If you love the stuff that Warner Brothers has been doing with the animated DC Universe, I suggest you get off your ass and get your hands on a copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS immediately. I can't really go into the minutia of the plot without giving away a lot of the fun, but let it suffice to say that it takes the oft-used trope of parallel worlds and gives us an intelligent wall-to-wall slugfest fueled by the following basic plot: the Justice League gets called on by the good-guy Lex Luthor of an alternate universe to help him put an end to the reign of their evil doppelgangers, the Crime Syndicate, a pack of super-sociopaths who operate like the metahuman answer to Tony Soprano and his colleagues. But much as is the case in the Justice League's own reality, the Crime Syndicate has a brain on par with Batman in their ranks, and that brilliant mind is Owlman, who is voiced to 100% believably-perfect and cold malice by James Woods.
Owlman (James Woods) in the midst of doing something very, very, VERY bad.
But, unlike our Batman, Owlman is calmly and terrifyingly insane. Yeah, our Batman is not exactly what anyone would call the model of sanity, but Owlman is really and truly bugfuck crazy insane, and he has an agenda up his sleeve that's simply the worst thing ever conceived by man.
That's all I can really say without giving away some truly kickass surprises (Dwayne McDuffie's script is a DCU-fan's wet dream), but here are some relatively spoiler-free observations:
- I have an issue with Lex Luthor, even the Lex Luthor of the Crime Syndicate's world, using the word "nuculer." I'm hoping that was just a line read they missed in the final edit.
- I never thought I would live to see an animated version of Vibe, the Puerto Rican breakdancing hero, one of lamest characters ever created.
- James Woods' performance as Owlman steals the film and is a study in how to do cold, brilliant villainy just right. And during the course of the story, as we come to kind of admire him as the anti-Batman, we also realize in no uncertain terms that he is completely and calmly insane. And quite chillingly so.
- I was already in love with Gina Torres, but her vocal turn here as Super Woman will haunt me on lonely nights.
- Only regular readers of DC Comics will appreciate the idea of the alternate world having Slade Wilson as the President of the United States.
- There are several blistering fight sequences, including one where Wonder Woman administers a beatdown that does the WWE proud.
- Mark Harmon does a pretty good Superman voice.
The Spectre makes his animated debut. To crib a line from my man Kenshiro, "You are already dead."
Voiced by Gary Cole, The Spectre does his vengeance/personified-wrath-of-God thing in a style designed to be reminiscent of films from the character's Seventies-era Michael Fleischer-scripted/Jim Aparo-drawn run. But even though it's now nearly forty years since those amusingly gruesome stories appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS, The Spectre's signature vicious and appropriate takedowns of his deserving victims have been rendered far more tame than Fleischer's excesses, and as a result the end result is atmospheric but ultimately toothless. Still worth a look, though.
So out of the DC direct-to-DVD movies, I rate JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS as on par with the equally terrific GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT and WONDER WOMAN. Very highly recommended, so all I have to say to the folks coming up with stuff is...MORE!!! And give us a Kamandi feature! Oh, yeah, and OMAC!