Starring: Kevin Conroy (Batman), Tim Daly (Superman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern), Carl Lumbly (Martian Manhunter/Ma’alefa’ak), Michael Rosenbaum (The Flash), Bumper Robinson (Cyborg), Carlos Alazraqui (Bane), Claudia Black (Cheetah), Paul Blackthorne (Metallo), Olivia d’Abo (Star Sapphire), Alexis Denisof (Mirror Master), Phil Morris (Vandal Savage)
Writers: Dwayne McDuffie, Mark Waid.
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Price: $24.98 (Amazon price: $14.99)
Released: February 28, 2012
When it comes to movies, Marvel and DC both have their specialities these days. Marvel has it sewn up at the movies, with things like Captain America, Iron Man, The Avengers, The X-Men, Daredevil, Thor et al. Sure, DC has Batman, but Superman isn’t working that well, Green Lantern wasn’t exactly brilliant and if you can’t work out how to make a movie of Wonder Woman after a decade of trying, clearly you’ve got problems.
By contrast, in the realm of animated movies and TV shows, it’s the other way round. You’d only have to have a teeny weeny, atom-sized piece of paper to write down all the decent animated shows that Marvel has put out (X-Men Evolution and that’s about it) in the last couple of decades, while DC has had Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and, of course, Justice League shows filling up the airways for years. They even did a halfway decent animated Wonder Woman movie.
Possibly their best effort was Justice League, which expanded to become Justice League Unlimited later on. That, of course, ended nearly six years ago, but now the brainiacs at DC have decided to take an old Justice League comic and create a brand new Justice League animated movie, Justice League: Doom, in which the Justice League’s arch-enemies club together to kill the League. Cleverly, DC has got together virtually all the cast from the original series, as well as Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle) from its Green Lantern animated TV series, Tim Daly from its Superman animated series and a great guest cast to do it.
And while it’s not outstanding, it does at least make you wonder why the hell they can’t make a proper live-action movie. Here’s a trailer.
Vandal Savage steals confidential files Batman has compiled on the members of the Justice League, and learns all their weaknesses.
Is it any good?
Based on the Justice League comic storyline, Tower of Babel, Justice League: Doom shares that story’s main failing – it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It also shares many of the Justice League TV series’ failings in that it mischaracterises most of the superheroes and essentially makes this the Batman show.
But where it lacks sense, it makes up for it in spectacle, with almost non-stop action throughout its relatively brief runtime, married with occasionally surprising character moments.
The basic plot is that Vandal Savage, the well-known semi-neanderthal immortal, wants to take over the world but he needs to get rid of the Justice League to do that. So he steals files from the Batcomputer on each of the heroes and gets the various enemies of the Justice League to incapacitate or even try to kill their nemeses using Batman’s plans.
Now these plans are certainly ingenious and it is fun to watch each character-based take-down. Problematically, the idea these are Batman’s non-lethal plans and they’ve been adapted by the enemy is nonsensical in most cases. Taking down Batman requires Bane to know Batman’s secret identity (not a good idea); Superman gets shot with a kryptonite bullet (why not two? Or three? And why is it non-lethal?); Wonder Woman is poisoned by Cheetah and is required to fight until her heart gives out; the Flash gets a bomb wired to his wrist that will go off if he stops running (why not just make it explode anyway?); Green Lantern accidentally lets someone who looks like Carol Ferris die and he loses his will to fight on and be Green Lantern (why not just kill him afterwards?); and Martian Manhunter is set on fire using magnesium (why not just kill him?).
Not much sense, particularly Wonder Woman’s, which requires her to lose the wisdom of Athena and fight a bunch of obviously non-lethal humans who don’t have super-speed and to find this both difficult and not all perplexing that they all look like the Cheetah. A Justice League writer who doesn’t know how to write Wonder Woman? Who’d have thunk it?
Niggling problems about sense to one side though. It is all very cool and a definite step up from the Justice League show. Sure, everyone’s a little under-powered compared to how they should be, particularly on the super-speed side, but everything’s a bit closer to the comics. Green Lantern actually creates objects rather than just blasting people as his predecessor on Justice League did; the Flash can vibrate through things; Superman’s heat vision is more than a bit scary; and Wonder Woman even has Gail Simone-era lightning bolts coming from her bracelets.
There are also character moments aplenty for most of the League, particularly new Green Lantern Hal Jordan and The Flash, who’s treated with a degree of respect and depth the TV series never usually gave him. But Superman gets a look in, too, as does Martian Manhunter. Wonder Woman, of course, does not.
One of the good things about the TV series – the character interplay – has, however, disappeared, with this essentially being a series of individual tests for each of the characters rather than a group story. But the harder edge of Tower of Babel – the idea that Batman is spying on his team mates in case they go bad – is still preserved, even if his comrades’ reactions are out of character.
New addition Cyborg isn’t spectacular, but he’s a reasonable enough supporting character (thankfully, they didn’t bring in Aquaman for this), and Cheetah, Mirror Master, Vandal Savage, Metallo and Ma’alefa’ak all get treated with a reasonable degree of respect and are relatively formidable adversaries. Arguably Carol Ferris/Star Sapphire gets the thin end of the stick, too, being nothing more than a woman wronged who goes evil thanks to love gone bad (a Justice League writer having trouble with a woman? Who’d have thunk it?), but that’s hardly the fault of the film’s writers.
While not the slam dunk you might have hoped, this does make you yearn after the Justice League show and for more adventures. If it does well – and there are hints at this being the foundation of a new series – perhaps DC will create another series of animated adventures. Everyone sounds a little older than they used to or than their characters look, but to hear Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly and Michael Rosenbaum again is thrilling.
But don’t hold your breath for the live-action version.