And with that, the weekend rolls around again. Not just any weekend, oh no siree, this is the August Bank Holiday weekend. Also known as four days off work. As well as watching today’s kids’ film, I have spent most of the day joining my roommate while she watches Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the first time. We’re currently approaching the end of season 3 (no spoilers please) and all I have to say is this: weren’t the nineties awesome? But you’re not here for that. You want to know what I thought about this…
Imagine Tony Soprano with superpowers.
Lex Luthor is a hero. As leader of the Justice League, he faces off against Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman and Johnny Quick, who plan to use their Crime Syndicate group to rule the world under threat of annihilation. Desperate for help, Lex travels to an alternate dimension to recruit Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest. Can the Justice League as we know it fight alongside Lex Luthor? Can Owlman actually destroy not just his universe, but all of them? Can J’onn J’onnz ever forget Mercy Humppe and find true happiness? Yes. Quite possibly. I doubt it but he’s willing to try.
I may have mentioned this before, but my knowledge of comic book history is, well, patchy doesn’t seem quite adequate. Really, the extent of it is limited to whatever sticks in my head after climbing out of one of my all-too-frequent Wikipedia holes. I have heard of the Crisis on Infinite Earths story of course, and when I saw today’s movie show up on Lovefilm, I assumed it was a cut-down adaptation of that plotline. Apparently not though. This was actually partly inspired by the Crisis on Earth Three story from 1964, and Grant Morrison’s Earth 2 book from 2000. I haven’t read either. Try to contain your surprise.
Undoubtedly, this film was made with one eye on the faithful; the devoted fans who know all the characters on sight and will get all the little easter egg references. But if they’re smart, DC will also want to produce something accessible to the newbies; something that won’t scare off people who don’t know their ass from their Lobo. On this evidence, DC are smart. The flick does contain more superheroes than I have ever seen in one place before, but it wisely only focuses on the core half-dozen League members. The rest crop up in one or another of the few big battle sequences, but they mostly go unnamed onscreen. This has the twin benefits of both giving the fanboys an excuse to show off by naming all of them, and has the potential to spark some interest in the newbies.
These DC animated flicks have a reputation for gathering impressive casts to bring the characters to life, and this one is no exception. Amongst others, we get William “The Artist Formerly Known As Billy” Baldwin as Batman, alongside Mark Harmon as Superman and Chris Noth as Lex. They are up against Gina Torres as Superwoman and James Woods himself as
Nite-Owl (sorry) Owlman, with Brian Bloom (who, as well as playing Pike in The A-Team flick, also co-wrote that movie with Joe Carnahan) as Ultraman. Batman and Nite-Owl (sorry) Owlman would probably be closest to leading roles, but the script is very democratic about giving everybody their fair share of screen time. These actors are all new to the arena, so if you are used to watching the animated series you might find them all a bit jarring, but they mostly worked out well enough for me.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the fact that the alt-universe bad guys are basically a superpowered mafia. It just seems a little pedestrian to me, frankly. All those supervillains and what do they do all day? Waste management. It falls to
Nite-Owl (sorry) Owlman to be the Big Bad, when his existential nihilism brought on by proof of the multiverse leads him to attempt to destroy the entire thing. Nietzsche would’ve been proud.
Despite the potentially rather grim storyline, Crisis manages to keep a bit of a sense of humour going throughout (The Flash: “This is just like a Jedi mindtrick!” Model Citizen: “This is nothing like a Jedi mindtrick” Flash: “This is nothing like a Jedi mindtrick”), with Batman’s novel use of a power-loader being a highlight, not to mention enough to put Ellen Ripley to shame. Also, Green Lantern’s various constructs tend to fall somewhat on the whimsical side of things generally, lightening up the rather dour fights.
This is the second of these DC animated movies that I’ve seen, after Green Lantern: First Flight, and so far so good. On the strength of these, I will certainly be keen to catch up on the rest of the series. I’ll let you know how I get on.