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You had me at ‘parallel dimension': A review of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Confession time: I’ve always had a soft spot for the whole alternate universe concept vis a vis superheroes. The idea of folks like Superman having completely different adventures — maybe even being completely different people! — just thrilled me as a young comic book collector for reasons I can’t really quite to explain (although the cynic in me might say it might have had something to do with the fact that these stories were allowed the grace of an actual ending). Whatever the reason, imaginary stories, parallel worlds, alternate universes, Earths 1-52, I loved em all. As a kid my big addiction was trying to get a complete run of the first run of Marvel’s “What If?” series (it wasn’t that hard).

So when Warner Brothers announced that their next straight-to-DVD animated film was going to be titled Crisis on Two Earths I acted a bit like Hugh Herbert. On the other hand, the company’s last offering, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, was abysmal, and left a bad taste in my mouth for days. Would this new film run along similar lines? Was I foolish to get my hopes up?

I needn’t have worried. Crisis on Two Earths is a fun, action-packed superhero cartoon. It’s not particularly deep or thoughtful (the two-part Justice League cartoon that’s on the second disc offers more in the way of character development and philosophical insight), but it’s solidly written (by Dwayne McDuffie), animated, acted and otherwise produced. I wasn’t in thrall to it, but I didn’t feel my time was being wasted either (and these days that’s a big compliment as far as I’m concerned). It’s certainly one of the more entertaining DC movies I’ve watched.

The story starts when the Lex Luthor from an alternate reality (or Earth 3 as we DC nerds know it) shows up in the “main” DC world asking for help from Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the gang (see the image at the top of this post). His problem? On his world, the Justice League’s counterparts, known as the Crime Syndicate, are kicking ass and taking names, with only the heroic Luthor (up being down on this planet, you see) being barely able to keep the peace. What’s more, the Syndicate is putting together an ultimate weapon that would make the threat of nuclear weapons (the world’s only threat against them at this point) useless.

Crime Syndicate

Crime Syndicate

From there it’s basically a mosaic of well-choreographed fight scenes, interspersed with cameos from some of the lesser stars in DC’s roster. A lot of those kinds of guest appearances annoy me to a degree in the sense that I always get the feeling that DC is trying way too hard to convince me that their characters are really, really awesome, even when they’re not — i.e. “Look, Aquaman’s beating up the evil Marvel family even though he’s much weaker than they are! Isn’t he great? Why aren’t you reading more Aquaman comics?” (I confess I did like seeing who ended up as the President, though).

Still, there’s a lot of nice touches here. I liked, for example, how Superman’s counterpart, Ultraman, acted like a big goombah — Ray Liotta meets Charles Atlas. I also enjoyed how Superwoman suggested all the kink laden in Wonder Woman’s DNA without ever becoming too suggestive.

The most interesting character of them all was easily Owlman — a psychotic version of Batman voiced very nicely by James Woods — which is not surprising, considering they spend most of the time focusing on him. He’s clearly the big villain of the film, so it won’t be too surprising when I say the whole film comes down to him and the Caped Crusader battling it out for the safety of the entire multiverse. As a result, a lot of the other characters — Green Lantern, the Flash — are given short shrift, but Owlman’s such an entertaining bad guy I really didn’t mind.

The only serious problem I had was with the dreary subplot involving the Martian Manhunter wooing the President’s daughter. It didn’t do anything to further the plot, kept grinding the movie down to a near-halt and only serves to underscore how much of a third banana J’onn J’onzz is, since he doesn’t actually help the rest of the League at all, except to provide a little deus ex machina at the end.

Story continues below

The Spectre

The Spectre

The DVD comes with a few extras that are worth noting, the main one being a short starring The Spectre. Written by Steve Niles, the cartoon sports an anime-heavy style quite different from Crisis‘ sleek, streamlined look, with a 70s setting that feels straight out of Boogie Nights, bell bottoms and all. I’ve never been a big Spectre fan — I’ve always thought he was far too powerful and aloof to be interesting — and this short really didn’t do anything to change my mind. It’s stylish, but bubble-headed and obvious — there’s no real mystery surrounding the plot, despite the pretense of one.

