I finally got Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths from Netflix — which may have been the wrong way to go, since their version lacks the DC Showcase: Spectre short film.  Anyway, this latest entry in the DC Universe animated film series is an adaptation of Worlds Collide, a planned direct-to-DVD film in the continuity of the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited television series, which would’ve bridged the gap between JL and JLU.  Dwayne McDuffie’s script was rewritten only slightly for this version, which is nominally a separate continuity, but you can still see the signs of its JL/U origins (the League building a new Watchtower complete with teleporters, deciding to add new membership, etc.) — so much so that you wonder why they didn’t either do it in the DC Animated Universe as originally intended or else rewrite it more heavily to make it stand more apart.  As it is, it’s kind of betwixt and between.

Although maybe that’s fitting, since the story does postulate a multitude of parallel worlds, some of which are wildly different, others nearly identical.  The two Earths in question are the world of the Justice League we know (or this version of them, which differs from the DCAU version only in having Hal Jordan as Green Lantern instead of John Stewart, and of course in the character designs and voices) and the world of the Crime Syndicate of America.  The CSA is a concept from the Silver Age of comics, coming from “Earth-3,” where the morality of the characters we know gets inverted: the heroes become the villains and vice-versa.  Instead of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, we have Ultraman, Owlman, and Superwoman.  And so on.

The story’s pretty straightforward; good-guy Lex Luthor comes to the JL universe to recruit their help against the CSA, they go to the other world to do battle, some of the CSA come to our world to fight our heroes, and ultimately the whole multiverse needs to be saved from destruction because Owlman’s a nihilist or something.  And of course, with all these superbeings around, the salvation of the universe comes down to Batman alone, because he’s Batman.

So yeah, it’s a pretty flimsy story.  It doesn’t have the depth of JL’s classic “A Better World,” where the evil JL counterparts were the same people who took their heroism too far and became benevolent dictators.  Here there’s no moral ambiguity or introspection, just clear-cut heroes and villains.  It’s basically just an action romp.

But accepting that, it was executed very well for the most part.  McDuffie’s story may not be the deepest thing ever, but it’s got a lot of the clever dialogue he does so well.  The animation, co-directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery, is fantastic.  In past projects, Liu has shown a knack for really big action and Montgomery has demonstrated great skill with subtle, expressive character animation, so putting them together results in a film that’s really compelling to look at.  The music, by James L. Venable using themes by Christopher Drake, didn’t really grab me but was pretty good.

The casting, however, was a mixed bag.  Of all the actors that Warner Bros.’ legendary voice director Andrea Romano has cast as Superman and Batman, this film’s choices of Mark Harmon and William Baldwin, respectively, are probably the weakest.  I thought Harmon would be an interesting choice for Superman, but he was just too strident and unsympathetic throughout.  And Baldwin… well, I’m being too harsh.  He didn’t do a bad job, it was perfectly serviceable, but his performance didn’t stand out the way a Batman voice should.  It paled in comparison to James Woods’s extremely creepy and menacing Owlman.  (Yes, for whatever reason, the Crime Syndicate counterparts were given different appearances and voices, even though in most other incarnations they’re supposed to be actual evil twins of the heroes.)  Not to mention Chris Noth, whose heroic Luthor kind of stole the show, really sounding the way a superhero should sound.  And Gina Torres was devilishly sexy as the psychopathic Superwoman.  Josh Keaton (the lead on The Spectacular Spider-Man) made an excellent Flash.  Vanessa Marshall (Mary Jane on the same show) was a serviceable Wonder Woman, neither better nor worse than Susan Eisenberg from JL/U (who barely beat out Marshall for the role in that version), and nowhere near as impressive as Torres.  So kind of a pattern: Noth would’ve made a better Superman (if a tougher one than usual), Woods a better Batman, and Torres a better Wonder Woman.

I think this review sounds more critical than I intended.  I found the movie a satisfying experience, but it’s a thing better just experienced than analyzed.  It’s a popcorn flick, and a good one, aside from the disappointing casting of the Big Three heroes.

