Feb 22, 2010

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

They've done it again. Tomorrow, the geniuses at Warner Bros. Animation release to the world, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. Hold on to your multiverse!

I attended the premiere of the latest DC animated film last week at New York's Paley Center and was buzzing along with all the other geeks in the room by the time it was over. I know I'm a DC fanatic but that doesn't mean I love everything with their stamp on it. I raved about their Wonder Woman film but was surprisingly critical of Green Lantern: First Flight. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths? Could it hold up to the considerable legacy of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited television series that came before it? It sure can.

Produced by Bruce Timm and co-directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu, Crisis on Two Earths is in the same general DC animated universe but does not follow the continuity of any series or film that came before it. You don't even need to have any foreknowledge of the multiverse going in as the existence and explanation of it is presented in almost astounding simplicity. It allows for a certain amount of wiggle room that's key to gaining new viewers. It's a good thing their first impression will feature bright, shiny and fantastic animation. Our favorite DC heroes and villains have never looked better. Of course dedicated fans will find plenty of the basics and tons of easter eggs to keep them entertained as well.

The core of Crisis on Two Earths, written by experienced animated series and comic book scribe Dwayne McDuffie, was actually born years ago. It was originally meant to bridge the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series' but never came to fruition. After some slight tinkering a new draft was created to allow the story to stand on it's own. We're presented with a Justice League, in the process of building their satellite, who are taken by surprise when a heroic Lex Luthor shows up from an alternate Earth looking for help. His Earth of course is home to the Crime Syndicate, an evil version of the Justice League. There are laughs, OUTSTANDING fight sequences (with an astonishing amount of bloodshed) and a very surprising love story included in the 72-minute film. Warner Bros. have put out some impressive animated features in the last few years and Crisis on Two Earths is now a contender for one of the best.

I only had two, very small issues with Crisis on Two Earths. One, was that the Crime Syndicate was presented as an blatant mob presence. I suppose that's technically what they are supposed to be (with their "made men") but Brian Bloom's Ultraman was a little heavy-handed when it came to his portrayal as the "boss." It wasn't terribly oppressive but it did take me out of the story a few times and I personally wasn't a fan of it. My other problem is a trivial one - I wish it had been longer. With such a huge cast, those that weren't in the thick of things only got a short time to shine. The minor characters got one or two moments where their personalities were highlighted before moving on to the next beat. But those moments were perfect so I guess my problem is really just that I wanted more of a good thing. Voice Director (and goddess!) Andrea Romano explained in a post-viewing panel that the DC animated films usually run a certain length for the younger audience. While us adults are a big portion of it's viewers, children have a more limited attention span.

Besides the story and animation, the voice actors are obviously the biggest part of these projects. I bow down to Romano for not only this latest project, but her impressive track record during her illustrious career of casting amazing actors. William Baldwin never truly became Batman for me but that may just be because I'm a Kevin Conroy purist. Though James Woods stole the show as Batman's counterpart, Owlman. His performance was simplistic yet genius and exactly what the character called for. Mark Harmon's Superman and Vanessa Marshall's Wonder Woman fit their roles well but weren't exactly the stars of this story. Chris Noth was one of those stars. His Lex Luthor took me surprisingly off-guard. The talented Gina Torres showed us that feminine wiles don't require a pretty face at all. While Torres is most definitely gorgeous in real life and Super Woman is meant to be attractive, it's purely her voice that does her bidding.

The Crisis on Two Earths DVDs include an animated short called simply, The Spectre plus a sneak-peak at the next feature, Batman: Under the Red Hood. The Blu-Ray version offers some intriguing extras such as live-action pilot episodes of the Aquaman and Wonder Woman television series and a whole lot more. Whichever route you decide to go, it's gonna be a winner, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths skips the crisis and goes straight for the jugular.

4 comments:

nilskidoo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy said...

The length of these films is certainly an issue for me with the ones that should be great. I felt New Frontier should have been longer too.

I am picking this up today and will let you what I think real soon, Jill.

Maybe I will start my own blog as a complement to yours. I might call it Has Man-Boobs, Reads Comics.

diana green said...

I was hoping this might be an interpretation of the superb Grant Morrison book JLA: Earth 2. there are elements of that, but the commentary on moral relativism that made that book so interesting seems to be diluted.
Ah well. At least we still get cool superhero fights. No sarcasm intended, I love cool superhero fights.
From the sound of your review, I'll Netflix it, but not put down my shekels for the actual disc in my archive.

Anonymous said...

Looooved this DVD movie - great looking character designs, snappy animation, with pacing that's just about right.....and of course, the superfights were well animated / choreographed. Lots of eye candy in the form of various alternate versions of DC characters - had to blink to recognize the Shazam / MARVEL boys as the Made Men! And Deathstroke as the bleeding-heart President? Nice twist! I agree it should have been longer, they should do a solid 90 minute flick (which I hope Batman: Under the Red Hood will be....). I've never seen Batman so beat up on or off camera, I'm surprised he still had all his teeth, let alone walk in the end! Yeah, I wasn't that wowed by Billy Baldwin's voicework - in fairness, Kevin Conroy's BIG shoes are indeed hard to fill.
But James Woods' Owlman really hit a homerun for me - almost always precisely calculating & chilling at the same time - bravo!
Wonder Woman shows she's the best melee warrior among the boys, and Aquaman put in a few good ones on Billy Batson as well...! Hope everyone enjoys this flick, as I will in the next dozen viewings or so...... - TEMPLAR