Justice League: The Complete Series (2001)
|Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Fantasy / Science Fiction|
|Warner Brothers || NR - 2062 minutes - $99.98 || November 10, 2009|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-11-13|
Cast: George Newbern, Kevin Conroy, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum
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Note: Part of this came from my Blu-ray review of the “Justice League: The Complete First Season”.
Writer, producer and character designer Bruce Timm has come up with at least two of the most popular animated televisions series and some of the best material in the DC Universe. Starting in 1992 with “Batman: The Animated Series”, Timm has given comic book fans great stories and animation style for which it was followed up giving Superman his own animated series as well. “B:TAS” also produced a fine Batman movie (and The Batman/Superman Movie), Wonder Woman as well as a couple mixed efforts with Superman: Doomsday, Batman: Gotham Knight, Justice League: The New Frontier and Batman/Superman: Public Enemies, though I liked it quite a lot.
In any case, with the success of “Batman” and “Superman” animated series, it was only natural to tackle the juggernaut of superhero team-ups, the “Justice League”. This series, which originally aired on Cartoon Network in 2001, features a super lineup with Batman (once again voiced by Kevin Conroy in his fourth stint as The Dark Knight), Superman (George Newbern, replacing Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum), Green Lantern (Phil LaMarr), Hawkgirl (Maria Canals-Barrera) and J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly).
The “Justice League” animated series, first installment, lasted two seasons before being re-titled and I guess re-launched as “Justice League: Unlimited” which expanded the League beyond the founding members to others like Supergirl, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Atom, Huntress and thousands of others. The “Unlimited” episodes go back and forth between the big hitters and supporting cast, sometimes having one of them go out on missions with them.
The series on the whole balances adult themes and violence with more light-hearted storylines. In the episode ‘This Little Piggy’, for instance, we find Batman and Wonder Woman out to stop a sorceress who turns WW into a pig and Bats gets help from Zatanna while others are quite violent. ‘The Doomsday Sanction’, as you can imagine, has Doomsday released from a government facility where he goes after Superman and begins a massive ass-whooping fight that can be a tad too vicious for kids. But, even the lighter episodes are a hell lot of fun to watch while the more serious episodes are just as fulfilling.
I don’t have a preference between the two shows but how “Justice League” ended was fantastic in a 3-part finale, ‘Starcrossed’, in which Hawkgirl betrays the League when her alien race comes to Earth for their own needs. Although she takes a stand, she ultimately resigns from the League rather than put it in the hands of her fellow members. Not only is the story fantastic but you get the League in a situation where the odds seem insurmountable as they lean on one another including Batman revealing his identity and using Wayne Manor as a base to regroup. This was set to be a series finale before Cartoon Network announced a follow-up series.
With “Unlimited”, a good number of the episodes are self-contained, but it does feature story arcs like the government run Project Cadmus which set to even the playing field with the League as humans felt they were gaining too much power as had happened in the Justice Lords saga in which Luthor was President of the United States and the League takes over the governments around the world and impose their own strict laws on the people.
Season two opens with the introduction of the League of Supervillains led by Gorilla Grog with other villains joined together to band against the Justice League as heroes around the world growing in vast numbers with a ridiculous, but I guess classic Justice League comic book, evil plot. While I wasn’t as fond of this season as the others, it’s still a lot of fun which isn’t something I often say about any animated series, especially one that follows the greatest of the previous seasons.
I think what Bruce Timm did with not only “Justice League” but the others as well, was give an animated series that adults can appreciate and one’s that weren’t targeted at kids where the stories can be too simple and the jokes too lame. I still like “Batman” more since I have been a fan since I was 8 but “Justice League” is probably on another level both in terms of animation style and storylines. I can only say if the proposed feature film ever happens – if it’s even a fraction as good as this series – it should be a kick ass movie.
The 14 discs of this complete series set comes in two big keep cases (like what Warner currently releases their TV series in) which is housed in a steel outer case with Superman/Wonder Woman/Batman on the front and Martian Manhunter/Hawkgirl/Green Lantern/Flash on the back.
All the features from the previous DVD sets have been ported over (especially since these look to be the exact same discs anyway) but there is a seventh disc with a new featurette (more on that later).
Season 1 (Discs 1-4):
Episode Commentaries – Here is a breakdown on the commentators: Bruce Timm (character designs/producer), James Tucker (producer), Glen Murakami (character designs/producer), Rich Fogel (writer/producer) & Dan Kiba (director) on ‘The Enemy Below Part Two’, ‘Legends Part Two’ and ‘The Savage Time Part Two’.
