I had the chance to attend a screening of the new DC Comics direct to DVD animated film, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths. As a comic fan, I've seen a lot of animated and live action superhero films, but I felt this was the best of the recent run of these films.
It's epic and over the top in all the best ways, with a story spanning universes. It tells the story of an alternate universe where good and evil are turned upside down, with Lex Luthor and Joker are on the side of the angels and their version of the Justice League, known as the Crime Syndicate, rules with an iron fist, featuring twisted versions of classic DC heroes like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern. The Luthor of that other dimension seeks out the help of the Justice League in defeating the Crime Syndicate, and ultimately saving the existence of all universes.
The biggest flaw I saw was that there are times where the animation remains fairly static, likely due to the high cost of animation, but it still looks beautiful. This also means the film comes in at 75 minutes, allowing for an expanded story but less than that of a standard theatrical feature.
As part of the direct to DVD market, these films play to a smaller audience than a typical theatrical release or television show; however, this allows them to microtarget their audience. It features references at times so geeky they went over my head, but it's still accessible and tells a complete story independent of any comic book references.
The story was originally intended to fit into the world of the Justice League animated series, bridging the gap between the end of Justice League and the beginning of the Justice League Unlimited series on Cartoon Network, but it ended up getting shelved due to the difficulties of producing a new show and a movie at the same time. However, writer Dwayne McDuffie rewrote the story and created an exciting, funny new movie.
It features an all star voice cast, most notably James Woods as the villainous, nihilistic Owlman, the alternate universe version of Batman. He delivers an understated performance and his character is used to explore some fun big ideas about the purpose of existence, multiuniverse theory and more. It also includes Mark Harmon as Superman, Chris Noth as Lex Luthor, Billy Baldwin as Batman, Gina Torres as Superwoman and Bruce Davison as the alternate universe president, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke.
McDuffie previously worked on the excellent animated series, and that high quality writing shows here. He's also written two upcoming projects for DC's animated film line, though the titles have not yet been announced, although several of the creators at the screening expressed interest in doing an Aquaman film.
Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths is available on DVD next Tuesday, February 23. DC's next animated release is Batman: Under The Hood.
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