Two Teams Across the Worlds
Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part One
Although I haven't touched upon it on the site before now, I am actually a fan of the anime web series RWBY. Not like a superfan by any stretch, but I haven't watched a few seasons of the show and I found the strange and delightfully chaotic storytelling to be quite fun. I have professed more than once that I don't usually care much for anime, but I do make an exception for RWBY (and I don't want to hear people bitching about how that show "isn't really anime!" as it's anime enough).
Despite this, I had to assume that the RWBY crossover film, Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part One (which is a lot to type over and over so we're just going to call it JL x RWBY) would be pretty terrible. Warner Bros. do so love to cram all of their properties together to make poorly conceived crossover media, and as much as I like RWBY, and the Justice LeagueThe premiere team at DC Comics, their version of the Avengers (which actually came before the Avengers and, really, has existed in some fomr since the early 1940s), the Justice League is the team-up to end all team-ups, featuring some of the most popular, and longest running, characters in all of comics history (and also Booster Gold)., JL x RWBY seemed like a bad idea from the outset. How could these two teams even meet each other, let alone have adventures that make any sense.
Well, the film manages to find a way because JL x RWBY is actually pretty watchable. It's good, even, I'd say. It makes a few smart narrative choices to get the teams quickly together in a way that makes sense, and then it lets the action and adventure roll in proper RWBY fashion. I'd call it more of a RWBY movie than a proper Justice League adventure, despite a good chunk of that team showing up for the film, but that doesn't stop it from being a strange and rollicking good time, just the way RWBY manages.
While exploring the forest outside of their school, Ruby Rose and her half-sister, Yang Xiao Long, come across a strange boy in the forest. Claiming to be from another world, this boy, named Clark (although he keeps trying to call himself "Superman") doesn't remember how he got to the world of Remnant or what he's doing here. He also doesn't have full access to a host of powers he claims to have, and is very confused by everything. The girls decide to take the boy to the Citadel, their school, so they can regroup and figure out what's happening. Although, before they, they have to fight some of the Grimm, the monsters that appear in Remnant and make trouble for the denizens of the world.
Meanwhile, Blake Belladonna (another team members of team RWBY) has her own encounter with a weird stranger, Diana, who claims to be from another world. She took seems like a teenager, a student from their school, but that couldn't be. Over at a party thrown by her rich father, Weiss Schnee also encounters one of these strange visitors, Bruce, who is trying to break into a lab in the mansion. He also, somehow, has bat wings and steadily starts tapping into other bat-like powers. And at the school itself, more of the Justice League's members -- Vixen, Green Lantern, Cyborg, Flash -- meet up with the other associates of RWBY -- Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, Lie Ren -- and they all quickly realize something isn't right. The school is wrong, the world is wrong, and none of them can remember just exactly how they got there. What is going on, and how do they even stop it?
Set sometime after the later events of the series, JL x RWBY creates a situation where none of the characters are really where they should be or who they've grown to become. The world they're in (which is quickly revealed to not be the Remnant they know) is wrong, with changes that shouldn't be and people alive that should be dead. Beyond that, everyone is younger than they should be, more unsure of themselves, rolling back much of the plot progression for these characters while stuck in this version of the world.
That actually works to the film's advantage, though, as it means even casual fans can sit back and enjoy this film without having to worry about nine seasons of RWBY continuity. Anyone coming in as just a fan of the Justice League can quickly get settled because the central mystery -- where are they and why are they here -- actually applies to both sets of characters almost equally. With all the world changes and character resets at play, no one has to know that in this or that episode in eighth season such and such occurred. The film neatly dodges around that by putting everyone in a slightly off world, and then it can have fun just exploring this new domain for a while.
In the process, it also has delightful fun with the characters. For anyone that hasn't seen RWBY before, the series is packed with frenetic and colorful action carried out to a ridiculous degree. It's main character, Ruby, has a scythe that she can pop out of nowhere, which they also transforms into a gun. Transforming weapons are a common theme, like with punching gloves that can also be guns, a Hammer that also acts as a slamming shotgun, and (my favorite) a staff that becomes nunchucks that becomes guns. Yes, there are a lot of big, dumb, colorful guns, and it leads to insane levels of anime chaos. That's a lot of its charm, watching these fun characters in silly outfits doing anime violence in over-the-top ways.
The joy of this film is how neatly it tucks in the Justice League characters into the fold. Each of them get a costume renovation, making them stylistically match with the normal characters of the world of Remnant (even if we aren't really on that world). Some of the design choices work better than others (Diana's outfit is a nice update, but Superman's cool bro threads with a big, metal chest plate, looks stupid), but there is no doubt that the team for this film was allowed to go crazy, and they did. It's absolutely majestic, for sure.
Of course, it's all really an excuse to get in a lot of big action scenes and huge amounts of silly Grimm slaying. As a two-parter (at least a two-parter, we assume) the film sets up a lot of story that only gets partially answered here. It does roll to a pretty solid conclusion, but those mysteries linger even after the credits roll. It's satisfying, in so far as at least you know going in there will be a second half so you can expect to be left wanting more, and the film handles its break point really well.
But, really, all we want is action and this film delivers. It gives us solid characters moments for all the cast as they fly around, beat the shit out of Grimm, and have a heck of a time doing it. It is really silly, as you'd expect from any film that pairs up the teams of the Justice League and RWBY, but then you don't go into a film like this expecting serious melodrama. It's a RWBY film with more characters than you c an shake a stick at, and it's great.
If you aren't a fan of RWBY and actually hate that series then there's absolutely no reason to even bother with this film. It's a great addition to the RWBY collection, as well as delivering for casual Justice League fans as well. But you have to be prepared for the ridiculous and the over-the-top. If you can get there then Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part One is a great film catering just to you.