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Warner Home Video presents
Justice League: Starcrossed the Movie (2004)

"In the name of the Thanagarian authority, we claim your planet as a garrison, and have instituted martial law."
- Hro Talek (Victor Rivers)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: July 13, 2004

Stars: Maria Canals, Phil LaMarr
Other Stars: Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, George Newbern, Michael Rosembaum, Victor Rivers
Director: Butch Lukic, Dan Riba

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (superhero violence)
Run Time: 01h:07m:33s
Release Date: July 13, 2004
UPC: 085393128524
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-A-B+ B-

DVD Review

When I think of Batman, I don't think of comic books (never read them, mostly because, as a kid, I read too fast to warrant spending a dollar on eight minutes of entertainment, and I hadn't yet developed an appreciation for artists who manage to make a guy in a spandex jumpsuit look cool). Nor do I think of Tim Burton's gothic hero. I won't bother with the oft-told joke about Joel Schumacher's rubber nipple fetish (mostly because all of the good ones are already taken). No, when I think of Batman, I think of Batman: The Animated Series, the mid-1990s offering from Warner Bros.; animation that managed to perfectly capture the troubled hero's bleak, divided existence. That I believe it's the best example of a comic hero brought to life, and that it featured some of the most subtle, mature writing in children's television, well, ever, is fodder for another review.

But my enthusiasm for Batman explains, I believe, my general indifference toward Justice League, a two-year-old Cartoon Network/Kids WB co-production from many of the same creative talents behind the aforementioned series. It's fine entertainment, don't get me wrong. The team of heroes features some colorful characters: Superman, Batman (still voiced by the redoubtable Kevin Conroy), Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (now in African-American flavor, and who can complain when a minority has finally broken through the Kryptonite ceiling of the superhero world?), Hawkgirl, and the Martian shape-shifter J'onn J'onzz. Then there's the Flash, who resorts to scraping for cheap laughs, probably because he knows, in his heart of hearts, that being the guy who runs really fast is fairly useless when you have Superman (who can move at warp speed), the world's greatest detective, and any number of flying beings on your team.

The episodic series is fast moving, with colorful villains, interesting plots, and epic battles. But despite its wonderfully blocky, modern/art-deco design work, it just doesn't have the flavor, the character, or the depth of its forebear. The heroes are given some depth, but are still fairly one-dimensional. The stories tend to focus more on action and big ideas than on character development and tight drama. It's not entirely brainless (and is far better than most of what passes for children's entertainment), but it just doesn't grab me the way Batman did when I was in middle school, the way it still does now.

All that said, the "all new" Starcrossed (subtitled "The Movie" so as to confuse fans who originally saw it when it aired in three installments on television) is a fairly decent offering. It centers on Hawkgirl, who is faced with a crisis of conscience after a massive fleet of warships arrives carrying troops from her home world. It seems she was sent to Earth as a spy of sorts, to gather intelligence for her military, including her former flame Hro Talek (who looks a lot like Hawkman to me). The Justice League feels betrayed, especially her current love interest, Green Lantern (is he green... with jealousy? Ho ho!), and most especially when the invaders take over the entire planet and impose martial law.

Most of the film focuses on the mystery of the hawkpeople (Thanagarians, for all you comic book nuts) and their intentions for Earth, and the clever cat-and-mouse antics of the Justice League as they attempt to elude their powerful captors and make their way to their space-based hideout, the Watchtower (ironically, the one place in the universe to successfully repel Jehovah's Witnesses). The romantic triangle between Hawkman/girl and the Green Lantern is fairly trite, but the rest of the heroes get a few nice moments, particularly Batman and Superman.

Starcrossed capped the series' second season, and the admittedly ballsy conclusion promises big changes. They're coming—Season Three, which premieres soon, features an expanded cast and a retooled concept, as it seems the Justice League was so affected by their butt-whuppin' at the hands of the aliens, they decided they just can't do it alone anymore. Whether the change will turn the series further away from it's comic book roots is anyone's guess, but the departure of producer Paul Dini (who was a primary contributor to that other show with Batman) from WB Animation is probably not a good omen.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: The question of original aspect ratio is a little confusing when it comes to this series, which is produced in both full and widescreen formats and aired both ways on television. The widescreen is the creators' preferred version, though neither will disappoint. The splashy colors and thick lined retro styling comes through swimmingly in each. Blacks are nice and deep, grain is non-existent, and I noticed only a hint of aliasing in a scene or two. Prety nice, as is the norm for Warner's animated releases of late.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The DD 2.0 track sounds pretty good for a television cartoon. The front soundstage is nice and wide, with plenty of room for flashy panning and directional sound effects and a crisp dialogue track. Surround use is very limited, but I did notice some rear enhancement during a few explosion scenes.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, Superman: The Last Son of Krypton, Samurai Jack: Season One, Aloha, Scooby Doo!
4 Deleted Scenes
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Watchtower character bios
Extras Review: Justice League fans are no doubt clamoring for DVD season sets, and while I'm sure they'll show up some day (heck, if they'll release Challenge of the Superfriends...), Warner's series of "best of" releases will do nicely, especially if all of them have as nice a selection of extras.

Granted, there isn't a lot of material here, but what do you expect? When it comes to something as inconsequential as the release of a three-episode arc of what is largely viewed as a children's television show, I'll take what I can get.

The only real item of substance is the eight-minute featurette Hawkman: From Comics to Cartoon. In its fairly brief running time, this piece (which features interviews with a bevy of producers, including Bruce Timm and Rich Fogel, and legendary comic artist Alex Ross) explores the history of the Hawkman character and his various comic incarnations, reveals why the series stars Hawkgirl (not Hawkman), and explains why the "villain" in Starcrossed is similar to Hawkman, but not so much that there might be lawsuits involved. I'm sick of using the word "hawk" as a prefix. Or is it a descriptive noun? Wait, isn't that an adjective? Curse you, Hawkman, for rendering useless years of college English courses, which, let's face it, were probably fairly useless already!

Aside from that, there are four deleted Hawkscenes, two of which are presented in animatic form only. They are mostly excised bits of action (including a longer fight between the Green Lantern and Hro Talek). The two-minute Tour of the Watchtower is pure fluff, and rather moot, once you've seen the main feature. There are also some narrated bios that include nifty action montages for each hero.

A bunch of trailers, dubiously grouped under the header "Family Favorites," round out the Hawkdisc. Check out clips for Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (argh!), Superman: The Last Son of Krypton, Samurai Jack: Season One and Aloha, Scooby Doo!.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Though it's not the best animated superhero series on TV, there is a lot to like about Justice League, and Starcrossed provides a nice in-road for those unfamiliar with the latest efforts of the creators of Batman: The Animated Series. Warner's DVD is decent, too, with extras that will interest both kids and adults.

 


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