The DVD also boasts a preview of the next DC film, Under the Red Hood, which, I’m sorry, looks godawful, and a documentary of sorts titled “DCU: The New World,” wherein Dan Didio, Geoff Johns, Paul Levitz and a bunch of other folks talk about how gobsmackingly awesome Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis were. Since I absolutely loathe both of those comics and consider them to be responsible for a host of bad decisions that currently plague the comics industry, I don’t think I have to offer too much of my opinion for you to glean my feelings toward this pompous bit of fluffery. (I will note, however, that the most amazing thing about the doc is how they never once talk about the plot to either series, so that a newcomer could watch the thing and still not have the slightest idea what either comic is about.)

Still, it wasn’t enough to dampen my enjoyment of Crisis on Two Earths. It remains a smart, solid film that DC fans in particular are going to get a kick out of. Especially if you’ve got a thing for that whole “alternate universe” booshwah.

The Flash

The Flash



Is this the DVD where one of the extras includes a lengthy discussion of the concept of parallel universes? If so, I caught that section at least one day when my LCS had it playing.

Talk about belaboring the obvious… good lord. It’s 2010, folks, the concept of parallel worlds is pretty much taken for granted by the general public, let alone the likely audience for this DVD.

The fact that they same dvd (if I’m correct) also included “a documentary of sorts titled “DCU: The New World,” wherein… folks talk about how gobsmackingly awesome Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis were” suggests that they were seriously desperate to pad out this thing.

Next time, guys, just fill up the disc with episodes of JLA or something.

Other then James Wood’s character of Owlman, the voice acting in this movie was horrible.

After reading this review, I’m convinced that I’m going to hate this movie, as I disagree with almost every opinion presented

I disagree with Upstart. While James Woods does turn in an awesome Owlman, the rest of the voice talent works quite well too. The only one lacking is Baldwin as Batman, but it’s hard not to directly compare him to Woods’ Owlman, so I’m not really sure how his performance would hold up on its own.

Gotta wait the thirty day Warner Bros.-imposed limit on DVDs from Netflix before I can see this.

I hate that stupid policy.

Wraith — there are two JL episodes on the second disc in addition to the rotten documentary. Why they didn’t have a doc delving into the DC’s history of different Earths and talking about Gardner Fox, etc., I don’t know. I would have preferred that, honestly.

Upstart — I dunno, I didn’t mind the other voices. Or, I should say, they didn’t leave any impression on me one way or the other. Woods was the only one that stood out.

What are the 2 JL episodes? JLU episodes? Are they “The Justice Lords” episodes?

They should be.

Also, Batman : B&TB did an awesome Owlman crossover last season where Batman teamed up with Earth 2’s Red Hood.

Chris — yeah, now there’s a fine idea. So much of the DCU history revolves around alternate earths and time crises; plenty to talk about.

Squashua — Yeah, it’s the “Justice Lords” episodes.

Then that is pretty damn cool / totally appropriate. Kudos.

I guess I’ll do what I always do… Rent this from the library and see if it’s actually any good. That’s what I’ve done since liking portions of Gotham Knight, but wishing I hadn’t actually spent money on it. Wonder Woman was pretty decent, but again not worth buying, GL: First Flight was weak, and Public Enemies was absymal.

Even if the movie is good, I fully expect Billy Baldwin to suck as Batman. Why the hell don’t they just use Kevin Conroy every freakin’ time?? There’s no better Batman, and there never will be. Likewise, why go with anyone other than Clancy Brown as Luthor? Either Tim Daly or George Newbern as Supes (they were both good) just makes sense too.

If I do enjoy it, I probably still won’t buy it just because of the voice casting. No Conroy, no Brown: NO SALE.

Squashua, don’t expect the extras if you wait for it from Netflix. This stupid new policy they have with WB also apparently means “rental only” discs with no bonuses. I just got “The Invention of Lying” from them yesterday and there were absolutely no extra features. Don’t know if this will extend to all WB videos but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was nothing but the movie. It’s a stupid policy from WB that’s never going to compel me to pay $20 for any single movie when I can wait 4-6 months and get it cheaper (or even better, used and cheaper yet) but corporate greed has reared its ugly head.

Shaun — (btw, it’s not often that I find people that spell Shaun the same way) I totally agree about the voice acting, especially with Conroy. I’ll watch it to give it a fair shot, but I’m willing to bet the justice lords episodes end up being far superior. It’s kind of weird how they seem to have lost the magic from the JL/JLU era.

The voice acting took some getting used to. James Wood was excellent though. Martian Manhunter was great! When will he get a film? Such a cool character.

Also, I feel that DC animation is running out of ideas for action sequences. How about stepping up the game some more? Fight scenes are always fun to watch, but they’ve got to get more creative.

