In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, an alternate universe exists in which the Justice League are evil, and wreck havoc on the world as the notorious Crime Syndicate. Their heroic Lex Luthor arrives, pleading with our Justice League to save his Earth. “What ensues is the ultimate battle of good versus evil in a war that threatens both planets and, through a diabolical plan launched by Owlman, puts the balance of all existence in peril.”
Crisis is one of my favorite DC animated films; it boasts a conventional superhero story with a twist, bringing in ethical and even philosophical questions as well. Here’s what I love about it:
1. Crisis was originally designed to be a continuation of the Justice League TV show; the script is written by Dwayne McDuffie, longtime writer of the series. Although they originally changed the script to make it a stand-alone movie, I think this original intention serves for the ease and unity in this film, particularly among the Justice League. There’s a sense of stability in the roles and personalities of the League members, very similar to the show, which really adds to the strength of the film. Flash as the jokester is particularly wonderful to see again–I’m glad they kept him as Wally West instead of the original Barry Allen.
2. If this was a continuation of the show, the voice acting would have me raving on and on, but even so, the performances are excellent. Mark Harmon voices Superman with integrity and authority, Gina Torres (Vixen from JL) is a great evil Wonder Woman, and William Baldwin is a quietly intimidating Batman. But truly, James Woods steals the show as Owlman, Batman’s evil incarnation. He’s cold, cruel, calculating, and totally believable. I really can’t overstate how great he is, because his performance makes the film.
3. When the Justice League travel to the alternate dimension, all of ‘our’ heroes are villains, and the crew has a ton of fun bringing in loads of secondary heroes, from Green Arrow to the Outsiders to Hotspot. Longtime geeks will have a great time catching the cameos, and new fans can just enjoy all of the action and sheer imaginative scale the crew undertook to make all this possible. Also, watch for Harley.
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But as much as I enjoy the premise, the non-stop action, and James Woods as a supervillain, there were some elements that got to me.
1. Hawkgirl is my alltime favorite character from the Justice League; I loved how she is the only hero to go through a true transformation throughout the series, betraying Earth and then trying to make peace with her decisions and herself. We see her evil incarnation in the opening scene, but Hawkgirl is noticably absent from the rest of the film; we never see her “good” version nor any hint of her presence at all. While I realize that she could have been one hero too many, I greatly missed her presence, particularly her rash personality compared to Diana’s spoiled princess. And as a lesser known hero, I would have loved to see her at least briefly in the film.
2. Owlman is an incredible villain, but evil Superman (Ultraman) was a simple mob head stereotype. Superman seems to be the golden Boy Scout, but his loneliness as one of few Kryptonian survivors gives him more complexity. I felt that Ultraman was given the same stereotypical villainy, which was disappointing.
3. spoilers (highlight to view): The ending was also a bit of a letdown; the Justice League, with all their powers, are still susceptible to nukes? They’re just going to put their hands up and be arrested? It felt like an ‘easy out’ to quickly wrap up the show. Also, we are treated to a rare but sweet subplot in which J’onn (Martian Manhunter) meets his soulmate. And then he decides to leave her and go back to his world. What? First of all, there’s no reason why she can’t go with him; the reason he cites for leaving her is positively lame; and they obviously aren’t going to make a sequel to this movie, so why not let J’onn be happy for once?