It's been on DVD for a little over a month now, but Justice Leage: The New Frontier is still one of the hotest animated superhero projects around - but how does an award-winning miniseries get transformed into an animated feature? Stan Berkowitz, who wrote the screenplay, spoke to World's Finest Online to explain the challenges he faced with the screenplay.
Berkowitz explained that one of the first things that was done to help turn Darwin Cook's comic-series into a film was the decision to have the movie focus only on the Justice League.
There's no question that the graphic novel was a vast epic, but there was one key decision that was made before I came aboard that helped immeasurably in the shaping of the movie, and that was to add the words Justice League to the movie's title. I'm fairly certain this was done in order to capitalize on the popularity of the TV series, and also, perhaps, to lay some groundwork for a live-action Justice League: Mortal movie. Whatever the reason, it turned the Justice Leage: The New Frontier movie into the story of just seven heroes, as opposed to dozens. Among those seven, the graphic novel gave strong, emotional back-stories to Hal Jordan and John Jones (and, to a lesser degree, Barry Allen). And it's those three who play the key roles in the final battle against The Center.
Once we decided to emphasize these characters, the rest wasn't that difficult. Granted, sometimes it felt like we were trying to stuff an octopus into a change purse, but most of the time, for me, anyway, it was like putting together a puzzle that was challenging, but which ultimately had an elegant solution.
The film's rating was also an issue of concern for Berkowitz and Warners - Justice Leage: The New Frontier is rated PG-13, whereas most superhero animated features are ained at a PG or G-rated market. This worked out well, since it allowed Berkowitz to keep the same tone as the graphic novel. "And it's not like Warners can change its mind at this point and re-cut this for a G rating," Berkowitz said. "Even if it were trimmed to get a more child-friendly rating, Justice Leage: The New Frontier still wouldn't be a children's movie; children want to see lots of costumes, plenty of fights, a few jokes and no girls -- and that's not what Justice Leage: The New Frontier is. It's written for an older audience.
Berkowitz also described the challenge of writing something like Justice Leage: The New Frontier compared to working on episodes of Warners more child-friendly superhero properties, such as episodes of The Batman. "Writing for a PG-13 audience seems to come more naturally to me than writing for a very young audience," Berkowitz said. "Super hero stories are usually about matters of life and death, but when you're doing children's TV, you can't even mention the word 'death.' There are good reasons for rules like that, but because of all those constraints, a lot of the situations and dialogue can seem unnatural."
Based on the landmark DC Comics graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke and produced by animation legend Bruce Timm, Justice Leage: The New Frontier features an all-star voice cast led by Kyle MacLachlan (Superman), David Boreanaz (Green Lantern), Neil Patrick Harris (The Flash), Lucy Lawless (Wonder Woman), Kyra Sedgwick (Lois Lane), Brooke Shields (Carol Ferris), Miguel Ferrer (Martian Manhunter) and Phil Morris (King Faraday). The film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray now.