Inside Justice League (9:11) – This panel discussion with animators and producers answers questions about taking on such a big project and they explain the different choices made and even the mistakes (making Superman too much of a wimp in season one).
The Look of the League (4:17) – Simple featurette with producer Bruce Timm going through each character and the though process of animating each and, with Batman and Superman, making them different than what had been done before.
Storyboards: The Blueprint for Justice (7:09) – Another angle on the making of this series where we now get to hear from storyboard artists about mapping out scenes and how much storyboarding is essential to the animation of the show.
Justice League: The First Mission (5:53) – This is a cool promo that the producers had put together in 2001 as a way to sell this to a network. The first 4-minutes is the panel discussing how it was put together (using animation models from “Batman”, “Batman Beyond” and others).
Season 2 (Discs 5-8):
Episode Commentaries – Timm, Tucker, Butch Lukic (director) & Dwayne McDuffie on ‘Twilight Part Two’ (producer); Timm, Tucker, Stan Berkowitz (writer) & McDuffie on ‘A Better World Part Two’; Timm, Tucker, Lukic & McDuffie on ‘Starcrossed Part Three’.
Voices of Justice (10:37) is a featurette examining the voice talents involved with the series with comments from the cast including George Newbern (Superman), Maria Canals (Hawkgirl), Jennifer Hale (Giganta/Killer Frost), Phil LaMarr (Green Lantern) and Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman). They talk about the differences between doing voice work over acting and other topics.
Justice League Declassified (8:02) – Go behind the scenes with the show’s creative team. This is a roundtable discussion with the crew including producers Bruce Timm, James Tucker and others.
And then there are excerpts from the “The Amazing Story of Superman” documentary released with the Superman Returns DVD.
Season 3 (JL Unlimited Season 1) (Discs 9-12):
Episode Commentaries – Timm, Paul Dini (Writer), McDuffie & Tucker on ‘This Little Piggy’; Timm, Joaquim Dos Santos (storyboard artist), McDuffie & Tucker on ‘The Return’.
And Justice for All (9:10) covers the process of revamping the series with new characters and a new creative direction. Pretty interesting to see how many characters they used from the DCU and the voice talent used during the season (like Dakota Fanning as Wonder Girl and John C. McGinley as Captain Atom).
Themes of Justice is where you can choose your favorite “JLU” musical theme audio tracks.
Season 4 (JL Unlimited Season 2) (Discs 13-14):
Cadmus: Exposed (23:22) – Mark Hamill and series creative personnel (Dwayne McDuffie, Bruce Timm, James Tucker) discuss this popular series story arc. As someone who enjoys these roundtable-like discussions, this was fun to watch especially when it’s being moderated by Hamill.
Justice League Chronicles (33:41) – Series writers, producers and directors discuss their favorite moments among the final season episodes. This is a 3-part featurette includes story editor Matt Wayne and producers Bruce Timm, James Tucker and Dwayne McDuffie. This is almost a select scene video commentary.
Lastly is a music-only track for the final episode, ‘Destroyer’.
Bonus Disc (Disc 15):
Unlimited Reserve: A League for the Ages (16:48) – This new featurette created for the complete series box set is a retrospective with series creators as they recall storytelling challenges and casting opportunities offered by many wild personalities of the Justice League. This is a pretty good featurette with members of the crew talk about the origins of the show and how special it was. Unfortunately, all the interviews were filmed separately so it’s a bunch of sound bites rather than a more energetic roundtable discussion.
And there are trailers to other Warner titles like “Ben 10 Alien Force”, “Lord of the Rings Animated Film” and Batman: The Brave and the Bold” amongst others.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
Over the course of the series’ four year run, we got 3 different video formats: Season 1 is presented in full frame even though it was originally animated for widescreen; Season 2 is presented in widescreen... non-anamorphic widescreen; and seasons 1 and 2 of “Unlimited” were finally in anamorphic widescreen. Despite the changing ratios, the series on the whole looks pretty good. Colors are fairly vibrant throughout as you get a blend of red and blue with Superman, black/blue and grey with Batman, the green of Martian Manhunter, red and yellow in Flash, etc, etc.
On the audio front, discs 1-12 (“Justice League” seasons one and two and “Unlimited” season one) has a Dolby Surround Stereo track while discs 13-14 (“Unlimited” season two) is just standard stereo.
“Justice League” The Complete Series is a fantastic set especially for those who don’t own the individual season sets. The animation is great and the stories aren’t too kid friendly so even young adults will be able to appreciate the stories without getting bored with some of the childish humor you often see in animated shows. As for the set itself, the discs are all the same as the sets down to the video transfer so you’re not gaining anything other than an extra disc with a 16-minutes featurette, otherwise you might want to hold off.