DC Comics’ newest animated movie, “Justice League vs. the Fatal Five,” is a joy to experience for any DC Comics fan. The premise of the movie is equal parts simple and convoluted, just like the comics they are based on. The Fatal Five, the arch enemies of the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st century, travel back in time and fight the Justice League. While the plot may seem like a stretch to some, any experienced DC Comics fan will recognize iconic items like the time bubble, which the five used to travel to the 21st century. While the story itself is entirely original, there are clear similarities between this new story and classic comic arcs. The film never feels repetitive, however, and the love and admiration that the development team has for these characters is apparent.
The film harkens back to the nostalgic times of the DCAU (DC Animated Universe) shows like “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” by using the same character designs from the show. There has been no word on whether this movie is considered DCAU canon, most likely because there are several incongruities between the show and the film, but seeing the heroes of the DC Animated Universe was incredibly nostalgic. Even the original voice actors Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg and George Newbern returned to their iconic roles as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. The return of these now iconic versions was a great choice because it makes the characters, their personalities and beliefs clearly apparent just by their design and voice. From the moment I saw Superman save a little boy in the first few minutes, and I heard George Newbern’s voice say, “You alright son?” I knew I wasn’t in for a dark gritty Snyder movie. Instead, I was in for an action-packed, fun adventure.
While nostalgia is a major reason for my adoration of the film, it also does an excellent job of incorporating new characters. In addition to the trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, there are Mr. Terrific, the Justice League scientist, the League candidate Miss Martian, and the reluctant hero Jessica Cruz, the newest Green Lantern. Mr. Terrific has previously appeared in the DCAU but only as a supporting role and never really got to fight, which he more than makes up for in this film. No longer a sidelines superhero, Mr. Terrific is in some of the best action scenes in the movie. On the other hand, Miss Martian had yet to appear in the DCAU but plays a significant role in the story, while also serving as a comedic foil for Batman.
The most important new addition to the team, however, is Jessica Cruz, as the newest Green Lantern in both comics and in the context of the film. The movie does an excellent job of adapting Jessica’s origin story to the film. A traumatic experience left her unable to leave the house because of fear and anxiety. Nevertheless, she was chosen to become a Green Lantern because of her ability to overcome that fear. Her character arc is directly tied into the plot of the film and plays a role in the overall message on the nature of fear in the film.
This film does a great job of blending classic characters with new ones, but it also shines with its action. From the very beginning of the film, the audience is dropped right into the action, and it does not stop. Since this is not a kids’ TV show, there is significantly more violence and blood in “Justice League vs. the Fatal Five” than in the TV shows. While it sometimes can be a little over the top, particularly with the Emerald Empress, they are called the Fatal Five after all. The action scenes in the film are crafted extremely well, and there is attention to detail in regards to the unique powers of each character. For example, the Persuader wields the Cosmic Axe, which can cut through anything—and there is actually a scene where he cuts Superman with it. The fact that this occurs fairly early in the film established early on that the Fatal Five are a serious threat and not just your standard villain-of-the-week types. Some other standout fight sequences include Wonder Woman vs. Persuader and Superman vs. Validus.
While there are a great many things to appreciate about the film, it does suffer from some significant flaws. Beyond simple plot holes or convoluted story telling, both of which are usually a given in a comic book movie, the film suffers most because of its intended audience. As a long time fan of both the Justice League and the Fatal Five, I couldn’t wait for this movie. But the average person might not know who Jessica Cruz or the Fatal Five even are. This is the film’s fatal flaw: It is perfect for any longtime fan of DC, or even a committed newcomer to comics, but to the average viewer, the movie may be a bit of an overload on the senses. Otherwise, if you love DC Comics, you will enjoy this movie.