Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
Introduction
Comics. Comics. Comics. Everywhere you look right now people are talking about comic related properties coming to the big screen. The massive success of "X-Men" and now "Spider-Man" has Hollywood buzzing and the onslaught of comic related book movies has just begun with "Hulk", "Daredevil" and "X-Men 2" and many others currently in the pipeline. The success has made big money for parent company Marvel who just a few years ago was on the verge of filing for chapter eleven bankruptcy protection. It's also catapulted them past their main rival DC who until a few years ago ruled the comic book box office with their Superman and Batman characters. While the live action market dropped out on DC they've had continued success with animated versions of their characters appearing in any number of series on TV. "Batman: The Animated Series", "Batman Beyond" and "The Batman/Superman Show" were just a couple of the shows that hit it off. The latest incarnation of the Super friends is a show loosely based on the old Justice League of America comic book, but instead of some of the lamer "B" characters that starred in the comic book the TV "Justice League" features a who's who of DC's characters. Now each and every week of the adventures of the Justice League can be seen on the Cartoon Network.

Justice League
Movie
A team of astronauts have gone to the planet Mars in search of extra terrestrial life. Lead by a man by the name of Carter they find a door with a cryptic message in what appears to be an alien language. Eager to learn what the door means or if it holds any secrets one of the men open it causing a sudden explosion which kills everyone in sight. A few years later at a deep space monitoring lab on the outskirts of Gotham City we find the caped crusader investigating some problems. He quickly discovers that three of his top scientists have been acting oddly and have suddenly developed super strength and can now talk in a strange dialect unknown to anyone else on Earth. Batman tries to approach them but is attacked immediately and is in over his head until his friend Superman shows up to save the day. However Superman doesn't fare much better as he suffers some sort of vision problem that renders him useless against the unknown attackers. Supes and The Bat manage to escape but not before the entire building and part of a satellite are blown to shreds. Elsewhere in the nation’s capital, Carter (now a senator) is holding a meeting of the chiefs of staff to propose a new solution to world's weapons problem. His proposal is that all nations disarm their nuclear weapons and that they should trust Superman to become the world's soul protector. After some initial concern the vote passes and Superman set's out to make the world a safe place once again. Back in Gotham City, Batman has managed once again to track down the scientists to a hidden lab where he discovers they are alien hybrids that can take on human form. Unable to handle them on his own he calls Superman for help who leaves Metropolis to aid his friend. On his way out of the city he sees a huge ball of fire hurdling towards the city and as soon as Batman is safe Superman leaves to defend his own city. An alien appears out of the fire and Superman begins to attack but it's not long before Superman has another mind flash episode rendering him unable to continue and thus leaving the military in charge of the situation. The story progresses and before you know it the trail leads to J'onn J'onzz aka The Martian Manhunter, an alien who came to the Earth to warn mankind of their impending doom, but like most aliens was captured and detained by the US government. He tells a story about his home planet and how it was wiped out by this alien species. Through his telepathic powers he calls upon Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Hawkgirl to help in the fight. The super-heroes split up into teams and race against the clock to destroy the alien invaders before they take over the Earth.

This DVD edition of "Justice League" is comprised of the three-episode story arc entitled "Secret Origins" which launched the series. The title of the story arc is a bit of a misnomer, as the episodes don't really deal with the characters origins at all. After the brief prologue we are thrown head first into the story and within the first five minutes we've met Batman, Superman and the villains for this story arc. This isn't really a big issue as it's fun to follow these super heroes while they try to save the Earth but I'd like to think more care could have taken in naming the episodes. Kids young and old aren't really going to care if they don't learn how Batman became who is he or the how Superman came to discover his powers after all they just want to see their favourite super heroes and I don't blame them. It's tough to be critical of a cartoon series because their objectives are so much different then a movie. Sure there are problems with some of the logic and the story borrows heavily from  "Independence Day" and other Alien invader movies, but as cartoon's go this one is fairly entertaining not to mention harmless. The voice acting is pretty good as well, though none of the talent with the exception of Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville) who voices Flash is very well known. It's a promising start to the series and while I'm unlikely to watch the series on TV I do hope Warner releases more "Justice League" on DVD, hopefully the next time around in widescreen and season set form.

