Friday, July 6, 2012

"Justice League: Doom" (2012)

Starring Kevin Conroy, Tim Daily and Nathan Fillion
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by Lauren Montgomery
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence
Running Time: 77 Minutes

Batman (Kevin Conroy) and the rest of the Justice League, including Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Flash (Michael Rosenbaum), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), and Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) break up a robbery by the Royal Flush Gang.  With help from Cyborg (Bumper Robinson), Batman determines that the gang is using phase-shifting technology to walk through walls and steal diamonds.  But interrogating the gang on how and where they got such information is fruitless.

Soon after, the villains Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Cheetah (Claudia Black), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Star Sapphire (Olivia d'Abo), Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), and Ma'alefa'ak (Carl Lumbly) are brought together by the immortal Vandal Savage (Phil Morris).  He gives them each an assignment to take out a member of the Justice League, and informs them exactly how to do it.  In return, they each receive $100 million, and a promise of greater wealth and power in the future.

And so the Legion of Doom systematically and simultaneously takes out each member of the Justice League.  Bane buries Batman alive in his own father's grave.  Metallo shoots Superman in the chest with a kryptonite bullet.  Green Lantern is forced to face his own failure, and his will is broken.  Flash is fitted with a bomb that will explode if he stops running.  Wonder Woman is drugged and believes she is fighting multiple versions of Cheetah - but is actually beating up every person she sees.  Martian Manhunter is poisoned so that he sweats magnesium, and is then lit on fire.

But the most devastating revelation of all may be the source of Savage's information: Batman's own files on the League, and the contingency plans he created to take the heroes down should the occasion arise.

Now the Justice League must pull together and defeat the villains before Vandal Savage can unleash his true plan to take over the entire world.

The real selling point of "Justice League: Doom" for me is reuniting much of the cast of the "Justice League" TV series from the last decade.  The only exceptions are Tim Daly, who played Superman in the 90s animated series that led into "Justice League," and Nathan Fillion who voiced Green Lantern in a previous animated film, this is pretty much like having the gang back together.

"Doom" isn't, however, all that awesome.  It excels the most in its middle section, when the Justice League is under attack and torn apart by Batman's plans.  Each sequence of the heroes being assaulted and beaten is excellent, and the movie smartly switches between them with a good sense of timing and momentum.

It's unfortunate then that the third act seems so dull by comparison.  The League's indignation over Batman's betrayal of their trust is thrust aside too quickly and ultimately just doesn't prove to be a big enough aspect of the story overall.  This is mostly a fault of the short running time for the movie.  It's hard to develop such a complex idea with so many characters in only an hour.  This is a problem I constantly have with these DC Animated films.  They're not bad films, but they're all essentially too short to be truly great.  Only "Wonder Woman" and "Batman: Under the Red Hood" have truly impressed me so far.

The third act of "Doom" features the League coming back together and defeating Vandal Savage's plan to destroy half the Earth with a solar flare.  The League takes on the villains that previously took them down, but dispatches with them fairly quickly.  The fights themselves aren't particularly interesting.  Batman defeats Bane by cutting the cord for his Venom steroids... except that's how Batman defeats Bane pretty much every time they fight. It gets dull after the first couple times, guys.  Superman's fight with Metallo is also frustrating in that it seems like Superman can't get the advantage, until he notices that he's needed elsewhere and manages to defeat Metallo with a single punch.  It's sloppy writing after a film that's been so solid in the action department so far.

The Cyborg character appears throughout the film, but functions more as a plot device or a way to dispense exposition.  At the end, he's made a full-fledged member of the Justice League, but my only reaction to it was to shrug and move on.

Ultimately, "Justice League: Doom" is like most of the other DC Animated films: it's solid and it's entertaining, but it's not that awesome.  The middle act is great, but the rest of the film sags in comparison.  But, it has a great cast and some solid animation to bolster it.  A worthy rental.