Friday, March 12, 2010

Belated review: A Non-Crisis on DC Animated Earth.

It’s been out for about a month, but this is the first time I had a chance to see the latest DC Comics direct-to-video movie, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. In all honesty, it wasn’t a high priority. It is a nice project, but it’s not a major advance in either animation or superhero movies.

In fact, it came from scripts written for the Justice League Unlimited series by Dwayne McDuffie. He, in turn, took the idea from one of the older ideas in DC Comics – swiped by Star Trek for the “Mirror, Mirror” episode. The first time I became aware of it was in my childhood, when the modern Flash of the 1960’s discovered a parallel world with the Flash of the 1940’s. Alternate universes are an old story at DC, and in fact appeared in at least one of the Super Friends shows.

In this particular alternate universe, the most powerful metahumans have organized as the Crime Syndicate. Underneath their chairman Ultraman, characters like Owlman and Superwoman run crime families of super-powered thugs. And of course, the DC Universe’s bad guys are their good guys; in the pre-credits sequence, their version of the Joker dies heroically so that Lex Luthor can escape to our universe. And of course, he enlists the Justice League to bring the Crime Syndicate down.

There’s very little plot, but a lot of action. There are well-choreographed fight scenes; because this isn’t intended for kids, you can see Superman actually throwing punches at Superwoman. But, aside from two characters, there’s very little to intrigue us. Superwoman is a Wonder Woman gone completely bad; her black outfit and black ponytail (suggesting whips and S-and-M?) and her sultry admission that she’s a sociopathic killer makes her a standout villain. I don’t like making sexist statements, but she is hawt.

Owlman is something else, though. Not only is he an evil Batman, he’s informed by Ayn Rand’s philosophy, as was Rorschach in Watchmen. He takes the Big Bad Weapon that could wipe out a single Earth, and decides to use it to wipe out all of existence. “Human life is a cancer,” he grimly intones, as he fights Batman to a near-standstill.

Some fans have quibbled about the choices of voice actors; none of them are from the classic DC animated series. But the choices work, and are good, as with the aforementioned Superwoman (Gina Torres) and Owlman (James Woods).

It’s good to have McDuffie writing for the DC Universe again, after all his work on Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 series. My only complaint is that the final production of Crisis on Two Earths is aimed at action rather than character. This will appeal to the long-time DC Comics fan, but it won’t make any converts. It’s smarter than the similar Marvel Comics animated movies and series like Super Hero Squad, but that’s not surprising. For all the work and expense Warner put into it, it’s still a rental, not a must-buy.