The action-packed adventure features iconic DC Super Heroes Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman alongside Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and The Flash as they band together to form the legendary team. Strangers at first, these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable, even the mighty Superman cannot stop it alone. If they fail, the entire planet will be "cleansed" of humanity.
Justice League: The New Frontier was first released on Blu-ray back in 2008. Now – probably due to creator Darwyn Cooke's passing back in 2016 – the powers that be at DC Animation and Warner Bros. have decided to give the release a new "Commemorative Edition", which updates both the codec used and the primary English audio track of the original release, and adds a new bonus feature: one dedicated to the legacy of Cooke.
The movie, which is based on Cooke's limited comic book run (six issues in all), takes the world's greatest superheroes (or, at least, the ones under the DC banner) and puts them smack dab in the middle of 1950's America, with all of its Cold War propaganda and paranoia. Obviously, Cooke's idea was heavily influenced by Alan Moore's Watchmen graphic novel, but going only off this movie (as I have never read Cooke's original work), this story never has the depth or impact of Moore's seminal work.
The movie introduces us to the bad guy first, called the Centre (and voiced by Keith David), who has made the decision that – due to its continual violent acts – mankind must be destroyed. Okay, that's a pretty ominous start, but viewers may be disappointed later in the story when it turns out the Centre's method of attacking our heroes is via a swarm of flying pterodactyls. I'm not sure if that was a Cooke concept or one conceived just for this title, but it's not a very strong idea.
How much appeal this title has to an individual viewer may largely depend on how much screen time one's favorite hero gets here. Superman (voice of Kyle MacLachlan) plays a big part early on, disappears for a while (for reasons I won't spoil) and then returns for a brief cameo at the end. The same is true of Wonder Woman (voice of Lucy Lawless), who follows a similar path as Superman in the plot, but under different circumstances. Batman (voice of Jeremy Sisto) is present a lot too, but while he has input into the events, he doesn't really take on the role of leader in any major sense.
It may surprise some that The New Frontier is essential an origin story for two of our superheroes: first, for Green Lantern, aka Hal Jordan (voice of David Boreanaz), who is about the closest to a "lead character" that this story gets; and second, for Martian Manhunter (voice of Miguel Ferrer), whose arrival on Earth plays a major role in the story (including the events that lead Jordan into becoming Green Lantern).
Overall, I enjoyed Justice League: The New Frontier enough to recommend it (although those who already own the prior edition may want to give some thought into whether the upgrade is worth it), but I'd rank it somewhere in the middle of all the DC Animation releases. It's not on par with some of my favorites, but it's certainly not among the worst either (and some of the worst actually feature the Justice League, so by that standpoint, this is one of the better titles featuring this group of heroes).
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Commemorative Edition of Justice League: The New Frontier arrives on home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The dual-layer DVD and 25GB Blu-ray are housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase along with a pair of inserts: one with info about how to take an online survey for this DC Animation release, and the other a code for a digital copy of the movie. A slightly embossed slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop.
Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with trailers for the commemorative version of the animated Wonder Woman and Batman and Harley Quinn. The main menu is the standard Warners' design, with a still of the box cover image and menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
In addition to this combo release, a SteelBook version is also available.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
Justice League: The New Frontier is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio using an AVC MPEG-4 codec, which is a change from the VC-1 codec of the original release. I don't own the first release of this movie, but I'm guessing this is pretty much a similar looking transfer and in line with what we tend to see from DC Animation. The biggest problem here – no surprise – is some banding that rears its head from time to time, but that's par for the course on most of these DC releases and, as I've stated in the past, more a result of the animation style they use than anything else.
Colors are well-rendered here, although sometimes a bit muted. These earlier DC releases tended to blur portions of many of the action sequences, and we get some of that on this title. I guess it was so the animation could look a little more "realistic", but it really does nothing but distract. It's something DC has seemed to use less of in the last couple of years, but here's a reminder of why it doesn't work. Thankfully, that's only a handful of moments, and the rest of the movie looks quite good.
The original release of this title back in 2008 featured a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track as the featured audio. The featured English track has been changed to 5.1. DTS-HD Master Audio for this release, although I'm guessing it's not all that much different from the original audio. Warner and DC have always done solid jobs with their audio renderings for these animated titles, and this one is no exception – with lots of surround activity and LFE use. Dialogue (primarily from the front center) is clearly rendered, and there are no obvious glitches to report. While by no means a reference-quality track, still a very fun one to listen to.
In addition to the lossless English track, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are available in Spanish (Castilian) and Portuguese, while 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks are available in Spanish (Latin) and French. Subtitles are an option in English, French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
Commentary featuring Darwyn Cooke – The creator of the original comic books upon which this movie is based provides his thoughts on the movie. Both this commentary track and the one listed below are carried over from the previous release.
Commentary featuring Talented Filmmakers – Director David Bullock joins Executive Producer Bruce Timm, Writer Stan Burkowitz, Voice Director Andrea Romano, Executive Producer Gregory Noveck, and Supervising Producer Michael Goguen for a roundtable commentary about the movie.
Retro Action Cool: The Story of Darwyn Cooke (HD 20:38) – A brand-new featurette for this release that looks at the career, work, and legacy of artist/writer Darwyn Cooke, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 53. Included here are comments from Creative Director for DC Entertainment Mike Carlin, Art Director and Editor for DC Comics Mark Chiarello, Co-Publisher at DC Comics Dan DiDio, Co-Publisher at DC Comics Jim Lee, and Cooke friend Michael Stradford.
Super Heroes United!: The Complete Justice League History (SD 41:07) – This is a nice (although standard-def), lengthy look at the history of the Justice League in comics, which is a featurette carried over from the previous home video release of this title.
The Legion of Doom: The Pathology of the Super Villain (SD 34:00) – Another carry-over from the previous release of this title, this featurette (once again in standard-def) takes a look at the Justice League's adversaries.
Comic Book Commentary: Homage to The New Frontier (SD 10:16) – This featurette (once again carried over from the original release) has Darwyn Cooke comparing footage from the animated movie to his original comic book panels.
A Sneak Peek at Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (HD 8:30) – DC's next animated title will be a version of Mike Mignola and Brian Augustyn's graphic novel from 1989, in which a Batman from the late 1800s takes on Jack the Ripper. This featurette is a sneak peek of the movie.
If you already own the prior release of Justice League: The New Frontier, the new video codec, a switch from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD MA audio, and a new bonus feature may not be enough to warrant an upgrade. However, if you don't own the original version and have an interest, the movie itself and the bonus materials provided make this title worth the investment. Recommended.