Justice League vs The Fatal Five, 2019.
Directed by Sam Liu.
Featuring the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Diane Guerrero, Kevin Michael Richardson, Susan Eisenberg, George Newman, Daniela Bobadilla.
A group of supervillains and a lone hero from the future are hurled back to the present day where the Justice League must figure out what The Fatal Five are planning, and how a new Green Lantern fits into the puzzle.
Recently, DC have been pushing their animated feature films with a little more vigour and creativity. While their shared universe of films continues to flourish, they’ve also started dishing out healthy doses of nostalgia by embracing the animated style of their earlier animated television shows from the 1990s. Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is another one of these releases after 2017’s Batman and Harley Quinn. The introduction flings us right into the middle of the action as an unknown trio of villains attack the Legion of Superheroes in the future. Those opening few minutes are incredibly fast paced and don’t waste time in getting to the present day before bringing out heroes the majority of audiences would recognise; Batman and Superman.
It becomes clear that that the new hero we’re introduced to Thomas Kallor A.K.A. Starboy has some memory issues and quickly loses all sense of who he is. While he is a main character and a real driving force on the plot, his arc throughout the film really exists in service of a more recent fan-favourite Green Lantern from the comics, Jessica Cruz.
It faithfully adapts her origin story, including her crippling anxiety and survivor’s guilt after accidentally stumbling onto the cover up of a grisly murder. While heroes struggling to get to grips with their powers is by no means a new trope, it’s genuinely refreshing to see mental health and anxiety depicted so accurately onscreen. Add in the superheroics, and Jessica Cruz is a welcome addition to the animated comic book universe. There’s also some obligatory cameos from classic villains in their 1990s incarnations like Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn – who are all delightful on-screen, even if their appearance is fleeting.
Fans of another animated DC property, Young Justice, will recognise Miss Martian and her joyous outlook on life as a superhero. Her lighthearted attitude clashes with Batman’s dark brooding nature which makes for an excellent onscreen dynamic. Seeing this unlikely pair working together shows that even amidst the generic battles of good vs evil and age old characters, there’s still room for fresh ideas in the DC Universe. The interactions between all the heroes are undoubtedly some of the best in the animated side of DC’s feature films and it’s the smaller moments that Justice League vs. The Fatal Five really excels.
Let’s briefly look at the villains of the film, The Fatal Five. Their motivations are solely focused on freeing a fellow villain – but they’re not exactly the most captivating enemies for the colourful heroes. There never once feels like a genuine connection between any of the two teams, they meet up, they fight and repeat. And yes, in its defence, it’s an animated film about superheroes – of course there’s going to be huge bombastic fight scenes. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t do so with a little more individuality. Annoyingly, once the film progresses into its finale it loses all sense of what made it unique in the first place. It becomes a smorgasbord of explosions and destructions, occasionally made better with one liners and quips, but it’s not quite enough to give audiences a sense of genuine danger. The finale’s true saving grace is how Jessica manages to come out on top, culminating in a show of her true will power.
The performances from Kevin Conroy and Diane Guerrero standout from the rest, because let’s face it, Conroy’s Bat-voice is truly iconic. Whereas Guerrero helps the new Green Lantern feel realistic as a person battling their own demons (while also fighting some literal ones). This animated feature feels more like an extended episode of the ‘90s Justice League series (and not always in a good way) it’s ultimately saved by the nostalgia-inducing visual style as well as Jessica Cruz’s character arc. It may not be the best animated offering from DC, but neither is it the worst.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★