Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter are the greatest superheroes ever assembled, the Justice League. Brought together to fight threats so great that no one else could face them, the team has successfully battled numerous power mad villains and foes from beyond. However, their greatest enemy comes from within the team when a set of protocols documenting their weaknesses is stolen.
Against the tactical genius of Batman, the Justice League is brought to the brink of disaster as the planet is similarly taken to the edge of doomsday.
Starting in the middle of a case, the movie opens with Batman interrupting the Royal Flush Gang during a bank heist using suspiciously advanced technology.
The Royal Flush Gang have appeared in the comics and in animated form many times and on almost every occasion is a completely different team. Ace is usually a robot, Jack is usually a bit too blood-thirsty and 10 is usually a novice, but apart from that it’s a new game each time. That makes them a perfect stand-in threat for the team to show their prowess straight away.
The heist is stopped thanks to the assistance of Cyborg, the son of a deceased off-screen genius specializing in dimensional tech. That’s as awkward as it sounds. Cyborg identifies the device used to make the bank wall intangible as being far too advanced for the Royal Flush Gang, but neither Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or Martian Manhunter can gain any intel from the criminals.
After defeating the gang, the team is eager to split up and get back to their lives even though Batman is concerned decoding the data contained in the mystery device. Back in the batcave, Batman begrudgingly rests while his base of operations is invaded by the Mirror Master who copies the bat computer hard drive and reports to an unknown superior.
In far away Louisiana (cue Super Friends- Legion of Doom music), a strange cabal of villains meet to plot the demise of the Justice League. Cheetah, Bane, Star Sapphire, Metallo, and evil Martain Ma’alefa’ak all meet with their benefactor, the immortal Vandal Savage. He has obtained the doomsday protocols designed by Batman to neutralize each super-powered member of the League. With the JLA out of the way, he can enact a far grander scheme.
Away from the team, each member of the JLA is met with an unusually deadly threat while Savage waits patiently, as he has for thousands of years, for his moment of triumph.
The latest animated feature film from DC Entertainment, Justice League: Doom, is based very loosely on the Tower of Babel story line that ran through the Justice League monthly comic book as written by Mark Waid.
Adapted by the late Dwayne McDuffie, the film makes several alterations, such as replacing Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern with Hal Jordan (most likely due to the Green Lantern movie), switching out Wally West as the Flash for Barry Allen (probably since Wally is currently non-existent in the comic book universe), and the introduction of Cyborg (he is DC’s newest member of the Justice League of America that DC is hyping). In some cases, the changes work, in others it’s distracting.
Of course Aquaman was also removed from the story.
Arthur Curry gets no breaks.
The movie stars an all-star line-up of vocal talents, with Kevin Conroy playing Batman, Tim Daly voicing Superman, Michael Rosenbaum once again taking a turn as the Flash, Carl Lumbly offering up his dulcet tones as the Martian Manhunter and Susan Eisenberg is of course Wonder Woman. Newcomers include cult actor Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern and Bumper Robinson as Cyborg in his first adventure with the team since the 80’s when he served a similar role in the Super Friends cartoon.
Robinson is a veteran voice actor who has worked in more animated projects than I can count and will also be returning to the part of War Machine in the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series premiering on Disney 😄 next week. As Cyborg, I found him a little lacking and flat. I don’t think the fault is on Robinson, though. There just wasn’t enough screen time for him to make an impression and compared to the other heroes, he doesn’t have much of an ‘arc’ to go through.
There’s a lot going on in this story, far too much, in fact for any real character development for a ‘new’ hero. It’s cool that Cyborg is in there and I’m always happy for some variety in the team, but- just like his inclusion in the current Justice League comic book- this feels a bit too forced. I like Cyborg, but don’t think that he’s on the same power level as the rest of the League.
The extra feature ‘Cyborg: His Time Has Come’ makes it even more glaring, as if DC feels the need to prove that they are an equal opportunity publisher.
I wasn’t all that pleased with Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan in this one at first, but as the story delved deeper under the hard case facade, he really grew on me. That’s cool, because I would like him to come back for a third turn as the ring slinger (his work in Emerald Knights is astounding). The cocksure Jordan is a played up a little too much in the initial action sequence against the Royal Flush Gang, but it laid the ground work for his fall from grace later on.
This could very well be the best use of Green Lantern in animated form including his two animated projects. The finale is very cool and the way he ‘escapes’ from his trap is impressive.
The regulars are in top form and Phil Morris as Vandal Savage (who also voiced him in the Justice League animated series) is great. Claudia Black (familiar to many from Farscape) plays a mean Cheetah, standing out from the other villains in more ways than one thanks to her ruthlessness and cunning (as well as a revealing outfit). The lovely Olivia d’Abo returns as Star Sapphire, a character who has a history so long that the film doesn’t bother to fill us in on it.
There are some holes in the script that just don’t add up, such as why the villains would need or want money (what does Metallo do with money?) and why Vandal Savage would seek out these specific villains and not others (such as Sinestro, Lex Luthor and the Joker to name a few). Also, as a friend pointed out, it makes no sense that Savage and his crew would be allowed to keep the knowledge they had gained from the bat computer.
Isn’t that a bit silly to just let all these creeps run off knowing the identities and other secrets of the JLA??
The characterization of Barry Allen is also way off. He behaves far too much like the Wally West of the Justice League animated series making me wonder why they bothered to force the scene in where Barry Allen is doing police work.
On the whole, I have to say that this movie isn’t perfect. The animation is solid and the story compelling, but as it relies on source material from a monthly comic book, the ending feels strange, like there should be a follow up and we know that there won’t be. This also happened when JLA: Crisis on Two Earths was adapted from a stand alone movie for the weekly cartoon when the ending was clearly intended to lead to another set of stories.
That said, it does have some stand out moments such as the poignant defeat of Superman, and the Green Lantern scenes are also very satisfying. The action is slick and the fights are impressive, but it can get a bit repetitive. The finale succeeds in raising of the stakes way off the charts, though which excuses the near-endless fisticuffs.
I might be over-thinking this, but I always imagine that a casual viewer would be put off by the continuity references and obscure characters. Maybe it doesn’t matter who Star Sapphire is or what Bane is talking about, we just want to see them fight. But I think that DC is missing a trick by not treating as this as a newcomers introduction to the JLA.
If you are a fan of the excellent DC Animation DVD series, I suggest picking this up as it makes for a sterling addition to your collection. If you are new to the JLA, I’d recommend starting with the weekly cartoon or Crisis on Two Earths as both function very well without relying on insider knowledge.
Oh and special thanks to Terrance for lending me the Blu-ray.
Justice League: Doom
Justice League: The Complete Series
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths