Justice League: Starcrossed

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 06/18/05 17:47:10

"A fine DTV entry worthy of the animated series."
3 stars (Just Average)

For those of you with fond memories of the “Superfriends” cartoon, and for those of you wondering what your favorite superheroes are up to these days, I offer “Justice League: Starcrossed,” the first direct-to-video movie to spin off from the popular cartoon series airing on Cartoon Network. The series is from the same Warner Bros. animation crew that gave us the various “Batman” and “Superman” series of the 90s, as well as the other current CN hit, “Teen Titans.” And just as the series is worthy of the legacy of famous characters it features, the movie is worthy of the series.

To provide a recap: the Justice League is your DC Comics all-star team, which in this incarnation includes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkgirl, and, finally getting his due, the long underrated Martian Manhunter. This collection of heroes works not out of the ol’ Hall of Justice (which always looked a little too much like Cincinnati’s Union Terminal to me) but out of an orbiting space station nicknamed the Watchtower. Despite the changes from both the Superfriends years and the comic books, the idea is the same - the best superheroes team up to fight the best supervillains, often in storylines that involve threats to the planet/galaxy/universe.

“Starcrossed” opens with the arrival of a Thanagarian - that’s Hawkpeople to you and me - army, who promptly announce that Earth is in danger of invasion from an alien force with whom the Thanagarians have been fighting for ages, and if the people of Earth knows what’s best for them, they’ll shut up and cooperate with their new self-appointed protectors. Oh, and Hawkgirl, who’s been a member of the JL for years now, is outed as a Thanagarian spy who was sent to our planet to analyze Earth’s defenses and such.

What a way to start a movie! And yes, the makers of “Starcrossed” go all-out in making this not just a DVD tie-in or side story, but a tale with the scope only a movie can provide. Heck, the JL’s superplane, the Javelin, gets blowed up real good right at the start, informing us that the filmmakers have big plans ahead. And before too long, the entire world’s living in a freakish police state, Hawkgirl’s apparent boyfriend pops back into town, Green Lantern’s forced to fight without his power ring, and the members of Justice League finally reveal their secret identities to each other - big changes indeed!

In fact, my only major complaint about the project is that it’s way too short. At a meager 68 minutes, too much plot zips by too quickly, and there’s no time to slow down and savor the story. To be fair, though, that’s a grown-up’s point of view; this is a movie made for kids, and they’ll think it flies by at just the right pace.

As expected, the animation is top notch (an improvement over the series) and the scripting is spot on (minus the above criticism). One of the high points in Warner Bros./ DC animation is the use of dialogue, which never talks down to a younger audience - and therefore gives the projects a broader appeal. And don’t let all the Thanagarian talk and other sci-fi sounding stuff push you away. It may sound a little silly to adult ears with all the fantastic comic book elements, but at its core, “Starcrossed” is a rousing adventure story, and yup, it’s one with rich, retailed characters, too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this animation staff is telling stories far better than the live action junk that’s usually stinking up the multiplexes. Don’t knock it just because it’s a cartoon.

Finally, a word on the voice casting. Veteran Warner Bros. voice director Andrea Romano has always managed to find the right voice for the right role, and she’s always gone unjustly overlooked when praising these movies and series. Here she’ll get her due, for here she tries something quite extraordinary and well worth mentioning. In casting the Thanagarians, Romano has given us an all-Latino cast. Not because the aliens are Latino in looks or actions or anything at all, but just, well, just because. In an interview, Romano insists it’s because she just liked the sound of one actor’s voice, but I think it’s more than that. My hunch is that it’s a way of opening up what the average young viewer will accept. After all, why should all aliens be British or American? Why not broaden the horizon universally as well as globally? It’s a clever touch, barely noticeable but worth plenty of praise for its daring and inventiveness.

It’s these kinds of little touches that makes the current Warner Bros./DC line of cartoons as memorable as they are. These people aren’t making disposable kiddie entertainment. They’re telling powerful stories, thrilling adventures, fantastic yarns built to thrill all ages. “Starcrossed” proves they’ve still got it, that magic touch that’s given us so many wonderful superhero tales. If you find yourself disappointed in recent live action superhero stuff, give this one a spin. It’ll wipe the disappointment right outta ya.

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