There’s one bit of controversy I wanted to address, but it involves the ending, so stop now if you don’t want to be spoiled:






Some have complained that Batman is essentially directly responsible for the deaths of Owlman and Johnny Quick, something that’s out of character for him.  As a rule, I agree that Batman shouldn’t kill, even by omission.  But given that the fate of the entire universe was at stake, I can see how Batman might’ve been willing to do what had to be done.  And he did give both of them an out.  Yes, he sent Owlman to an abandoned Earth where the QED wouldn’t destroy everything, but he left the “ABORT YES/NO” dialog box active, so Owlman could’ve shut the bomb down, saved himself, and used the dimension-hopping device to escape to a habitable world.  He just chose not to.  As for Johnny Quick, Batman tried to get him to stop as soon as he got back, but it was too late.  He knew there was a risk, but it wasn’t necessarily a suicide mission.

Okay, admittedly those rationalizations are a bit flimsy.  And I’m not saying Batman shouldn’t be haunted by his decisions here.  But it’s not as badly out of character as the Tim Burton movies where Batman blew up a warehouse full of bad guys or the ’80s comic where Batman sealed up a villain and left him to die of starvation.

Categories: Reviews Tags: ,
  1. Thierry
    April 7, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Hi there,
    I watched JL crissis on two earth about 2 weeks ago. I agree with you on most of the things you said.(also i’m just a casual fan of comics especially DC)
    Your point of view on Batman can be supported by the ending of Batman Begins too. (spoiler alert) Also i think it’s more complex when it’s about the sacrifice of Johnny Quick. He makes the choice between sacrificing one of two people and the stakes are high. So no choice but to play the cards you have. He chose Quick over Flash can you blame him ? Flash is a “valuable” ally. Not only you can see that the thin line between right and wrong that he is walking has been crossed for the good of one of his “friend” but there is also his dark side. He should have explained what he believed might happen. But consider this, if he had explain that there is almost no chance that Quick would have chosen to sacrifice himself. It’s not in his selfish nature. FLash would have. And to Batman protecting his friends is almost as important as his principles. I think That’s also why he is going into the vortex (and, like the Olwman says, he logically should have send Superman… )

    The movie is a good one. And i like the animation, especially the batman’s fight that are amazing! (the way he moves is clean and bluffing) But i have ONE complaint. When they are talking, only the mouths are moving!!! (not the lower half of the faces) That’s lame. Especially when you compare it to the rest of the animation that range from Okay to high standard…

    Anyway all in all good job to the people who made it!

    I wonder if i’ll grow out of super heroes, as an adult i can see that it’s a remnant of my teen years but that in real life no heroes or messiah can do the jobs of making mankind a better place but each one of us :p
    But in order to do that perhaps we have to have ideals ? Real and imaginary, and there heroes comes in? (Or int Star Trek world, the utopia of the Federation and it’s exemplary individuals !lol!)


  2. May 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    The voice work has been sporadic of late. Romano is not trying to be consistent, and the features pay the price.

    Batman’s behavior? Well, we did not have a problem with Owlman’s demise. What else could be done? The guy was a total sociopath and would never have stopped until all Earths were destroyed. We felt that one of the weakest elements in the plot.

    Johnny Quick on the other had was indeed a little more questionable.

    Here is my take on the movie with lots of pics and a little wit if you are interested:


  3. Destructor
    August 10, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    I have a funny relationship with this movie that is probably a result of the circumstances I which I saw it. I was on a flight to New Zealand which I was taking because a family friend that I had known for most of my life (a brother, really) had taken his own life and I was going to his funeral.

    The climactic scene between Owlman and Batman has a conversation that goes something like:

    OWLMAN: “Whatever happened to you in your universe to make you the way you are obviously wasn’t as bad as what happened to me.”

    BATMAN: “What makes you say that?”

    OWLMAN: “Because if it was, you’d want to end reality too.”

    BATMAN: “The same thing happened. We both looked into the abyss. The difference is: YOU BLINKED.”

    I think about this exchange a lot. It’s probably one of the most crystallized moments, to me, of why Batman is appealing, why I like superhero stories, why we call them ‘heroes’ at all.

    • August 10, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      I’m sorry about your family friend. And I agree — superheroes are about hope and belief, about turning loss into a reason to act positively. Which is why the modern trend to make superhero stories so dark and gritty and violent is one I regret.

    • August 11, 2014 at 7:16 am

      I am sorry about your loss too, Destructor. Your story was well stated and poignant.

      Life throws challenges at all of us, and we all must choose how to deal with them. Superheroes are fun and inspiring. How much more one like Batman who overcame such personal challenges and hangs with the big boys with no superpowers.

      Like Christopher said, recent superhero media may have gone a little overboard with dirtied-down depictions. If I may state the obvious, superheroes and supervillains are different. Though their powers may be similar, they have chosen different methods and have different motivations.

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