What’s it about? In another reality, Lex Luther is a good, but he is being chased by The Crime Syndicate, which is made up of evil versions of the DC heroes we know and love. Luther finds a way to “our” Earth and enlists the aid of The Justice League to defeat The Crime Syndicate.
Kevin Conroy. The primary problem with any DC Universe animated film is the
question of Batman. Two questions, really. First, is Batman in the film. Second, does Kevin Conroy do the voice? If the answer to this second question is no, then the film will automatically suffer. There is no other Batman but Conroy. This is a fact.
That said, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, henceforth abbreviated as JLCoTE, already has one strike against it. I’m not sure why Conroy wasn’t in the film. Perhaps he wasn’t available. Seeing as this film was produced by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, two of the minds behind Batman: The Animated Series, it would have made perfect sense for the voice continuity. As it stands, William Baldwin provides the voice. While he does a passable job, it just isn’t Conroy. No offense to Baldwin, I rather like him as Jayne in Firefly, but he does not bring the nuance of emotion to Batman that Kevin Conroy provides.
The Negative. Voices are my main concern with this film. Superman is performed by Mark Harmon, a performance which works in some scenes but not in others. Possibly the two standout performances are Jonathan Adams as J’onn J’onzz and James Woods as Owlman. But these are the two characters who get the most emotional depth and attention. J’onn has a character arc where he grows close to Rose Wilson. These scenes are handled rather well and are an unexpected highlight of the film. Owlman is cold and emotionless. Being the evil version of Batman, he has the same temperment and emotional temptations. However, in this world he became evil. As Batman says at the climax of the film, “We both looked into the abyss, but you blinked.” Owlman is the ultimate Nihilist, he believes everything is pointless, including reality. This is why he wants to destroy it. Woods conveys a straight, near emotionless delivery that effectively aids the characterization.
Yes, Owlman wants to destroy reality. This is problem number two with the story. I can’t quite get behind villains who want to destroy all of reality, which also means they wish to destroy themselves. Part of the logic of the film is that every decision we make creates an alternate Earth where we made the opposite decision. This multiverse, however, has a point of origin: Earth Prime. It is the first Earth, the one all Earths are connected to. Thus, if it is destroyed, all of reality is destroyed. Therefore, the only decision of any consequence is the decision to destroy Earth Prime. It is the only action that has any meaning. I think this story just about gets away with this as a motivation. It is thought out and Owlman is portrayed this way to the very end, his last words before his plan fails and he dies being, “It doesn’t matter.”
Next problem, the Mafia. The Crime Syndicate is portrayed as a Mafia-like organization where the U.S. is divided into territories and trusted lieutenants become “made-men”, meaning they are given superpowers. This is an interesting concept, but the Mafia influence also translates to over-the-top Italian dialogue and accents. It seems strange to listen to Ultraman (the evil version of Superman) threaten Lex Luther with an Italian accent.
The Positive. Enough of the gripes. What works? The fun of the film, for me, was trying
to identify the characters. There are a lot of cameos in this one, my particular favorite being the Supers who bore a slight resemblance to The Marvel Family. Even though they were evil, they instantly became my favorite characters. I’ve hardly read any comics starring The Marvel Family, but I love them all the same. I can’t figure out why.
The most impressive part of this film? The fights! Seriously, these are some amazing, well-choreographed fights. You see the characters move into different positions and footing, reflecting actual fighting styles. These aren’t just blind punches and kicks, they are nuanced maneuvers. I especially loved when The Flash was fighting Johnny Quick and despite fighting each other at super speed, The Flash would also throw out quick punches at whatever villain he passed just to give his teammates a bit of help. Great care was given to analyze fighting styles for the different characters and utilize them in whatever way suited their powers. I give them high marks for this.
Batman. Batman is my favorite of the DC characters. Truly, my favorite super-hero. I usually think of him more as a mystery man since he has no super powers. He is just a man who is well-trained. The Batman in this film is inconsistently portrayed. At times, he has humor, at other times he is harsh and cold. It really seems as if two different takes on Batman were being presented, and I don’t think they meshed. This is a Batman who stole The Flash’s pretzel at the beginning of the film, and tricked Johnny Quick to sacrifice his life at the end. I can come up with all kinds of ways to justify these differences, but it would be just that: justification.
Overall, this was not one of my favorite DC animated stories. However, it is still quite good even if I wasn’t a big fan of it. Besides, DC Animated cannot hit perfection every time. And even though I didn’t care as much for this one, I am eager to see others. There was so much potential in this story, I’d love to see more.
So long as Kevin Conroy is Batman.