Because May is the month that superheroes are, once again, everywhere, leaving me with a very specific itch to scratch. It started with a couple of clips on Youtube and it ended with renting (yes, actually renting) Justice League: War... and I'm glad that I did!
Is War going to revolutionise the animated superhero genre? No, but it's yet another competent and fairly well-balanced entry into DC's animated universe and it left me wanting to see more. The plot is decent enough, the stakes are high, characters feel well defined and fan service is minimal, yet present. Honestly, like many of the DC animated films, it feels like the live-action Justice League should have started with this script and built up, rather than being what it was.
Which isn't to say that War is great, or without fault. Characters get zero introduction, relying on fan knowledge and, possibly, previous films as setup. That's not a huge issue, but I for one am completely lost as to which films lead where at the moment, with DC's animated arm kicking out adaptations at an alarming rate. I would assume that War takes place in the same universe as Wonder Woman and First Flight, but neither of those characters feel particularly similar here, partially due to difference voice actors. That last part is a double shame, as Nathan Fillion was a brilliant Hal Jordan and, had he reprised the role for War, would have been in a mini Firefly reunion with Alan Tudyk!
The plot is also fairly treadmill, plodding along smoothly yet predictably. The heroes have a little friction at the start, largely because it seems none of them have ever met before (or even knew about one another), which feels odd but allows that side of the plot to quickly be ignored. Shazam probably suffers the most from this bitty introductory sequence, with his relationship with Cyborg feeling extremely forced and his existence given absolutely no explanation. For someone like Batman that can be overlooked, but Shazam is a little more niche and bizarre a character to get away with simply existing.
Then again, if the portrayal of the heroes is lacking in any real depth, Darkseid is practically one dimensional. Beyond the briefest of explanations, gleamed from Cyborg's ability to interface with Darkseid tech, we never hear why Darkseid has invaded Earth, what his goals are or even where he comes from. It feels just a little like DC had cribbed Thanos from the MCU, but based purely on the Infinity War trailers. Which is a shame, because whilst the two villains share certain character traits, there's a lot more to explore with Darkseid than War allows.
What you're left with is an enjoyable yet empty experience. Like a lot of DC animated films, I had a good amount of fun watching War but I can already feel those memories fading away. There's little ostensibly wrong here, with solid animation, great action sequences and perfect voice acting, but it still feels very paint-by-numbers. If you want to see a little more of the DC universe, or just fancy a well choreographed fight sequence with fan favourite characters, then I'd recommend a watch through, but I wouldn't go out of your way to do so.