I love a story that starts with a good “what if?” premise. You know, like, “What if a nasty case of flannel poisoning hadn’t led to the Star Wars prequels?” Just think of what the world would look like today without all of that Hayden Christensen pollution!
Justice League: The New Frontier launches from the premise of, “What if the Justice League had formed during the McCarthy era of the 1950s?” Would the American government and citizenry treat well-intentioned metahumans and aliens more with suspicion than with appreciation? Would superheros be required to sign loyalty oaths? Would Wonder Woman stay home and bake muffins while Superman and Batman went out to fight crime with their briefcases, pipes, and fedoras? (Not likely.)
New Frontier was adapted from a comic book series created by Darwyn Cooke. In the original series, Cooke reformulates the origin stories of characters like Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Steel while intelligently tying those stories into the time period’s characteristic themes, including racism and paranoia.
The film adaption takes the same tack, but can’t approach the breadth and depth of the original material. It’s a bit like one of those recap episodes of Lost that ABC shows at the beginning of every season: it presents a complete, mostly-satisfying story, but leaves you with a lingering Where’s the beef? sensation.
That’s not to say that the film version of The New Frontier isn’t wholly-entertaining. It features top-notch art and animation, and plenty of action-crammed superheroics. Seventy-five minutes well spent.
But take heed, parental units! As its source material did, the PG-13 movie deals with issues and visuals that might not be appropriate for your children. Assuming that you love your children and care for their mental well-being.
Here’s an idea of the sorts of things that earn an animated movie a PG-13 rating:
- First-person point-of-view of a character putting a revolver in his mouth to commit suicide. Audience hears the gunshot.
- Slow-motion, silhouetted view of Hal Jordan shooting a Communist in the head at point-blank range. I know it was just a Commie, but still.
- Batman rescues a small child from a cult that had hog-tied the child to an altar and had made gestures to “sacrifice” him with a sword.
- “Son of a bitch.”
- A newscast reports on a lynching, showing a graphic of noose around the neck of a hooded figure.
- “Have a drink and smoke ’em if you got ’em.” Ordinarily I’d say, “Hell yeah!” But not to a five-year-old.
- Martian Manhunter rends dinosaurs into bloody pieces with his bare hands. No child likes to see harm come to dinosaurs.
- Wonder Woman gets into an epic battle with the movie’s Big Bad. She escapes in the Invisible Plane. All you see flying through the air is Wonder Woman in a heap, surrounded by her blood, with has splattered all over the cockpit. Pretty hilarious image if it weren’t so grotesque.
That’s just all kinds of mirth, isn’t it? As you might have surmised, the flick can get a bit heavy… but I wouldn’t call it “dark.” And it ends on an uplifting, hopeful note that ensures that you’re not left with a not-so-fresh feeling.
You can buy the DVD from Amazon. (Released Tuesday, February 25.)
Subscribers, visit the post to view the trailer.