I’ve been looking forward to Justice League: Doom for quite some time. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the DC universe, as well as its animated films – they’ve easily been the best in the comic biz for the last two decades while providing some of the most influential stories for the characters in any medium. Adding to my excitement for the film was the revelation that (arguably) the top fan-favorite voice actors ever to play the main members of the League would all reprise their roles for Justice League: Doom. So naturally, with so many things going for the film it’s bound to be a disappointment right? On the contrary, Warner Bros. Animation keeps its streak alive and delivers one of its best efforts to date.
Justice League: Doom was the last work of a legend who was no stranger to the Justice League, and one of the animation and comic world’s best writers – Dwayne McDuffie, who was taken too soon last year when he passed away from heart failure. The general premise is adapted from the classic JLA comic story Tower of Babel, but only mildly adheres to the overall idea: Batman has been secretly compiling ways to take down his fellow League members in the event they ever go rogue, but the information unexpectedly gets into villainous hands. The villains, the JL members themselves, and even the overall evil plan’s execution have all been altered or completely changed in the movie adaptation. While the changes made in previous DC animated movies have seriously irked me, most of the changes in this particular film have all been made for the better.
The League consists of Superman (Tim Daly), Batman (everyone’s favorite Kevin Conroy), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion. Shiny!), The Flash (Michael “Lex Luthor” Rosenbaum), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly) and Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) with Cyborg (Bumper Robinson) as a new recruit wisely replacing Aquaman from the core lineup from Tower of Babel. Gone is main villain Ra’s Al Ghul, replaced with the lesser known Vandal Savage along with his completely revamped Legion of Doom roster, but still with the evil intentions of wiping out 2/3 of the population in order to trim the Earth’s fat after the JL is out of the way. With the players in place they are unleashed into a darker PG-13 world that is a bit more adult and definitely more violent than any of the TV incarnations.
The animation and character designs in Justice League: Doom are superb and are probably my favorite look of the characters in any of their animated versions. Not too bulky or over stylized and definitely not too creepy *ahem* All-Star Superman *ahem*. The animation is reliably beautiful as we have come to expect from DC animation, and should unquestionably be viewed in high-definition on your appropriate viewing device. There are some pretty spectacular sequences, including the simultaneous fall of the JL members in different locations that are very artistically executed. And what can I say about the voice acting other than it’s just an absolute joy? Having the old veterans back in their respective roles is a fan’s dream, and the long campaigned-for Whedon-tatstic addition of Nathan Fillion reprising the role of Green Lantern (but for the first time in a Justice League movie) is the icing on the cake. These talented actors embody these roles and I don’t know if I’ll ever truly accept anyone else in them now that this series of films has brought them back and solidified them in all our minds.
Most of my complaints about Justice League: Doom stem from the story, particularly how little time they spent building on the mistrust generated from Batman’s “betrayal.” The question of whether Batman could be trusted, and whether or not he did this intentionally, could have added some incredibly tense scenes as he tried to clear his name while dealing with the attack. Instead, they basically swept it under the rug until the very end, and even when they decide to really discuss it on The Watchtower in the film’s epilogue it all ends up wrapped in a neat happy bow and not nearly as ambiguously dark as the source material’s ending. In addition, the casual fans will probably find it pretty odd that what is in essence a Legion of Doom origin movie doesn’t contain any of the main arch-villains – no Lex Luthor, Joker, Sinestro, etc. I understand the source material didn’t include these characters either and they have been used in previous JL movies but that seems like one of the things that would have been perfect to change since they already were making massive alterations.
This movie has it all for DC and comic book nerds alike, especially if you ever enjoyed watching the Justice League cartoons growing up and would like to see something a bit more complex and adult. Each league member is treated extremely well and given great moments to shine that are true to each character’s long history. This is a can’t miss film with its fast-paced, beautifully animated action scenes, intriguing plotline and one of the most perfectly cast voice-acting ensembles whose performances will completely pull you into the story and never let you go. Justice League: Doom sets the bar for Warner Bros. and DC Animation even higher, and the fans are the ones that benefit as they continually top themselves over and again.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10