Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Ever since Justice League: The New Frontier, the animated movies from DC have just disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed them, but they didn’t really live up to my standard or the standard set by New Frontier. However, just as I was beginning to lose faith in DC, they release Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. While it still doesn’t meet the standard that New Frontier set, Crisis on Two Earths has been the best full-length animated feature DC has put out in a while.

Despite its name, Crisis on Two Earths is loosely based on the 1999 series Earth 2, written by Grant Morrison, as well as a short storyarc from 1964. It was originally planned to be released years ago under the title of World’s Collide and meant to bridge the gap between the television series’ Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited. However, due to staffing issues, it was shelved and later reworked to what we have here.

The story itself is fairly straight forward, serving as little more than a device to string together overblown fight scenes. A heroic Lex Luthor travels through to an alternate Earth to seek help from the Justice League to bring down his world’s Crime Syndicate, whose members happen to be evil versions of the Justice League. However, Crisis gets into some of characterization that was sorely missing from DC’s other animated outings, most specifically with the Batman counterpart, Owlman. Through this character we see the kind of person that Batman could have been, and in many respects should have been, given the trauma of his past. Unfortunately, Owlman is the only character that is privileged with any sort of depth, which is disappointing.

The voice actors were mostly well played. James Woods performed Owlman superbly; though I’m not a fan of Woods, his talent lent a nice touch to the character. William Baldwin also surprised me. Cast as Batman, Baldwin was able to portray the brooding hero as I never expected him to. I’m sad to sad I was disappointed with Mark Harmon. I love Mark Harmon and his work on NCIS, but I don’t think his voice was a good pick for Superman. Though he did what he could with the character, he failed to command the admiration and authority that other actors were able to depict. My favorite, however, was Brian Bloom in the role of Ultraman. With the Crime Syndicate being a super-powered version on the Mafia, Bloom brought the right amount of commanding resonance of Superman with the New Jersey-cynicism of Tony Soprano. A very nice touch indeed.

Where Crisis on Two Earths falls flat is in the characterization. We are given a set of six all-different characters that are similar to heroes we know, but completely different, yet the writers go into no detail about them. DC continues to choose action over exposition and it’s becoming dull. What happened to these characters to make them choose the wrong path? Owlman explains that the multiverse sprang forth from all outcomes of every possible decision; so what decisions did these villains make? Why is Super Woman the psychopath she claims to be? At what point did Ultraman decide that humanity should fear him? Ultraman is the perfect example. Judging by his accent, he more than likely landed on the New Jersey Turnpike as opposed to Smallville, Kansas, and didn’t have the small-town, do-gooder upbringing that Jonathan and Martha Kent could provide. So, what happened to him? The writers don’t care to go into it.

Even though it surpasses the features that preceded it, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths could have been so much more than what it became. It’s a good movie for anyone who is not a huge fan of the characters (admittedly, myself) to jump on board and enjoy. Since it doesn’t tie into any continuity, viewers aren’t likely to get lost or confused. But this also should have been the excuse the writers needed to actually do something with the characters.

While it was better than the rest, Crisis on Two Earths, for all intents and purposes, should have been better.

DC used the release of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths to present a sample of their newest series, DC Showcase by adding a short feature of The Spectre to the disc. After everything I’ve seen, I’d have to say that this was a good choice.

The animation for The Spectre is the most interesting thing DC has put out in a while. Clearly styled like a Japanese anime, is has a lot of quick cuts and obscure close-ups. The style also imitated a damaged film reel, with lines, dirt, and watermarks superimposed over the image to make it look much older than it is.

Clearly DC was looking to create some sort of throwback animation, an aspect that shows through the music as well. The soundtrack sounds like it was taken from a Blacksploitation film from the 70s, with some funky reverb straight out of the old-time horror movies. I certainly approve.

The Spectre is also a lot more graphic than I would have expected from a mainstream animation studio like Warner Brothers. It caught me by surprise somewhat, but I liked seeing a grittier side to DC. Judging by this, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the PG-13 rating on the disc is because of The Spectre.

The inclusion of The Spectre on Crisis on Two Earths really salvages the special features section, which has been lagging on their past few films. The other special features include first looks at Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (first look? We’ve already seen these) and trailers for Naruto Shippuden: The Movie and Halo Legends (no, thanks). The only other original content is Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess, which shows a history of the character of Wonder Woman, and a first look at Batman: Under the Red Hood. Judging from this featurette, Under the Red Hood looks awesome. I just hope DC doesn’t screw it up.

Though I would recommend Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths to anyone interested in these kinds of movies, the inclusion of The Spectre really makes the purchase worthwhile.

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