Wonder Woman has just crashed landed her invisible jet. Jeez… a lot seems to have been thrown at the screen in a short space of time.
53mins – Over two thirds of the way through this movie, and finally things are starting to come together. The mysterious entity known as The Centre – which is an island of sorts, that seemingly gives birth to monsters – is killing people. All of the heroes are getting ready to fight it – including The Flash, Green Arrow, Adam Strange, the Black Hawks and Superman!
56mins – Superman has been killed. Oh.
58mins – Is Superman dead? I can’t quite remember. I feel like he’s merely incapacitated. Either way, all of the heroes have formulated a plan to destroy the island in his absence.
1hr – Batman is kicking monster butt with his Batplane!
1hr 2mins 30secs – Wonder Woman gets another scene, which means Lucy Lawless gets a little more dialogue. Is it enough? Nope. But it is still great to hear Lawless in this role.
1hr 4mins – On a side note, which has nothing to do with the plot of this film, when Justice League: The New Frontier was released it made around $5.7 million in sales. This is about half the money its predecessor made, but I believe it was well received by critics.
1hr 7mins 30secs – Having worked together, the heroes have almost defeated The Centre. But it is up to Hal Jordan to finish off the creature/entity/island-thingy.
1hr 9mins 30secs – The Centre has been defeated! Hurrah! Aquaman has arrived with Superman, who was merely lost at sea, and all is well.
1hr 11mins 45secs – As the movie draws to a close, super heroes are being celebrated and a new era is on the horizon. Enter: The Justice League of America!
Back during the mid-‘00s, around 2004 or 2005, I read DC: The New Frontier. I liked the story; I didn’t love it; but I thought it looked great and worked well enough as a comic book tale.
My feelings on Justice League: The New Frontier is that while it maintains the look and feel of the original source material, it falls somewhat short. It tries to retain too much of the comic book, rushes through the themes associated with the time period, flips too quickly from one character to the next, and becomes quite patchy in the process.
It takes far too long for the plot to really kick in, and by the time it does, it is almost over. A rewrite, or a rejig of the original story would have really helped here, because so much of the story seems pointless unless you are a die hard fan.
Is Justice League: The New Frontier awful? No, the animation is fantastic, and once it hits its stride it becomes clear what the film is trying to achieve, but it is a missed opportunity. There are some good ideas, more than enough for two films, so this feels like it should have been developed into much more.
In terms of how well it shapes up alongside other DC animated movies that have been released over the years (of which there are many), I would say it all depends on how you approach this. I believe this film works better if you are a long-time comic book reader, rather than someone who only follows the movies. Seeing the likes of the Black Hawks and King Faraday on screen probably mean more to you if you have a history with these characters. If you don’t read comics then a lot of this is likely to go over your head, or make little to no impression.
Overall, Justice League: The New Frontier is fine, and continues to be ‘so-so’. My opinion really hasn’t changed, but it is always great to be reminded that Lucy Lawless got to play Wonder Woman in a movie.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about Justice League: The New Frontier. If you have watched this movie, or you’re a fan, please let me know what you think of it.
And for more DC-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.
- The Dark Knight preserved by the National Film Registry
- A list of Legion of Super Heroes episodes
- What should you know about the ‘90s Flash TV series?