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COVERAGE - ANIMATED FEATURE REVIEW

Justice League: Doom
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: February 28th, 2012

Synopsis: The Justice League consists of Earth's finest super heroes and protectors of humanity. But in the mind of the Dark Knight, it contains potentially the most dangerous people on the planet. Over time, Batman has compiled top-secret contingency plans should any of them go rogue. When these files are stolen by a rising group of super-villains, the Justice League embarks on a collision course that will test the very fabric of its alliance. With a stellar voice cast headed by Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly and Nathan Fillion, this thrilling DC Universe Animated Original adventure will challenge what you know about the Justice League as well as redefine what heroes are made of!



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Justice League: Doom Feature Review
By James Harvey

Justice League: Doom, the latest entry in the ongoing DC Universe Animated Original Movie line, should please viewers looking for an action-packed thriller, though those looking for something a little deeper - along the lines of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths or Batman: Under the Red Hood - may walk away disappointed. An enjoyable story (though sometimes hokey) is married with some really spectacular (though very anime-flavored) animation to create a fun, light diversion of super-heroics. There's not much below the surface here, but by no means is that a deal-breaker.

The story is one well-known by DC Comics fans. The Justice League consists of Earth's finest super heroes, the protectors of the planet. And while Justice Leaguer Batman may agree with that sentiment, he also sees the League as most potentially dangerous people in the world. Over time, Batman has compiled top-secret contingency plans should any of them go rogue. When these files end up stolen by Vandal Savage and his Legion of Doom, the Justice League finds themselves under attack both physically and mentally. Can the Justice League overcome the deadly Legion of Doom and stop Vandal Savage's notorious earth-shattering plans for global domination? Well, I think you know the answer to that...

First off, I love the idea this film tackles - that there should be fail-safes should any of the most powerful super-heroes ever go rogue. Very loosely based on the classic JLA: Tower of Babel storyline by Mark Wait and Howard Porter, the premise raises some great ethical questions. It makes perfect sense to have the plan, and even more sense for Batman to be the guy behind it all. I feel the idea allows for plenty of character analysis and exploration. And, thankfully, the film does spend a good third of its running time dealing with just that as we watch the Justice League systematically taken apart piece by piece. In fact, the entire sequence, where each Leaguer becomes ensnared in specifically designed traps, is simply incredible. The sense of dread the movie creates, an ambiance of defeat, is pitch-perfect. Whether it's the bomb bolted through Flash's wrist, or Martian Manhunter enveloped in flames, it's powerful stuff.

That being said, and given the running time of the movie, I can understand why the film doesn't do more with fallout of this plot and the sense of betrayal that every member must be feeling. By the time the League discovers the duplicity, we're thrust into the third act and not given a lot of time to dwell on it. The fallout of the betrayal is done as more of an afterthought in the film's epilogue, with only a few moments spent talking about it before the credits roll.

But does that make for a bad movie? Not at all. It's still an enjoyable Justice League adventure with plenty of great action and very slick animation. In fact, the animation style definitely lends itself more to an anime look, something that may turn off some fans. Personally, I thought it brought a great, exuberant spin to the film. It's definitely a solid super-hero thriller that definitely pleases.

And while the movie may not explore the ramifications of the contingency plans as much as it should, every other aspect is handled very well. Each of the big baddies are given ample screen time with at least one or two great moments in the film. Even the Royal Flush Gang get a nice showcase at the beginning of the movie. Each fight is well choreographed and handled superbly, and usually resolved in a novel fashion (save for the predictable way Batman overcomes Bane's fisticuffs). The writing allows for some clever use of super-powers here, resulting in some fight sequences that stay pretty exciting for the duration. Each hero is also clearly defined by their action, so any newcomer shouldn't feel lost at all, and every hero acts as you'd expect them to. The film's overall plot is also enjoyable, although it does feel a bit slight as everything seems wrapped up in quite a hurry once the heroes save the day.

If the writing slips anywhere, it's really in two spots. The aforementioned lack of fallout from the contingency plans devised by Batman, and the somewhat hokey presentations of the villains while at the Hall of Doom. While there are a couple really nice characters moments to be found during the scenes with Vandal Savage and his Legion of Doom, overall the whole handling of it seemed slightly cheesy. There's one moment in particular, when they're all laughing and sipping champagne in celebration of their victory over the League, that comes off as very kid-ish. It doesn't last long for long, Vandal Savage quickly moves ahead and reveals his genuinely mad plan for world domination, but it's just an odd beat. I get what writer Dwayne McDuffie was aiming for in that scene, but I think it misses the mark. When these dastardly foes are facing off against their heroic counterparts, they are genuinely imposing and a threat. But at the Legion of Doom? Not so much. That said, these end up being minor detractors in an overall satisfying story.

Surprisingly, for such an immense cast, no character is given the shaft here. McDuffie's smart script work definitely shows in the dialogue, particularly that of the villains. Through just a few lines of dialogue, we're given an idea of exactly who these opponents are and why each was chosen to face off against the League. Director Lauren Montgomery handles everything, be it a quiet moment between Batman and Alfred or a full-out battle in the Legion of Doom, with perfect aplomb. Every choice she makes is bang-on, elevating the script. Naturally, the voice cast is flat-out fantastic. It's a solid mix of fan-favorites - such as Kevin Conroy as Batman and Tim Daly as Superman - mixed with new additions, including Bumper Robinson as Cyborg and Nathan Fillion back as Hal Jordan (a role he last played in Green Lantern: Emerald Knights). Suffice it to say, Fillion is absolute perfect casting as Jordan. Time and time again, you can always count on these animated features to be perfectly cast each and every time.

Also to note, Christopher Drake returns to provide the score, and he again manages to knock it out of the park. Drake is a great fit for these animated films and it's a pleasure to see him back time and time again.

I can understand the disappointment that some viewers will garner from this movie. At the end of the day, it's a simple story that goes from Point A to Point B with no deterrents whatsoever. There are no real shocks or twists, no real study on the implications of Batman's contingency plans. It's an action story that Justice League fans will enjoy, but it does lack the depth of McDuffie's previous Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths effort, and that in itself I can see where disappointment would arise. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths remains one of the best animated features from the DC Comics stable, and this features fall short of that, and perhaps lower than the expectations fans have for McDuffie's work. Still, the film is a top-notch thriller that plays out quite well, even with its noted short fallings. While it does feel like an extended episode of Justice League, the end result is still the same a great Justice League nail-biter that all fans should get a kick out of. While I'd say casual viewers may want to rent it beforehand, fans should definitely write down Justice League: Doom as Recommended to own.

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