Justice League
Video
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment brings "Justice League" to DVD with a 1.33:1 full-frame transfer that due to its dimensions is not enhanced for 16x9 displays. Now normally I wouldn't have a problem accepting that a cartoon that original aired on television is framed at 1.33:1 but in the case of "Justice League" this becomes a major issue. The series, which airs on the Cartoon Network in the US, does so in both the full-frame format presented here as well as a 1.85:1 widescreen format. The show's creators have allowed the network to air it in both formats on different days and times though they have stated publicly that the widescreen framing is the preferred framing for the show. Given that this is a single sided/single layered DVD with roughly 65 minutes of video content one would think they could have included both formats to please everyone, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Aspect ratio aside this is one heck of a transfer blowing away the quality that these episodes had on television. If one thing stands out above all the rest it's colour, as this disc contains some absolutely magnificent colours. The super hero’s costumes are extremely vibrant with the deep blue and red of Superman appearing lifelike, green appearing bold and well defined on the Green Lantern and the red spandex of the Flash appearing just as it would in the pages of a comic book. No smearing or bleeding appears on the reds, which is something that often happens on animated material. The print used is quite clean and free of scratches. In terms of problems there is some light grain in a couple sequences as well as some minor aliasing and ringing. Black level is spot on and surprisingly deep for an animated project. The animation is consistently high quality and is a bit better then I was expecting from a non-feature film. All in all this is a pretty impressive transfer of the material that's only major fault is that it's not in what is said to be the preferred aspect ratio. Warner really missed the boat on this one and while this is just a minor release for them it worries me that this practice may spread to animated feature films and live action material. It's for this reason that I'm knocking down the video grade one point. Hopefully this won't have to happen again and Warner will realize their error and correct it before it becomes more of a problem.

Audio
"Justice League" is presented by Warner Home Entertainment with a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound mix. Although the video transfer exceeded my expectations the same can't be said for the audio presentation. I fully realize that not all releases can contain 5.1 audio tracks and that sometimes due to logistical and money related reasons a 2.0 mix will have to do. That said there are some pretty good 2.0 presentations, but "Justice League" certainly isn't one of them. The sound mix fails to overcome its TV origins in that it's pretty much a front heavy stereo mix. Most of the action takes place up front and while the surrounds are used on occasion it's usually only for some ambient sounds.  Stereo separation is a mixed bag with some scenes making better use of the sound stage then others. Dialog is mixed at a nice level and aside from the prologue is always easily heard. Music and atmospheric sounds hold up the fort nicely in the front but again really fail to engage the audience. LFE use is limited but it does pack a decent sized punch when it is called upon. The biggest problem the disc's audio faces is a lack of consistency as some parts of the mix sound far better then others. A real mixed bag that probably only sounds slightly better then the material would have on television given that the audio information is stored digitally.

Extras
At a value price of $19.98 retail one could expect that the disc would be pretty light on the bonus materials and that is certainly the case with "Justice League". The extras section consists of simple Character biographies for our super-friends as well as Cast and Crew biographies.

In addition we have the trailers for "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker", "Batman and Mr Freeze: Subzero", "The Batman and Superman Movie" and a super long "Scooby Doo Sneak Peeks" trailer covering a number of upcoming Scooby animated releases. Also included as DVD-ROM material are some simple weblinks.

Justice League
Overall
Warner's "Justice League" DVD is a fun introduction to a series I think will have great legs on the Cartoon Network. Although I don't really go out of my way to watch animated series on TV this one would be a good contender if I did. Warner Home Entertainment's DVD offers up an excellent video transfer that's only real fault is that it's Full-Frame and not framed at 1.85:1 widescreen that the producers and creators prefer. I doubt the primary audience of preteens will mind and I wouldn't have either if I hadn't known the truth about the series production. As it is I certainly do think the lack of a widescreen transfer is major strike against this disc. The audio quality is what's to be expected from a TV production and there really isn't anything in terms of extras. Still at $19.99 it's hard to go wrong, as the feature itself is pretty strong. If you already have the episodes taped off TV then the real selling point will be the strong increase in video quality. If you missed out on this story arc then there's no better way to see them then here. Regardless of which camp you fall in you'll enjoy this disc.


Links: