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Justice League – Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

by on 2010/02/24

Why do I keep buying these comic-inspired videos? Nothing ever matches the pinnacle reached by DC’s Animated Universe series but, here I go, all hopeful again. Somebody once characterized me as a disappointed idealist. It does prove costly but is, on balance, a small problem.

The Earth also has a small problem. Earth Two, that is, which differs from Earth One in reversing traditional hero and villain roles. During a clever teaser, Earth Two’s sole surviving hero, a sympathetic Lex Luthor, escapes to Earth One. He pleads for the Justice League’s help in defeating the Criminal Syndicate, a metahuman mob comprised of evil versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, and others. Meanwhile, Batman’s nemesis, Owlman, readies a plot far more dangerous than the inevitable battle royal.

This movie dazzles with a propulsive, explosive, and apocalyptic energy. It succeeds in its use of pacing, effects, and stirring themes. Bonus points for some clever dialogue, but even the self-referential wit cannot smooth over the plot holes, reveal motivations, or make relevant a bewildering romantic subplot.

Despite all the sound and fury, nitpickability abounds. Superman neither looks nor feels particularly powerful. Costume designs between Earths One and Two seem too different. And then there’s Batman’s voice. In the way that Christian Bale proved “gritty” is not enough, here William Baldwin shows how “smoky” poses a similar problem.

Still, I managed to overcome my initial pop culture shock at the character interpretations. I could not, however, overlook some other, more egregious, lapses. For one, while the audience may lack Owlman’s intelligence, we should understand why he does what he does. His own rationale is a specious and unconvincing monologue. No matter, let’s assume an easy way out: he’s an evil psychopath. Or something.

Such uncertain purpose wends a rocky road. The script is riddled with the technobabble of a desperate physics student. I assure you, I spoil nothing of the plot when I tell you the Crime Syndicate employs a Q.E.D. device which overrides the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Fortunately, it can be stopped if you piggyback on the carrier wave of the Quantum Trigger (because you obviously don’t want to get torn apart by the event horizon).

Finally, the very thing that distinguishes the Justice League from Earth Two’s doppelgangers is a refusal to kill. Yet I can recall at least three moments in which this movie’s heroes broke that maxim: Wonder Woman allows someone to fall from sky-height, ostensibly to their death, and Batman tricks one character into sacrificing themself and abandons another, tied to a bomb. They didn’t seem particularly heroic just then.

Don’t interpret my disbelief as a lack of faith. I admire much of the Paul Dini and Bruce Timm canon (Batman, Superman, Justice League, and more). I would love to recapture the sense of those adventures, see them again for The Very First Time. But it astounds me how more time, money, and talent still can’t create something that exceeds those cherished TV episodes. On some level, I was glad to see Crisis on Two Earths but, to quote Owlman, “It doesn’t matter.” Another disappointment for this idealist.

* * *

Rated PG-13 (14A) for violence, blood, and adult situations

  1. grushenka permalink

    One piggy built a house outta straw, another out of sticks and another out of bricks.

    I’m the straw builder, personally. I also done used feathers, plastic straws, clothes I don’t wear any more ,and things I found on the ground.

    You sir, built your structures out of bricks. Probably with a ruler and junk. This review is solid, sound and well structured. Also funny, I laughed out loud twice. Not LOL but laughed out loud before these kids stripped that phrase of all meaning…

    Good choice of film. Great review.

    Hmm. My admiration is mixed with something else… There’s a hot feeling in the back of my neck. Is it …jealousy? Is …it competitive spirit…? Is it …Satan?

    Huzzah friend and collaborator.

    It begins..

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