Will the SPECTRE short film be available on the single disc edition or only on the 2 disc special edition?

“… how gobsmackingly awesome Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis were. Since I absolutely loathe both of those comics and consider them to be responsible for a host of bad decisions that currently plague the comics industry,”
Could not agree more.

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. This little film is very enjoyable, without ever rising quite to the level that the old DCAU Justice League series did. Although, since the story was created to be used in the animated Justice League continuity, as a bridge between JL and JLU, you can sort of peek behind the surface adjustments they made and see how this would have worked in that context.

There’s an awesome line towards the end from Batman to Owlman, if you haven’t seen it yet, I’ll leave you discover it yourself. But as awesome a line as it is, I can’t help thinking it would have been 10 times more awesome if spoken by Kevin Conroy.

I like the review, but have a big problem with these comments:

“A lot of those kinds of guest appearances annoy me to a degree in the sense that I always get the feeling that DC is trying way too hard to convince me that their characters are really, really awesome, even when they’re not — i.e. “Look, Aquaman’s beating up the evil Marvel family even though he’s much weaker than they are! Isn’t he great? Why aren’t you reading more Aquaman comics?””

“The only serious problem I had was with the dreary subplot involving the Martian Manhunter wooing the President’s daughter. It didn’t do anything to further the plot, kept grinding the movie down to a near-halt and only serves to underscore how much of a third banana J’onn J’onzz is, since he doesn’t actually help the rest of the League at all, except to provide a little deus ex machina at the end.”

The DC Universe is not just the “Big 5″. I for one am getting tired of Batman and Superman being considered the “only” interesting characters. I love them both as characters, but I also feel that Aquaman and Martian Manhunter are just as good. They are not weak characters. Neither are Wonder Woman, Firestorm, Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, Black Lightning, Black Canary, Red Tornado, and a whole bunch more.

Of course, it‘s just the reviewer’s opinion, but it’s a pretty limited world view if only the most popular characters are considered “important”. The “biggest” are the best. Why does being “the third banana” need to be an insult? You don’t like the character fine, but you don’t have to be an ass about it

Another thing I find with this – why do some people need their “action” stories have to be all action, no story. Transformers 2 was just action – no substance whatsoever. Sure, it was popular, but it was horrible. Without the sub plots – J’onn’s for example – they are not actually characters we can care about. Someone seeing the DC character’s for the first time can at least understand J’onn is the last of his entire race and what he has lost, and that he is not just a Superman clone. Superman was a baby when he lost his planet – J’onn lost his wife and daughter as well as everything else so he has to deal with that loss more that Clark ever had to.

Maybe I am just tired of mindless action, giving us a story with mindless characters we have no care for, and that’s what people want. We have come to a point where “popcorn” entertainment has no soul. And that’s what everyone likes. It’s just sad…

I really liked this movie, and liked it more that they included some of the other very important DC characters in it. I like the entire DCU, good and bad, and it’s great when the ones who are not considered “icons” are showcased. Adding them to this movie is about showcasing them as well, not trying to trick anyone into liking them. And Aquaman is tough – people just refuse to see that.

I would suggest the ostrander/mandrake series of The Spectre. I never found the character interesting prior (or since) until I read their stellar series. It is a great read, bringing an overly powerful and perceivably aloof character a much needed dose of humanity…

“Shaun — (btw, it’s not often that I find people that spell Shaun the same way)”

Well, there’s former teen idol Shaun Cassidy. :-)

True though… Sean and Shawn seem to be the most common spellings. Of course, I’ve found a ton more over the past few years. Baseball player Chone Figgins, fomer baseball player Shawon Dunston, I think I saw Shonn somewhere recently (maybe another athlete?), and least a couple of others that currently escape me.

Also agreed that the I’ll probably find the Justice Lords on the JL animated series more enjoyable. I’ll give it a shot (via library) anyhow, but for me the bar is now pretty low on these DCUA movies. If this was meant as bridge between the JL and JLU series, I think reuniting the original cast (and using the characters from the original series) might’ve made more sense.

I’m being closed-minded, I know, but I want to hear Conroy when I see animated Bats, Clancy Brown when I see Luthor, Carl Lumbly when I see Martian Manhunter, etc. Still, for free there’s nothing to lose.

Ya know, sometimes I’m embarrassed to call myself a comic fan, just because it associates me with some of the biggest idiots around.

