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It’s that time again. It’s a new year and DC and Warner Premier are releasing their 13th home release with “Justice League: Doom.” A new adventure for the Justice League feels like the return of old friends with the cast of the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” animated shows back. This was also the last script done by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie and as always he knocked it out of the park.
“Doom” is loosely based on the “Tower of Babel” story arc from the “JLA” comics in the early 2000s. Though it takes cues from that story, it’s definitely its own animal. McDuffie took the major parts of the arc, Batman had created secret files to use against the League if they ever went rogue, or something and they were stolen by one of their enemies. This is all just a very elaborate way to get the league out of the way for the real plan. Destroy half the world and rebuild as the villain sees fit. In the comics it was Ra’s Al Ghul, here it is Vandal Savage; swapping one immortal villain for another works for me. What McDuffie added was a personal slant to it. Savage contacts a villain that has a personal stake or vendetta against a member of the League, and hence the Legion of Doom is born. I won’t spoil anything but I will say the action is fast and well choreographed, starting with a pretty cool confrontation with the Royal Flush Gang. Things only escalate from there and the film follows a three act structure that works perfectly. They set things up in the first act, the second act is the confrontation between the Legion and the League and the results of that lead directly into the third act which is the resolution of the adventure.
Kudos to Phil Bourassa for some very cool designs for the Legion as well as in general. Bane’s mask design resembling a skull was sweet, and Mirror Master’s almost transparent design was just brilliant. Vandal Savage looks suitably superior, and I love the semi-Victorian/militaristic look they gave him. He truly does look like someone who has lived for centuries, and him keeping the tooth/claw necklace from his Neanderthal days is a nice touch. Bourassa was the character designer for “Young Justice” as well as the previous JL film, “Crisis on Two Earths.” There’s the same Watchtower design, Wonder Woman’s Invisible jet is the same, and most of the character designs are the same. So in a lot of ways it feels like a pseudo sequel to that movie, and it can very well be taken that way much like “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” was a sequel to “Public Enemies” even though the art was different.
The big draw here though is the voice cast. Throughout the releases we’ve had a few people return for voices, but never this many at once. Though George Newburn voiced Superman in “JL” it was Tim Daly that originated the voice in “Superman: The Animated Series” but couldn’t return for JL when it first started. He has returned to the role a few times since then to much fanfare, and here he returns again joining the cast he should’ve been with originally. Also returning are Kevin Conroy (Batman, duh like you didn’t know that), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Michael Rosenbaum (Flash, but the Barry Allen version), and Carl Lumbly (Martian Manhunter), with fan favorite Nathan Fillion playing Hal Jordan (Green Lantern). Also reprising roles from the show are Phil Morris as Vandal Savage and Olivia D’Abo as Star Saphire. New to the cast are Claudia Black playing Cheetah and Bumper Robinson coming on as Cyborg. Even with changes like the Flash being less of a jokester, the voice cast still felt like an old friend you haven’t seen in a while and missed. Everyone falls into their places without so much as a hitch and the banter between the team in the beginning gives us a feeling that they’ve been doing this together for a bit. It’s all the more meaningful when things start to fall apart later.
The film is in my opinion one of the best of the bunch. I’ve yet to truly be disappointed with these though I could use a bit more variety in subject matter (only so many Batman and Superman stories can be told before we start losing fans here DC), this one provides that with all the different characters. Everyone gets a moment to shine, and no one feels glossed over. Some have felt things were tied up a little too quickly, for the tension that was brought to the team, but this is a movie and we need to get to the climax of the story. In the comics this arc was a set up for the next arc so they had time to really explore what the fallout was like, but I think the movie did a fine job with it, especially with Batman’s decision at the end. If you’ve been a fan of these, or are just looking for some good superhero action pick this up. Also there is a scene in which Alfred shows he’s the only person that can make Batman look like a petulant child! That scene alone is worth it.
Lauren Montgomery (director) / Dwayne McDuffie, Mark Waid (comic book story)
CAST: Kevin Conroy … Batman (voice)
Tim Daly … Superman (voice)
Susan Eisenberg … Wonder Woman (voice)
Nathan Fillion … Green Lantern (voice)
Carl Lumbly … Martian Manhunter / Ma’alefa’ak (voice)
Michael Rosenbaum … The Flash (voice)
Bumper Robinson … Cyborg (voice)