February 27, 2010

DC Moviefest: Justice League Crisis on Two Earths aka "This ain't your daddy's Justice League"

(well, actually it is)

Now, I don't exactly reach epic levels (like my brother Wm. *cough*nerd) but I can appreciate me some cartoons and comic books. I've been watching them seemingly all my life, more specifically, work from the DCAU (DC Animated Universe) headed by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. I heard about the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths movie via ONTD (and in anticipation of the Under the Red Hood movie coming soon) and lo and behold it was already available for rent.

So I rented it! You know what it's time for? A review!

Let's do it! (note: I'm testing out this "jump break" business for Blogger but it didn't give me a link, just click the title for the full review)

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, released February 23 2010. From here on I'll be abbreviating to simply Crisis. Crisis continues in the tradition of animated DC direct-to-video releases via Warner Brothers Studios that don't necessarily take place in the DCAU continuity. This means new character backgrounds, upped ante on story lines, new character designs, more shit they couldn't get away with on TV for kids, and in most cases new voices. We'll get to all that, but first off what is this Crisis thing about?

If you're not very familiar with comics, this "Crisis" thing goes back to the idea of the multiverse in the DC comics continuity... sigh. I'd let someone better equipped for this shit explain, but long, complicated story rendered very short there are parallel Earths, each with their own alternate continuity more or less living separately from each other with their own designations like Earth Two, Earth Prime, New Earth, etc. That's pretty much all you need to know for the purposes of this movie.

In any case, we get started with a bang when a heroic version of our Earth's Joker, AKA Jester, and Lex Luthor, AKA...Lex Luthor bust into some high security joint to retrieve (heroes don't steal) something called the Quantum Trigger. On their way to escape, Jester decides to pull a most righteous heroic sacrifice and blows himself up, taking down Anti-Hawkgirl & Anti-Martian Manhunter with him. Lex Luthor escapes with the goods but is then confronted by the Crime Syndicate AKA Anti-Justice League AKA The Goodfellas. Just as he's about to catch a bad case of dead, Lex quantum leap to our Earth to seek the help of the good Justice League.

Now...if you're familiar at all with Lex Luthor, ESPECIALLY his escapades regarding the DCAU (watch any first season episode of Superman), you'll understand why, when confronted with Luthor vaporizing into your space out of nowhere, the armed guard is ready to blow the motherfucker to smithereens. Rest assured however by our powers of deduction (Lex stripping nekkid, Superman revealing Luthor's exotic organ structure and...our Earth's Luthor being in jail) we realize that as wacky as it sounds this Luthor is telling the truth and some strange shit is going on indeed.

Minor details out of the way, we're off. The good Justice League (sans Batman...at first) finds themselves in a world where their evil counterparts have the city in a choke hold, living in fear of these super powered villians, even President Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson isn't fucking with them. Things get even wilder when Owlman, Batman's evil and well adjusted [/sarcasm] counterpart decides no, it's not simply mindblowing enough that parallel Earths exist at all; no, Owlman wants to find Earth Prime, the original Earth, and blow that shit up, thus destroying ALL the Earths reality itself. Why, dear god why? Because he hates everyone. This, ladies and gentleman, is MISANTHROPY.

In any case, since the movie is still very recent I won't spoilerize it a whole lot for you, but let's get to the details anyway. Bottom line is, is this movie worth seeing? HELL. YES.

Even if you don't get much out of comic books or super heroes, if you're a fan of animation this is a delight. For those familiar with the typical DCAU character designs but not the WB DVD releases, the designs are much smoother and modern, colors are less dark & dreary and more crisp and bright, everything's a bit more cartoony. It works though for the most part, probably better here than anywhere else (I'm looking at you, Superman: Doomsday and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies): Superman is an improvement (look, he has eyes!) and so is Wonder Woman's (who looks the same from her solo movie debut), even the one scene folks like Black Lightning and Black Canary. This also renders the effects pretty awesome, even when that meddlesome CGI makes an appearance.

In any case, the animated fight sequences are some of the best I've ever seen. EPIC I dare say. The beginning battles with the Justice League vs the Crime Syndicate are fucking gorgeous, the camera work is dizzying and the fight choreo is amazing. And considering this is a very action packed movie you definitely want to be entertained by the ACTION.

It's not all action driven by the way, but given the nature of the movie and it's length (about an hour & fifteen minutes) I wouldn't come looking for things like character growth and development. Everyone's characters are pretty set--Batman is a mysterious anti-hero, Wonder Woman is strong and awesome, Superman isn't as cynical as he usually is in the DCAU ergo back to normal, Green Lantern is Hal, Flash is the funny dude that's actually competent and shit, Martian Manhunter is...yeah. Their counterparts are more or less exact opposites although there are some surprises. That's not to say they aren't interesting, I'm just saying.

There's also some wonderful mythology gags for deeper comic/animation fans such as the aforementioned President Deathstroke, good!Lex Luthor threatening to destroy the world so he can see the Justice League, and...wtf Jimmy Olsen. Be on the look out! Did I mention voice work yet? Let me show you the cast. Everyone does a top notch job...except William Baldwin. I DISLIKED his Batman. It was too quiet and not really gritty. Granted, his counterpart Owlman is too but it's kind of scary considering his character (and, you know, he's James Woods). This Batman just didn't sell me at all. But fortunately for me he actually isn't in the movie a whole lot (but when he is it's pretty important).

Since we're on the cons, let me say I didn't think the movie did a good job of exposition here. This Justice League consists of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and the Martian Manhunter (at first). It would stand to reason that the Crime Syndicate would be the opposite of those folks. You'd be right. Also pay attention to the opening credits and you'll see this to be true. But, and this may be nitpicky, we never really get to know the names of the Antis and plus a bunch of other characters pop up during battles in the Anti-Earth and you just sort of have to guess at who they are (ex: That's not Luke Cage, that's anti Black Lightning. Why does he...never mind). They're mostly one shot characters I hate it when movies do that.

The constant fanservice brought to you by Wonder Woman and Super Woman is both a blessing and a curse. I'll just leave it at that.

Lastly I really disliked the Crime Mafia Syndicate. Not the characters, just the structure of it. What? It had made men for God's sake. That just made me irate.

Anyway, all that aside, Crisis is the shit. Epic, nicely animated battles, everyone gets some time to shine, and some serious one liner mileage. There's even blood & cursing. BLOOD AND CURSING I TELL YOU (I'm excited). So this is up for rent on Netflix & Amazon and obviously if you like it enough you can purchase it for great justice, also bonus features talking about the aforementioned Under the Red Hood movie.

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