I’m rather pleased with the new Justice League animated flick, and not just because the movie featured a return to its 2001 Bruce Timm animation style. The part of the movie I admired most was a portrayal of a superhero that struggled with mental health. It was just so refreshing to see that show up in a movie.
When we watch Captain America or Superman fighting crime, they’re great. They have their own flaws and struggles to deal with. But confidence? That certainly isn’t one of them. And I’m not talking about asking a date to prom confidence. I mean, I’m terrified to leave my home because I think I’m going to get hurt or die confidence.
While Justice League Vs The Fatal Five has your iconic superheroes like Wonder Woman and Batman (other people who don’t struggle with confidence issues), the main focus is on the Green Lantern known as Jessica Cruz, whom I really came to admire through the movie.
We get a flashback scene of Cruz running through the forest being chased by a man with a gun, and the trauma of being chased and shot at leaves potent scars on her psyche. After cutting back to present day, the movie shows her having recurring nightmares of the incident. She recites a mantra, attends therapy, and struggles to even leave her apartment because of her crippling anxiety.
And this makes her the perfect foil for becoming a Green Lantern, people whose powers depend on having great courage.
Wonder Woman doesn’t hesitate to charge into battle, but Cruz is reluctant. She’s spent years in pain and doubt because of what she went through, and that’s bracing to see in a superhero. It’s all the more amazing when Star Boy (Thom Kallor) repeatedly tells her how brave she is and helps boost her confidence so she can finally become the hero the team needs her to be.
Kallor was another reason I came to love Cruz. Batman encounters the time traveler from the future first and sees him during a moment of mental unclarity. Because he doesn’t have the medicine he needs from the future, Kallor develops partial amnesia and is prone to fits of excited paranoia. Batman’s first instinct is to toss him in Arkham Asylum and be done with it.
But Cruz treats him a bit more humanely. She sees the superhero underneath his issues and empathizes with the man who spent 10 months locked away in Arkham with the likes of Two Face and the Joker. Her kindness and recognition that he’s not just some lune displays some of the best humanity in the movie.
And sure, while the action and animation of this 80-minute flick were well worth the $2 I tossed into Redbox, I actually came to recognize the real value of this story was the emphasis placed on the importance of mental health and the help some people need overcoming anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and more. The movie shows people with these same issues are not crazies, freaks, or broken. They’re human beings, and all of them have the same potential to be a hero. They just need people around them show a little faith, grace, and common courtesy.
Here’s hoping we see more movies made of heroes with real-life problems that seem all too uncommon in cinema.