Saturday, March 29, 2008

REVIEW: New Frontier

I must confess I've not seen any of the DC Animated Universe since the demise of Justice League: Unlimited, and I'm glad that New Frontier was my first.

A 75 minute DVD adaptation of Dawyn Cooke's epic graphic novel retelling of DC Comic's Golden Age of Superheroes, New Frontier is an interesting retrospective into that said golden age, and the New Frontier story itself.

To fit into 75 minutes, the original narrative driven tale has had to be resized to fit an animated format. One of the pleasures of watching this film for any comic or film enthusiast is indulging in comparisons; just how the film structures its tale compared to the original comic book - what has been sacrificed and why? For many, it is easy to feel disgruntled by the loss of their favourite original material, but that frustration can be reborn into analysis - why was the opening adventure on reptile island removed from the story? What was the motivation of these professional writers and storymakers. Get a few fellow geeks in a room and an evening can be enjoyed sipping root beer and discussing the merits of these cinematic choices.

And of course, if you can't find the answers you require, there are two commentaries on the single disk edition to help you on your quest.

Of course the problem for New Frontier, is that one audience - the aforementioned one - knows too much, and the other - those unconverted by the graphic novel - are struggling to put names to faces as well as follow the plotting of events. And in 75 minutes there is a lot of condensing.

But it's good stuff. The voice artists are great (about time Lucy Lawless got a chance at Wonder Woman) and the fusion of producer Bruce Timm's animated DC style and Cooke's designs blend flawlessly. The story can sometimes be a little sickly in the patriotic department, so international comic and cartoon buffs beware, but then if you've read New Frontier, you are probably already clued into the themes of internal and external threats to America that surface throughout.

The animation itself isn't anything to write home about, but rest assured I'm sure your mama would love a letter about the flamboyant and exciting opening sequence - maybe even a small postcard about the wonderful outro at the end.

A must for DC fans, a bigger must for New Frontier fans, and a bit of fun for everyone else - but New Frontier fans be warned: go in with REALISTIC expectations, otherwise you might find yourself soaking the pages of your New Frontier graphic novel at the loss of so much material to make that tight budgetary necessity of a 75 minute quota.

Life sucks, but a New Frontier is better than No Frontier, surely?

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