The Legion of Super-Heroes By Bruce Timm

For years Bruce Timm has talked about making an animated Legion of Super-Heroes movie in DC’s direct-to-video line. Limited sales expectations for the teen superheroes living 1000 years in the future have always gotten in the way. He finally meets us halfway in the fantastic Justice League Vs The Fatal Five. Thomas Kallor, better known as Star Boy, comes to the present looking to stop one of the Legion’s greatest foes, the Fatal Five. The fearsome villains travel back in time to the present, looking to tangle with the Justice League.

The featured line-up of heroes includes an eclectic assortment beyond the expected Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Justice League Vs The Fatal Five serves as an introduction to relatively new character Jessica Cruz, the newest Green Lantern from Earth. A break-out character in DC’s comic books over the past five years, this is Jessica’s first real exposure to mainstream audiences beyond the toy line aimed at children.

Mental heath issues are a focus in the storytelling. One of Jessica Cruz’s defining traits is her crippling anxiety disorder, an ironic problem to have as a Green Lantern. It has endeared her to fans and made her a vehicle for exploring issues rarely discussed in superhero entertainment.

…classic Bruce Timm touch which elevates the movie’s quality beyond disposable animated entertainment

Star Boy also happens to have mental problems which play a prominent role in the plot. Completely cured by medicine in the 31st Century, Star Boy’s schizophrenia starts manifesting again when he loses access to the futuristic medicine traveling back in time.

The fun plot revolves around three members of the Fatal Five going back in time with a stolen time bubble and terrorizing the Justice League, looking for Jessica Cruz. The villains need the rookie hero for one of their devious schemes. Mano, Persuader and Tharok threaten Metropolis as they seek out the last two members of the Fatal Five, Emerald Empress and Validus.

Lesser DC heroes like Mr. Terrific and Miss Martian are included in this Justice League line-up, seen here for the first time outside of Young Justice. Legion fans will be slightly disappointed they don’t get more core Legion characters beyond Star Boy and a few token appearances by core members like Saturn Girl. We do get one flashback with an excellent fight between the Legion and the Fatal Five.

DC’s animated movies have become more adult in tone over the years. Earning a well-deserved PG-13 rating, the movie dabbles in serious issues while also telling a compelling superhero adventure. It has that classic Bruce Timm touch which elevates the movie’s quality beyond disposable animated entertainment.

Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five isn’t quite the grand Legion adventure fans have been clamoring for, but its taut storytelling and interesting usage of Legion characters mark it as another winner from animation legend Bruce Timm. Any movie in which Kevin Conroy can voice Batman is all right with me.

Video (4K UHD)

On par with other DC 4K outings, Justice League vs the Fatal Five looks softened on UHD, almost akin to traditional cel animation. Alas, it’s the digital animation rendering at lower resolution.

This isn’t a purchase for detail, rather the means to see the various lasers and electrical discharge under the HDR banner. That is stunning material, intense and bright with standout range. Batman’s black cape behind a stream of green lightning creates the full potential in this format. “Dynamic” definitely fits, and the color saturation only increases the visual joy.

Still, the source is still bugged by excessive banding. Backgrounds of any solid color struggle to avoid visible gradients when moving into shadows. Given the relative simplicity of the animation, this can only be the animation itself and not Warner’s encode.

Video (Blu-ray)

Like many prior animated DC releases, you are better off watching the UHD version of this movie if you want the best video quality. Despite being natively animated in 1080P resolution, banding poses a real problem in select scenes on the Blu-ray.

These direct-to-video animated movies are made on strict production budgets and banding is more or less endemic when they are created. The AVC encode is adequate. It’s likely much of the banding is baked into the digital animation files.

The 1.78:1 presentation has nice clarity and rich colors. Having seen every single animated DC movie produced in the past ten years, Justice League Vs The Fatal Five has nice character designs and more polish than normal. The animation is not on par with theatrical fare but offers fine saturation and perfect black levels. This is a clean digital transfer taken from the movie’s animation master. It’s clear executive producer Bruce Timm has had a big hand in the character designs and concept art, as his signature touches are everywhere in the art.

Audio

Going over press material for this release, WB originally had planned to include a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. What we end up getting instead is a fine 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack with decent bass and strong directionality. The soundstage has excellent depth and separation when the heroes meet the villains. The well-done score includes nods to Justice League Unlimited’s familiar music. Action scenes deliver just enough audio impact and thump for a lively surround experience.

Optional English SDH and French subtitles play in a white font. A French dub in 5.1 Dolby Digital audio is a secondary audio track.

Extras

Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five receives the usual assortment of special features typical for these animated DC movies. The big draw here is a flowing group commentary with executive producer Bruce Timm, animation legend and godfather of the animated DC universe.

The 4K UHD set includes with it a Blu-ray copy and Movies Anywhere digital copy. An attractive embossed slipcover of the cover art is available on standard retail copies.

Target gets an exclusive Blu-ray steelbook edition following along the lines of their usual DC Steelbook series. Best Buy’s exclusive version includes a Star Boy action figure.

Audio Commentary With Bruce Timm, Writers Jim Krieg and Eric Carrasco, Director Sam Liu – An enjoyable, fairly informative discussion covering many of the team’s creative decisions. This is definitely a fun listen for Timm’s many fans, dishing out in-jokes and insider knowledge. Make this a priority after watching the movie.

Battling The Invisible Menace (08:05 in HD) – A discussion of the mental health issues raised in the movie, including Jessica Cruz’s anxiety disorder and Star Boy’s schizophrenia. A licensed psychologist provides glib insight into these characters.

A Sneak Peek At Batman’s Hush (09:18 in HD) – A hype featurette for the next animated DC release starring Batman, Hush. WB and DC have been producing these sneak peeks at their upcoming films for years and everyone will recognize the familiar house style.

Justice League Vs The Fatal Five: Unity of Hero (15:11 in HD) – DC pats itself on the back for including “diverse” characters in this iteration of the Justice League. It’s one of the odder featurettes found on DC’s line of animated movies and a self-serving piece of promotion.

A Preview of Justice League Dark (08:12 in HD) – Plenty of extra space on the disc leads to this older sneak preview for last year’s movie.

A Preview of Justice League Vs. Teen Titans (11:31 in HD) – Another older sneak peek for a previously released movie.

Legion of Super Heroes (22:44 in HD) – The episode “Man of Tomorrow” is included from the 2000s cartoon show. This episode has the Fatal Five in it.

Justice League Unlimited (22:57 in HD) – The episode “Far From Home” is included from the beloved animated series. This episode sees Supergirl and Green Lantern traveling to the future and meeting the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Aquaman Trailer (02:34 in HD) – Plays before the main menu.

Reign of Supermen Trailer (01:53 in HD) – Plays before the main menu.

UHD Promo (01:07 in HD) – Plays before the main menu.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Justice League vs the Fatal Five
  • Video (4K UHD)
  • Video (Blu-ray)
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A strong Legion adventure from animation legend Bruce Timm as Star Boy travels back to the present and meets new superheroes like Green Lantern Jessica Cruz.

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User Review
5 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 32 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: