Feb 23, 2010

[Movies] Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)As much as there are many comic book storylines that I love enough to want to see as movie or animated feature, I also acknowledge that translations across the media formats don't always go well. I'm not trying to sound all Alan Moore here, mind you, but he does have a point despite all the eccentricity. Comic books are a special medium in themselves and it's not always automatic that what works on paper will work on the silver (or small) screen.

Then of course you have the meddling of Hollywood to contend with given they always try to "improve" upon the original story in order to give it a wider appeal or to ensure it's success, as measured in dollars spent on the feature and not so much based on the fan reactions. This has resulted in both good and bad movies, animated TV shows and live action specials. Okay, so maybe more bad ones than good ones, but we comic book geeks still give them a shot and try to watch them.

As much as I like the comic book that this movie was partly based on, the end result wasn't quite something I'd go out of my way to see again.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is the latest direct-to-video release from DC Universe Original Animated Movies. A lot of the write-ups about the movie highlight the fact that this was originally meant to bridge the old Justice League cartoon with its later update, Justice League Unlimited, however the project never got off the ground. It looks like DC finally decided to revisit the darned thing but making sure it no longer depended on the long-standing Justice League cartoons.

The story involves a Lex Luthor from a parallel universe who seeks out the help of the Justice League to stop the Crime Syndicate, a mirror universe version of the League with similar superhumans who are dedicated to evil instead of good. After much debate, many members of the Justice League eventually agree to travel across the dimensions in order to do what they can to save the parallel Earth and restore peace. Of course coming head-to-head with their parallel selves in an interesting match-up in itself and it'll take more that brute force to resolve things on the other side of the dimensional veil.

The animated movie draws heavily upon Grant Morrison's one-shot entitled JLA: Earth. The main plot elements of the good Luthor from an alternate universe and an evil League called the Crime Syndicate are clearly present in the movie, but beyond that the influence begins to ebb and clearly Hollywood input started to come into play. As someone who read the original comic book, I have to admit I felt pretty bad about that given the fact that it was already a good story on its own and I see no reason why it needed modification.

Even if I were to judge the movie upon its merits apart from the comic book, I'd still end up feeling things could have been a lot better. Much of the motivations of the heroes and villains wasn't throughly explained and thus came out somewhat flat and rather shallow. In other times, I felt characterization was outright inconsistent and strange.

I wasn't very big on the voice talents tapped for this movie either. There was something odd to James Woods as Owlman not that William Baldwin's version of Batman was any better. Why did they feel Kevin Conroy was not longer a good choice for the role? And don't get me started on both Vanessa Marshall and Gina Torres as Wonder Woman and Superwoman respectively - their performances were equally hammy and somehow out of place.

True enough, the movie had some good action sequences and it was generally fun to watch the heroes try to square off against villains with generally the same powers and abilities as they did. I just wish that they had found a way to keep things a lot more consistent in order to keep the story flowing a lot better. At many points, I actually found myself getting bored with the story and losing interest in their caricature-style antics.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths really felt like a direct-to-video release in the negative sense and only gets 2 abused plotlines out of a possible 5.

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  1. This movie was not based on any one comic book storyline. It was it's own take on a common theme. The Crime Syndicate has appeared in the DC Comics in at least 3 different incarnations. This particular adaptation was not intended to be based on any one of those, but instead its own entirely new take.

    I found the voice acting very solid. It included an all-star cast who are all experienced actors. We all liked Kevin Conroy's take on Batman, but he can't be in everything and William Baldwin was adequate. This version was also a little different from what we've seen in Batman The Animated Series and required a little more vulnerability that we're used to seeing from Batman. Certainly the rest of the characters were spot on.

    James Woods delivered an excellent performance as Owlman. He was supposed to be a bit "off," as Owlman was pretty nihilistic and more or less insane. Gina Torres was even better as Superwoman in a role that she was equally threatening and seductive while keeping the insanity restrained under the surface. In both characters, their delusions were purposely understated to keep them from being stereotypical bellowing and cackling villains.

    All in all, I thought this was one of the best animated features to come out of the DC Animated movie line yet. The animation was much better than Public Enemies and Doomsday. The action sequences were some of the best I've seen animated (especially the Wonder Woman vs Superwoman fight at the end) as they showed several different fighting styles appropriate to the varying characters.

    The only real problem was that a few characters (like Ultraman) were a bit underdeveloped which made them seem a little one dimensional. I also found the subplot with Martian Manhunter to be a bit cheesy. But in a movie juggling so many characters, you unfortunately can't give screen time to develop everyone in depth.

    I enjoyed this immensely.

  2. *more vulnerability *than* we're used to seeing from Batman.