By TK Burton | | February 29, 2012 |
By TK Burton | | February 29, 2012 |
Justice League: Doom is the newest DC animated film, directed by animated veteran Lauren Montgomery (Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman: Year One). It’s another solid effort by Montgomery who, along with Sam Liu has become one of DC’s go-to directors for their animated fare. Exciting, engaging and relatively mature, it focuses on the weaknesses of the Justice League’s cast of heroes, while offering an examination of Batman’s near-insane dedication to his own darker vision of justice.
The film centers on the immortal villain Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) and his quest to subvert each member of the Justice League by monopolizing their greatest weaknesses. He succeeds in doing so by gathering together a rogue’s gallery of baddies, each with a grudge to bear against the JLA’s members — Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Ma’alefa’ak (Carl Lumbly) and Cheetah (Claudia Black). He finds the means to manipulate their weaknesses by hacking into Batman’s (Kevin Conroy) computer, where he’s been methodically collecting data on each hero and developing strategies to stop them should they ever be corrupted.
What follows is a breathtaking series of increasingly bizarre and intense battles and traps as the heroes are forced to confront their individual weaknesses, all while Savage secretly plots to — you guessed it — take over the world through nefarious means. Savage’s plot is yet another mad scientist ploy that involves large-scale destruction and subjugation, and of course it’s up to the JLA to stop them. It’s an enjoyable romp filled with blistering battles and a surprising amount of violence, and even a bit of bloodshed thrown in. The DC animated films have never shied away from more hard-hitting battle sequences, and the widespread chaos in Doom is much akin to that of the excellent Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths. In fact, the film shares many common themes and traits with Two Earths, including exploiting the heroes’ soft spots as well as the near-psychotic zealotry of Batman and his unrelenting vision of what’s right. Unfortunately, Doom isn’t quite as intense as its predecessor, and it ultimately pulls short of a true evaluation and condemnation of Batman’s actions, a theme I would have liked to see explored more closely. The story is (very) loosely based on the Tower Of Babel storyline, although much of the story has been radically altered. The original comic book storyline had a plot masterminded by Ra’s al Ghul instead of Vandal Savage, and in fact much of the story has little resemblance to Doom, other than the exploitation of the JLA weaknesses and Batman’s machinations that lead to their downfall.
The voice cast is as excellent as it ever is, in no small part due to a group of veteran voice actors who could probably play these characters in their sleep by now — Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern — all have played their parts in at least one other film, and they’re easily the strongest characters. That said, special props should be given to Michael Rosenbaum’s The Flash as the film’s sole and thoroughly enjoyable source of comic relief. Similarly, noted voice actor Bumper Robinson gives a strong performance as Cyborg, the only non-JLA hero of the film.
The animation is similarly impressive, benefiting from the same character design created by Phil Bourassa for Crisis On Two Earths. Full of vivid colors and a sharply designed animation style that has a graceful fluidity even as the heroes are punching the daylights out of each other, it’s a joy to watch. It feels like it sticks mostly to darker hues, allowing for the brighter bursts of color, such as Star Sapphire’s powers and the zooming Flash’s bright reds, to stand out and be more noticeable. That’s a not a criticism — instead, it grounds the animation and makes it feel more real, while still allowing for the dynamic ends of the color palette to shine when necessary.
Justice League: Doom is an energetic and entertaining entry in the ongoing series of DC films, though not one of its best — it doesn’t quite reach the heights of deeper films like Crisis On Two Earths or Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, or even the thoroughly enjoyable Wonder Woman film. It suffers from a bit of a lag in the middle, and it ultimately pulls its punches regarding the League’s judgement of Batman, whose actions are seen as much more of a betrayal in the comic books. Yet it still has enough hero/villain mayhem and intelligence to make it a sharp, occasionally humorous, and action-heavy adventure.