had been the basis of a third season of Justice
League Unlimited, Justice League: Crisis on Two
Earths might have worked better. As it is, it's entertaining
enough, but much of that comes from knowing the history
of the concepts involved. Like at least half of the DC Universe
movie, it isn't just enough to know the Justice League;
you have to spend time figuring out the (sometimes pointless)
reinterpretation of the characters for this time around.
What level does Batman trust everyone?
Which Flash hides under the mask? How world-wise is this
version of Wonder Woman? And crucially for this movie, how
lonely is the Martian Manhunter, really?
Yet for long-time fans, it's fun to see
the Crime Syndicate take on the Justice League. In a great
opening sequence, screenwriter Dwayne McDuffie also captures
the essences of the "good" Lex Luthor (Chris Noth) and Joker,
alternately called The Jester. They're from a world not
quite upside down, and no matter which reality and his motivation,
if he's a Luthor, he's arrogant.
So, too, are the main members of the Crime
Syndicate, all with appropriately thuggish voices and some
sleazy character designs. Terrorizing a version of Earth
where our heroes are villains, they've always been fun creations
when used sparingly. McDuffie adds the concept of them controlling
gangs by carefully bestowing superpowers on their henchmen,
with the result of a lot of easter eggs as unidentified
evil versions of minor heroes run around. (I particularly
appreciate the dark Uncle Marvel, voiced by Bruce Timm.)
However, the script also quickly points
out one of the flaws in the concept when the two teams clash:
they're from another universe where the laws are different.
The Justice League has problems of its own in one
Another problem comes simply from adapting
this basic comic book concept to the alleged requirements
of a movie; the Crime Syndicate can't be content just to
be basically super crooks. Owlman (James Woods) has to have
a scheme much greater than that, even though it never gets
adequately justified beyond, hey, he's evil and he's James
League: Crisis on Two Earths has its moments, though.
A showdown between Batman (William Baldwin) and Superwoman
(Gina Torres) earns its PG-13 rating, but not gratuitously.
All the action is exceptionally directed. Though it's hard
to say if that's Sam Liu or Lauren Montgomery, my money's
on Montgomery, as she helmed the most consistently exciting
of the DC Universe titles so far, Wonder
And it's Wonder Woman here who gets to
stand out, voiced by Vanessa Marshall. The movie uses the
plot to explain a further part of her mythology, though
again it serves as more a clever in-joke than a solid development.
We're never really going to see this take on the League
again, though we might see something similar.
That might be nice in the case of Mark
Harmon playing Superman for animation. He really comes across
as the stalwart protector and big blue boy scout. That might
be worth following up in another project.
Or for a later release, Timm and his production
team could just do a series of shorts. This DVD release
pioneers the "DC Showcase," presumably intended to give
less popular characters a chance to shine. Here we get ten
minutes or so of The Spectre (Gary Cole), and it's a compact
Made to look and feel like an animated
seventies cop drama, it's got all the fetishistic love of
a Quentin Tarantino film. Scratches run down the print.
The focus is soft and the colors washed out like an old
unrestored print, while the score could be by DeVol instead
ofJames L. Venable.
It's a perfect venue for the Spectre, and
the story feels like one of the classic Mike Fleischer stories
from Weird Adventure. The only thing missing is the
look of Jim Aparo's art; otherwise, Cole has Jim Corrigan
If you spring for the Blu-ray edition,
you get much more in the way of animation - four episodes
of the Justice League series, but completists already
have them, as well as the pilot episode of Lynda Carter's
Wonder Woman series. What this disc offers that no other
has is a legal copy of the Aquaman TV pilot, once known
as Mercy Reef but now retitled, logically, Aquaman.
of you may have seen that when it was available on iTunes,
but for me this was a nice surprise. Staying far truer to
the source material than Smallville
(though it's still afraid to admit that it's a superhero
show), this also features an engaging performance from Justin
Hartley as Orin/Arthur. No wonder that they recast him as
Green Arrow. He's got that thing.
Also included are a preview of the next
DC Universe movie, Batman: Under the Red Hood and
a featurette with some top DC talents. While interesting,
they're somewhat fluffy pieces intended to get you hyped
up about the source material - worth getting hyped up about,
but still, it's better to decide for yourself.
not as strong as Justice
League: The New Frontier, Crisis on Two Earths
makes an entertaining package. But guys, how about we see
some of Grant Morrison's run adapted? Forget the Crime Syndicate;
we want to see Batman beat the Hyperclan.