The arrival of a heroic Lex Luthor--yes, you read that correctly--leads Superman, Batman, and the rest of the Justice League to confront their evil, alternate-universe identities inCrisis on Two Earths, a terrific addition to the DC Animated Universe … see full wiki
First off, let me get this out of the way because I've read some confusing reviews (elsewhere): this is not an adaptation of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. There is an element of this story that bares a passing resemblence to some of the ideas presented in the DC Universe ground-breaking events, but it starts and stops right there: one idea of that story clearly inspired this story, so don't look to this short review to make any more hay out of that minor controversy. Besides, could anyone really adapt CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS into a less-than-two-hour animated movie? I don't think so.
The story is simple: the Justice League of our universe must stop the Justice League of a parallel universe, known as the Crime Syndicate, from wiping out ALL of the known parallel worlds in one devastating act of galactic terrorism. Doesn't this sound like a slugfest to end all slugfests? Of course, it does, and, on that level, this direct-to-DVD film delivers some terrific action. Mind you: there's not a lot here that elevates the storytelling above Saturday morning television animation fare. That's become fairly 'stock action work' for both these DC and even the Marvel animation properties. Don't explore this title for ground-breaking animation ... just hope for and be rewarded with some terrific storytelling.
My major complaints with the CRISIS story (and this is rare!) comes down to two points. First, Mark Harmon voices Superman, and I thought he did a terrible job. Generally, I enjoy any actor's spin on voice work, and I was expecting to enjoy Harmon's contribution, so I'll leave it at that. I guess, on one level, I thought he could deliver a performance very akin to Tim Daly's work (which I absolutely love), but it wasn't meant to be. Second, I absolutely hated hated hated William Baldwin's voicing of Batman. Again, having Kevin Conroy's legacy of work voicing Batman in the wealth of these DC animated features is a huge hurdle for Baldwin to clear, but he misses the mark completely. I kept thinking, "Why would anyone want Batman to sound like any ol' grandpa?" Yes, I thought it was that bad. Maybe it's just me.
On the flip side, the parallel universe's version of Batman -- the Owlman -- deserves tremendous praise thanks to the vocal stylings of James Woods. He presents a cold and calculating take on 'the Bats,' one who allows clear, concise, emotionless logic to fuel each and every criminal decision he makes. It's justice taken to the Nth degree, removing all hints of humanity and compassion, and Woods hits his mark in almost every scene ... so much so that I wonder how well he could've contributed to these DC properties before and, hopefully, will do in the future.
If CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS has any real shortcoming to me, it's that the tale isn't grand enough. Sure, wiping out all of the parallel worlds of the known galaxy is pretty nefarious, but, once the DVD is all over, it just felt all over ... with no lingering hints of a follow-up (though I'm sure there were enough open doors if one looked hard enough). It's the kind of flick you can watch harmlessly, and, sure, you can probably predict that'll it all end gracefully with justice prevailing, but isn't that one of the hallmarks of a good Justice League story anyway? That justice will triumph, once and for all?
What I did find particularly memorable here were the Bluray extras. Not only do they give you a great main feature, but you also get an original DC Universe short on THE SPECTRE, and it's awesome!!!! It's terrific!!! It's done in a B-movie homage style -- like a Quentin Tarantino GRINDHOUSE event -- and it's so inspired that I can't help but hope that the good folks at DC behind all of these animated films realize what potential a series of direct to DVD flicks around this character could be. Gary Cole voices the hero/antihero, and he's tremendous. Also, as an extra, you get the WB channel inspired but failed pilot to AQUAMAN; you get the original telefilm pilot for WONDER WOMAN; and you get a handful of JUSTICE LEAGUE episodes handpicked by Bruce Timm himself ... and if you don't know who Bruce Timm is what the smack are you doing reading this far into this review anyway?
One great event delivered by DC. Take it to the bank. Or, better yet ... take it to the DVD player nearest you and enjoy!
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