Let me begin by confessing that I have not read a single page of Justice League comics in the DC New 52. So I have no idea how accurate or off base “Justice League: War,” the new animated adaptation of the first arc is. Initial previews and reviews led me to believe that DC’s new direction just wasn’t my thing, and this movie did nothing to convince me to give them a second look.

The plot is rather thin and familiar. A group of well-known superheroes who don’t know each other discover something bad is about to happen. They slowly begin to gather to address the threat and do so just in time for an unstoppable alien army to jump through some portals in an American city. Towards the end of the film, their big bad leader shows up and they gang up on him. They find a way to close the portals and then the threat is suddenly over. The end.

It may not be fair to compare the film to the blockbuster live-action “Avengers,” since the comic “War” is based on appeared close to a year before that film was released, but the similarities are unavoidable. I just wish that “War” had borrowed a little bit of “Avengers” wit and charm.

The movie’s not all bad. The action is well animated, and although it can’t fully carry the ball, there are plenty of neat super-powered displays. I was actually shocked by the level of violence and profanity in this cartoon. The Justice League prevents Darkseid from using his Omega Beams by literally stabbing out his eyes. ‘Just like Oedipus!’ Wonder Woman exclaims when they hatch the plan. It’s the one smart bit of dialogue in a film that portrays these iconic characters as vulgar, petty jerks.

The depiction of characters is where this movie really falls flat. This movie has a cynical edge that it perhaps shares with ‘Man of Steel,’ portraying the public as distrustful ingrates and the heroes as the worst versions of themselves. The writers were going for more extreme, gritty versions, but unheroic, downright stupid, superheroes just leave a bad taste in my mouth. The dialog eschews cleverness for playground vulgarity, but if you really wanted to hear Green Lantern call Batman a douche bag, this is the animated film for you.

The film ends with the characters not having really learned anything, just left a pile of destruction in their wake. It left me with the question of who this adaptation was for? Fans of the New 52, presumably, but with such a high level of violence and vulgarity, it seems inappropriate for younger fans. Older fans like myself will find the thin story and unpleasant characterizations a pale shadow of the Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie eras of DC Animation. I can’t recommend this movie.

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