Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Justice League: Doom (Movie Review)
I'm a big DC comics nerd, and although the DC direct to video animated movies got off to a bumpy "hit or miss" start with me, they soon seemed to iron out quality control and began putting out great features almost every time.
Almost without exception, they've earned a "buy then try" mentality from me. So it should come as no surprise that bought the BluRay version of "Justice League: Doom" this week and watched it as soon as possible.
The script is loosely based on a Justice League comic book story written by Mark Waid and titled "Tower Of Babel". In it, a villain gains access to secret files detailing foolproof methods of defeating each member of the Justice League. One by one the world's most powerful and iconic heroes are taken out like the trash with brutal efficiency.
The same premise is used in "Justice League:Doom", although the Justice League characters involved are different, as well as the methods used to defeat them and the villains carrying out the evil plot. So whether you're familiar with the original comic book story or not, you'll find plenty of new territory being explored here. (Including a great reveal for those who never read "Tower Of Babel".)
The animation is top notch, as I've come to expect from these releases. And the casting is a welcome return to the line-up of actors who voiced these characters in their previous animated TV show incarnations. Nathan Fillion also returns as Green Lantern Hal Jordan in a performance with much more charm and personality than he had room to express in "Green Lantern: Emerald Knights".
The visual and auditory presentation is wonderful and any DC fan is likely to get a kick out of the experience.
The script is of a less consistent quality, however. Although I affirm Dwayne McDuffie's immense value as a human being, and regret the pain his loved ones must still be feeling after his death last year, his creative work has been hit or miss with me. His writing on the Justice League animated series was fantastic and fit the stylistic mold of the show perfectly. His comic book writing in the DC Universe has been easily forgettable.
The script for "Justice League: Doom" wanders back and forth between sophisticated and childish. Serious themes including suicide, guilt and betrayal are juxtaposed with cheesy villain lines (such as the chummy unison champagne toast of the villains: "To the Legion of Doom!") and glaringly unscientific moments (such as Superman talking in the vacuum of space, and rockets making the trip to the sun in about 90 seconds). Even most modern DC comic books don't come across as childish and ignorant.
Perhaps these issues wouldn't be a problem if the script had been more consistently light and aimed at a younger audience. But standing next to the many serious and sobering moments and the generally grown-up tone of the story and visual style, they feel out of place.
A major theme of this story that's worth talking about, is power and what happens when it is mixed with human nature. Should a force dedicated to good, like the Justice League or another real-world organization, be free to act without accountability? If not, who should have the power to stop them and who will keep THAT person accountable? The BluRay includes several interesting documentaries, one of which explores this theme.
I think that this story serves as a great counter the the argument that people are "basically good". (If we ARE, then why do we feel the need to set up checks and balances for our leaders? Are they not "basically good" too?)
I agonized over what final score I should give this movie. I think in the past I've been a little too kind in scoring these DC animated movies, since I am already a DC fan and assume that many who read my reviews may be also.
For those people, this is a movie you should see and probably add to your collection. It plays somewhat like a darker version of the Justice League animated series and if entered into with that mentality, the lighter moments likely won't put you off.
For everyone else who may just have a casual interest in the superhero genre, my final quality score aims to serve you more than Justice League fans. This one is an enjoyable flick, but you won't kick yourself later if you miss it.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violent action
For information about my scoring system, visit spiritblade.net/reviewscores
Listen to this review this weekend at spiritblade.net/podcast