Thursday, December 26, 2013

Latest Binge Watch - Justice League

Say what you will about this mid-season hiatuses, they're a great time to do some binge-watching.  I thought I was going to delve into House of Cards or catch up on Family Guy, but unexpectedly I began watching what I deem to be one of the best animated series in recent (well, 2001, anyway) years:  Justice League

DC Entertainment and whichever studio(s) is releasing the Justice League film in 2017 could really learn a lot from this show.  The characters were thoroughly fleshed out, they commanded respect and they totally kicked ass.  They had hubris, flaws, they challenged each other and they were a cohesive unit that knew how to save the world again and again.  If the movie(s) followed this model, they could really give Marvel, which gets it SO right, a real run for their money.

The first two seasons, called just Justice League, focused on seven founding members:  Superman (George Newbern), Batman (Kevin Conroy), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum), Green Lantern (Phil LaMarr), Hawkgirl (Maria Canals-Barrera) and J'onn J'onzz (Carl Lumbly).  These actors bring their characters richly to life.  Conroy came over from his own animated series while Newbern is taking over vocal duties from Tim Daly (Superman animated series).

The show did the usual superhero stuff, battling super villains, thwarting alien invasions, etc.  But it also was wrought with political conflicts, philosophical and ethical conundrums and personal issues.  It definitely feels more like an animated series for adults than for kids.

Providing the comic relief - and often a lot of heart - for the show is The Flash, which is my favorite character, largely in part to Rosenbaum's vocalization.  Funny enough, at the same time he was playing a good guy here, he was also playing one of, if not the, ultimate DC Comic super villain, Lex Luthor, on the CW series Smallville.  Flash was the conscience of the League, and watching the character fight next to - and often irritate - his fellow heroes, is quite humorous and very entertaining.  And gets better when he ends up being the hero of the day.

Most of JL's first two seasons consists of two-parters, and the stories and action get quite epic, probably because so much can be done and there's great freedom with animation.  It's a terrific collection of mini-features.


For some reason, come season three the creators didn't feel the original seven were enough, so the show became Justice League Unlimited and introduced countless new heroes that were inducted into the League, including Supergirl, Green Arrow, Aquaman, and many - too many - more.  Each episode now had an original member or two - usually Batman, Superman and/or Wonder Woman - going on adventure with a newbie or three, and it just wasn't the same ... plus now there was just too little of Flash.  It wasn't until the trilogy toward the end of season 4 (Flashpoint-Panic In The Sky-Divided We Fall) that I saw my old JL back again.

But despite that, this is a terrific series and if you are a DC fan, come here to get your fix, at least for now.  Here's hoping the coming movies gets it right.

Justice League/Justice League Unlimited Seasons 1-4 are available for streaming on Netflix.

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