Warner Bros. // 2002 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Aaron Bossig (Retired) // November 17th, 2004
"Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt." -- The Flash
In an era when Marvel's staple of superheroes wows audiences and brings in record earnings, Justice League reminds us of two things: That well-written stories can be pulled from the DC canon, and that Warner Bros. really doesn't have a clue how to actually turn their greatest comic book properties into box office gold.
Though Justice League is already aimed towards avid comic book readers, Justice League: The Brave and the Bold is a particular treat. The disc pays homage to the comic book Golden Age by being lighthearted, a little goofy, and a whole lot of fun.
In "The Brave and the Bold," Flash and Green Lantern stumble onto Gorilla City, a hidden city-state controlled by super-intelligent gorillas. While it might seem absurd, more than a little campy, and completely unfit for a viewer past the third grade, don't be so quick to judge (I wasn't, and it's my job). Stories like this, which were less about science fiction and more about fantasy, were extremely popular in the early years of comic books.
"Injustice for All" also offers a type of story made popular decades ago: the team-up. Unlike talking animals, this has never gotten old. How could it? With DC's greatest heroes teamed up as the Justice League, the only thing that could prove as interesting would be to team up the greatest villains: Lex Luthor, the Joker, Cheetah, Solomon Grundy, the Ultra-Humanite, Copperhead, The Shade, and Star Sapphire.
One issue I had with the first season of Justice League is the scarcity of heroes out of costume. It restricts character development when you only see the public side of each league member; their personal side is often more interesting.
"The Brave and the Bold" gets around this handicap nicely by putting Flash and Green Lantern together in a "buddy cop" scenario. The focus on their dynamic gives us a deeper appreciation of the characters on a personal level. This clever twist on the show's normal format demonstrates strong writing: The rest of the team makes a brief appearance (including a touching scene with Batman), but never do they intrude on the main story just to satisfy an artificial contractual obligation.
"Injustice for All" resurrects the idea behind the Legion of Doom, only with a tone much darker and more contemporary than any episode of The Superfriends. Justice League truly shines in stories such as these: bringing back characters and events that most people have forgotten, or may never have been shown outside the comic books. In the "Behind The Brave and the Bold" extra you'll see the show's creators talk about how much they enjoy including elements from DC's history. "Injustice for All," for example, artfully introduces a modern version of Lex Luthor's old green armor, explaining it through his kryptonite poisoning (a comic book story many years later). Heh, and don't blink, or you might miss a brief cameo by the Wonder Twins.
In both stories, it's clear that the show is made by adults who have spent their whole lives reading comics, and who realize how fortunate they are to be able to bring their beloved characters to the screen. Justice League isn't a show born out of focus groups and hack writers, designed only to sell action figures: It's a show made for people who love superheroes, from any era.
In terms of image quality, the DVD is everything you'd expect of a recent animated feature from a major studio. However, it's shown only in Full Frame. The back of the DVD case claims this is the original broadcast ratio, which is true, but only in the most technical sense. Yes, when these were originally aired, they were shown in Full Frame, but it's also true that each was accompanied by an encore showing -- in widescreen. The show's creators have stated that they designed the show to be in widescreen. In the extra on storyboards, you can clearly see the storyboards are created with the intention to matte for widescreen. During the extras, the clips shown are of the widescreen version. By all rights, this is a show meant to be shown in widescreen. So why does the DVD only present the Full Frame option?
I guess it's because of the misguided notion that "kids don't like widescreen." In itself, I would find that very debatable, but it makes even less sense in the context of the DVD's extras -- both of which are geared toward older viewers, who read Silver and Golden Age comics and appreciate the technical challenges of making a TV show. The special features are only meaningful to people who read comics from the '80s, '70s, '60s, or even before then, and yet the disc is sold under the "DC Comics Kids Collection" label.
Compare this rather modest release with the mega-set that will inevitably be created for Catwoman, and it becomes clear just how much potential is being wasted.
Does Warner really know what an asset they have with Justice League? Here we have a show that's accessible to adults as well as children, showcased on a DVD that offers intelligent (if brief) extras. Yet, it's sold as a children's video and gets less publicity than a release of Da Ali G Show.
The court can find no fault with the Justice League. Their heroic efforts have saved this planet many times over, and their bravery is unequaled.
Warner Bros., however, has been found guilty on multiple counts of Property Neglect by denying care to deserving, quality material. They are hereby sentenced to be bought out by Wayne Enterprises, where the new management will make a proper DVD release.
Review content copyright © 2004 Aaron Bossig; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Behind the Brave and the Bold Documentary
* Storyboards for Justice Documentary
* Official Site
* Justice League Animated