Warner Brothers’ line of animated films based on DC Universe has seen some highs and lows. Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman were great origin stories, despite their short running times, while Superman: Doomsday and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies were instantly forgettable. While most of their releases revolve around Batman and Superman, on rare occasions Warner will bankroll a Justice League movie. This should especially please the diehard fans saddened by the loss of Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited.
The first picture, Justice League: The New Frontier, was an adaptation of a mini-series by Darwyn Cooke while the second, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, was based on a script originally written by Dwayne McDuffie for the television series. McDuffie would also pen All-Star Superman, which was released, Feb. 22 in 2011, just a day after his untimely death due to complications from heart surgery. McDuffie had worked at Marvel and DC and was best known as one of the founders of Milestone, an imprint at the latter publisher that spotlighted minority heroes from minority creators. McDuffie was also a mainstay in animation having worked on JLU, Static Shock, and Ben 10 Warner’s latest release, Justice League: Doom was the last script written by McDuffie and while it’s not as good as Crisis, it is one of their finest efforts.
Doom is loosely based on the “Tower of Babel” storyline, which ran in JLA #43-46 back in 2000. In that series, Batman’s nemesis Ra’s al Ghul systematically assaults the Justice League using diabolical schemes that were stolen from the Dark Knight himself. It seems Batman has devised various methods to take out his teammates should they ever turn bad. Even if you have read the original comics, Doom still has plenty of surprises since it only borrows the basic concept and spins it in a different manner.
Instead of Ra’s al Ghul, we get another immortal conqueror in Vandal Savage, a caveman who was imbued with great intelligence and longevity by a mysterious meteorite. Savage has assembled the arch-enemies of each Justice Leaguer in a new version of the Super Friends staple, the Legion of Doom. Savage’s first recruit, the Mirror Master, manages to sneak into the Bat-Cave and hack the Bat-Computer to steal the Caped Crusader’s files. Next, they gather Star Sapphire, Bane, Metallo, Cheetah, and Ma’alef’ak to attack the League one by one in nefarious and unexpected ways.
The Justice League line-up here consists of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, and the Martian Manhunter. Neither Aquaman nor Hawkgirl are present here. In their place is Cyborg, a former Teen Titan, who has graduated to the big time. It only makes sense for DC to push Cyborg into the forefront with technology becoming more and more integral in our everyday lives.
Justice League: Doom has no connection to any previous movie or series, but long-time devotees will be overjoyed that it assembles an all-star cast of familiar voices. Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy return to voice the Superman and Batman along with fellow stalwarts Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, Carl Lumbly as Martian Manhunter, and Michael Rosenbaum as the Flash. Interestingly enough, this Flash is Barry Allen rather than his successor Wally West, who Rosenbaum played on Justice League. Nathan Fillion returns for a third time to voice Hal Jordan, the most popular wielder of the emerald power ring. Fillion brings his usual charm and snappy patter to the role and it’s easy to see why he was the fans’ choice over Ryan Reynolds to star in the live-action Green Lantern film. Phil Morris, Olivia d’Abo, and Alexis Denisof reprise their Justice League roles of Vandal Savage, Star Sapphire, and Mirror Master.
Doom starts right off with a big action sequence as the Justice League battles the Royal Flush Gang, a band of playing card themed supervillains. The brisk pace continues as the Legion of Doom attacks the heroes individually before everyone comes together for the big brawl at the end. It’s not all punching and explosions. The unique character dynamics between the Leaguers are still here though they aren’t as fully explored because of the short runtime. Doom mainly centers on how each team member relates to Batman, who is a bit of a jerk, but a jerk with a point. He’s the only one in the League without powers. Thus, he sees the need for contingency plans should someone like Superman ever go insane or is mind controlled. When the League state they would never do the same to Batman, he responds quite curtly, “Then, you’re damn fools.”
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The Blu-ray delivers a beautiful transfer though nitpicky videophiles may find a few flaws. Colors are exceptionally vibrant.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The Blu-ray also delivers a sweet soundtrack as we get a variety of action from fisticuffs to laser blasts, crackling energy, and burning infernos.
The Blu-ray features an audio commentary track with DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Creative Director Mike Carlin. Johns is currently the writer for the Justice League comic and Carlin has been an editor for the Superman titles. Both participants discuss the source material and delve into the histories of each character.
A League of One: The Dwayne McDuffie Story (36:35) is a touching documentary about the late-Dwayne McDuffie featuring interviews with friends and colleagues. What’s cool is that Marvel gave permission to use their artwork to help pay tribute to McDuffie.
Guarding the Balance: Batman and the JLA (18:54) is a strange featurette that talks about Batman and the JLA in relation to checks and balances throughout history. In particular, it goes into Andrew Jackson’s opposition to the banking industry.
A Sneak Peek at Superman vs. The Elite (6:32) is a preview of the next animated film, which was based on Action Comics #775. Here, Superman takes on a brash and ultra-violent new team of anti-heroes.
Cyborg: His Time Has Come (6:08) is a brief overview of Cyborg and how he fits into the modern DC Universe.
Also included are a digital comic of the original “Tower of Babel” issues, two episodes of Justice League Unlimited featuring the JLA battling a version of the Royal Flush Gang, and trailers for other Warner Brothers releases.
Film Value: 7
Be forewarned that Justice League: Doom isn’t aimed at the casual fan and presupposes you are already familiar with the characters and their relationships. Despite being a big DC fan, I admit I had to check Wikipedia because I had no idea who Ma’alef’ak was. Turns out, he’s the Martian Manhunter’s evil brother. In any event, Doom is an enjoyable, action-packed romp.