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Friday, 6 November 2015

Justice League: Doom

Justice League: Doom

One day, I'll run out of DC Animated films to review, and the next time I'm stuck and need something quick and easy to review I'll just be left without anything to do. What a dark day that'll be.

This is a slightly older one, from 2012, before the DC Animated flicks started to go downhill, and it's almost a surprise that I haven't gotten to this one yet: It is, after all, an adaptation of what many people say is one of the best Justice League storylines, the three issue JLA: Tower of Babel as written by Mark Waid.

Under the direction of Vandal Savage and utilising contingency plans created by Batman, the Legion of Doom - a group of supervillains with vendettas against the individual Justice League - sets out to take down the League with the stolen plans. As all six are taken out one by one, Vandal turns his attention to his own plan: To wipe out half the world with a solar flare so that he can rule over the rest.

The League. Except Martian Manhunter.

On a mechanical level, it's a pretty strong film: It's short, coming in at a little over an hour, but well-paced, and the film's main attraction is clearly meant to be seeing what Batman's plan to take out each Justice League member is. The music is good, even if it's nothing to write home about; the animation is simple but excellent; and the voice acting is astounding. 

Old standbys Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Nathan Fillion, and Michael Rosenbaum are back as Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and the Flash respectively, and they all do excellent jobs - Daly especially manages to do an even better Superman performance than usual, characterising him as quiet, gentle, but also somewhat notably alien in how calm he is.

As far as other voice actors go, Robin Atkin Downes throws his all into a minute long scene as Alfred, providing one of the biggest comic relief moments of the film all while talking in what is very nearly a dry monotone; and Claudia Black puts on an excellent performance as Cheetah, Wonder Woman's rival in the Legion of Doom.

Vandal Savage, a neanderthal with style.

On a plotting level, they certainly managed to make the plans to take out each team member a bit more elegant than they were in the comics - usually, at least. Sometimes they're minor: Instead of having his skin converted into magnesium, the Martian Manhunter is instead poisoned with a substance that makes him sweat magnesium, and then set on fire. Sometimes they're more major: Instead of Superman's skin being turned transparent so that he overloads on solar radiation, he's just shot with a kryptonite bullet. 

The one plan that stands out as being a little overly complicated is the plan to take out Green Lantern, but even that is better than the comics one. In the comics, he's hypnotised into using his ring to blind himself; in the film, he is injected with a synthetic version of the Scarecrow toxin and then led to believe that he let someone die, rendering his ring useless. The film version is definitely more elegant than the comics version, but it could have been simplified down to 'he's injected with a fear toxin' and that would have worked fine.

I'm nitpicking a bit, but there's not a huge amount to criticise about this film. It's very clearly pitched as something quick and fun to be enjoyed by people who are already fans of the Justice League, so it doesn't waste time on exposition, or establishing character, or any of those other things - it jumps straight into the plot and keeps the action relatively constant for the entire film, and while that might be quite jarring for people who don't know the characters (insofar as anyone doesn't know the Justice League), those people clearly aren't its intended audience.

I don't even know.

Where it falls down a little in that regard is that it also doesn't much bother introducing the villains: Vandal Savage gets a little bit of an introduction, but even I, a comics fan, was somewhat at sea when dealing with the likes of Ma'alefa'ak (who I'd never heard of before) or Star Sapphire (who I'd heard of before, but who the film makes several backstory references regarding that I had to look up).

(The film does attempt to mitigate any problems with fans not recognising characters by having the opening credits show everyone's names, abilities, and weaknesses - but only for the heroes, who are more recognisable anyway.)

Still, this is a very strong film, and it's one that can be quickly downed without really thinking too much about it: I mean, it's only slightly longer than an episode of Game of Thrones, it doesn't represent a gigantic commitment as far as time goes. If DC can return to making animated films more like this one, they'd be back on the right track, as opposed to the extremely wrong track that is the majority of their New 52 film offerings. Bleck, the New 52.

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