Justice League: Doom is the latest animated adaptation from Warner Home Video. Not only does it highlight the strengths of the original comic story it was based on, but it also continues to raise the bar ever higher for DC Comics animated features.
Justice League: Doom
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by Lauren Montgomery
As Justice League stories go, “Tower of Babel” is one of the most memorable of the past decade. Pitting the Justice League against the greatest foe they never knew they had, the story focuses in on just how well-prepared Batman is for all possible outcomes. Unfortunately for the Justice League in this story, the contingencies Batman is prepared for are the members of the League going rogue. It’s an incredible story that really tests the limits of morality and consequence, and Mark Waid handles it with a deft hand. Thankfully, the extremely talented Dwayne McDuffie was tasked with adapting “Tower of Babel” into a feature, and the result is a slightly tweaked story that’s stronger for all the right reasons.
In the original comic, Batman’s plans are stolen by Ra’s Al Ghul, who then turns these fail-safes against the JLA. Here, Vandal Savage is the mastermind behind the attacks, though McDuffie has him recruit his own Legion of Doom to assist in the removal of the Justice League members. While the core of the film’s dramatic problem comes from Batman inadvertently causing everyone in the League all this trouble, having each of the members pitted against one of their biggest rogues adds a bit of depth to the story that was otherwise missing from the original tale. Ultimately Ra’s and Vandal are after the same thing (complete world domination), but in Justice League: Doom, the inclusion of characters like Bane, Mirror Master, and Star Sapphire gives each of the heroes something more to do than be angry at Batman. Additionally, the slightly tweaked methods of eliminating the Justice League are a bit more interesting in the film then they are in the comic. It’s a testament to McDuffie’s strengths as a writer that he’s able to tweak such an already strong narrative and make it more interesting.
Like any of the DC animated features to bring back a majority of the cast from the Justice League animated series, Justice League: Doom is one of the best acted films in the DC animated library. There isn’t much left to say about Kevin Conroy’s Batman or Tim Daly’s Superman, other than having these two actors reprise the roles once again only proves how definitive their takes on these characters are. Michael Rosenbaum, Susan Eisenberg, and Carl Lumbly also bring their respective characters to life in ways that only they can. While Nathan Fillion’s tenure as Green Lantern has been short, Justice League: Doom gives the character some surprising emotional moments that really resonate thanks to his performance. Bumper Robinson gets a go as the new recruit Cyborg (in an effort to make this JL cast as close as possible to that of the one starring in current comics), however his screen time is limited, and he acts as more of a plot device than anything in this film.
As for the villains, Phil Morris has played Vandal Savage before, but never with such bravado and calculatedness. He’s truly a villain that could go toe-to-toe with the League at any time, and it’s great to see him bring life to this character that is otherwise left to the wayside in favor of the Lex Luthors and Jokers of the world. Paul Blackthorne (Metallo), Olivia D’Abo (Star Sapphire), and Alex Denisoff (Mirror Master) do some solid work, but Claudia Black (Cheetah) and Carlos Alazraqui (Bane) leave more lasting impressions. As with any ensemble, it’s tough to really stand out when sharing so much of your screentime with the much more memorable and iconic heroes. That said, every single one of the actors holds their own against the longtime actors behind the League. Movies like this really showcase just how important Andrea Romano’s skills as a voice director really are for the DC and WB properties.
What really stuck out to me watching this film was how much more of an anime influence there was in the art direction. Even though the animated features have each had drastically different styles, none of them have been quite so Eastern in their style. It’s not a bad thing at all. The new style brings a kinetic energy and a looseness to the film that would otherwise have been missing were the art style more along the lines of what many have dubbed “Bruce Timm style.” The action sequences have more explosiveness in them, and the characters have a new life to them thanks to the heavy anime influence. Some people will undoubtedly be turned off by the new look, but honestly, Justice League: Doom looks great in motion.
I probably sound like an old record constantly talking about how each of the DC animated movies is better than the last, but that’s truly been the case. Justice League: Doom is no exception to that rule, and once again raises the standards of what we should expect from strong superhero features. It’s a great story. It’s got the best cast of all the films to date. There’s really no way this film can’t be the best one that Warner Home Video has produced to this point. I didn’t think any of the films would supplant Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, but they did it. I just hope whatever film is next can live up to this impossibly high new standard.
Justice League: Doom will be available on DVD and Blu Ray combo pack February 28, wherever videos are sold.