To say that the last few DC movies were “abysmal, not worth buying, etc” is sheer idiocy. I don’t know what you people watch, that serves as an alternative and/or standard (World War Hulk? surely you gest), but WW, GL, S&B: PE, were all great movies. I watched them numerous times each, and I’m sure that JL:C2E will be just as great.

Anyways, I leave you all to your rants.

I actually enjoy them NOT using Conroy and Daly. Even though Conroy is a crucial element to my favorite incarnatino of Batman, I feel like he should stay with the particular continuity he’s established in, cause its fun to see how another actor tackles the character. Personally, and I’m probably the only one, I loved Jeremy Sisto’s Batman in New Frontier (that and Wonder Woman are the only DC-Direct movies that I’d watch more than once), and was excited to hear that Mark Harmon would be Superman in COTE.

The concept of “Parallel Earths” might be known better today, but I rarely see it explained, much less its implications considered. Think about it: if you found out that another planet is discovered to be EXACTLY like Earth, even down to having the same people, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you go “what kind of game is God playing?” Or maybe, “If there’s more than one me, which one is the REAL one?” or “If everything repeats almost the same, then is my fate already decided??”

Yet, you rarely if EVER see that in comics. Instead the characters go “Huh, isn’t that curious” and then (after a superfight, of course) just go back to their lives as if they hadn’t learned a major secret of existence itself. Heroes with tragic origins -like Batman or Superman- should in particular question the meaning of all this.
I haven’t seen this video, but I expect it to do the same thing (it would be interesting if they at least questioned things for a minute.)

Aquaman is awesome and the whole reason I’ll be buying this DVD! He’s been around longer than Flash or Green Lantern and he’s definitely more of a household name than either of those guys. He may have gotten a bad rap, but how is he a lesser star…? Than Martian Manhunter? Really?

Uh…you drop a “Hugh Herbert” reference, then call _other_ people pompous? Amazing.

You tell em samurai. I loved public enemies along with GL first flight. Haven’t seen WW but can’t wait to and I’m sure this new jl one will be good too!

I don’t know…I must be watching completely different DC Animated movies. I liked New Frontier. I liked Green Lantern. I’ve never been a Wonder Woman fan, so I have not seen that one. Liked Public Enemies. And, I liked Crisis on Two Earths. I’ll give you that William Baldwin’s Batman didn’t have as much growl as the previous voices for the character, but this whole story was flipped. We were looking at the League as the alternate reality, not so much the Syndicate. I kinda liked that. I’m sure that there are a million reasons why the voices that we’re used to weren’t available…

I’m no fan of Jason Todd, but Under The Red Hood interests me, if only for Bruce Greenwood’s interperetation of Batman. He may come as close as Bader to Conroy’s signature voice…Under The Red Hood could be the next Mask of the Phantasm. I didn’t particularly care for the story, but it was…interesting…

What, no Power Ring in the Crime Syndicate?

Greg R — That doesn’t make me pompous. That makes me a nerd.

mdk — No, he’s there. He just doesn’t have much to do.

Crisis was ok, but not great. Firstly, it wasn’t Kevin Conroy voicing Batman, which automatically takes off points. And why did Batman look older, with those face lines, than anybody else in the League? Secondly, the lack of League members confused me. At the end of Justice League Unlimited, we had a slew of Leaguers. At the very least, where was Hawkgirl? There was a parallel Hawkgirl, so where was ours?

President _____ was great, but his daughter…ugh, that was unnecessary.

A quick question: who was the other “Made Man” that fought alongside (who i’m guessing) parallel Capt. Marvel and Capt. Marvel Junior? If that was parallel Mary Marvel…hahaha, too absurd.

It was “Uncle Marvel”.

I love the DC animated releases – way better than dismal Marvel (and I say that with the utmost respect). So far all of the DC animated series have been really good with the slight exception of Green Lantern, which wasn’t really bad – but could have been done a tad bit better! I can’t wait to go and purchase this release from Target (way cheaper than Bestbuy) nad has a few more amenities…sometimes! I also purchase Planet Hulk last week. On a scale of 1thru 10 – I will give this feature a 7. They totally deviated from the original story and I was miffed to say the very least! DC is soooo way ahead with there features than Marvel (What happened to Avi Arad?) and fans are letting DC know because they are purchasing! I really hated the journalist here that spoke so negatively about this new release. I felt as though he was reviewing the lastest Sade album (Solidier of Love, which is GREAT mind you!) DC continue to keep the animation flowing and we fans will support you – but please don’t take us for granted because as you know fans will turn on you…”heck, ask team at Marvel or better yet, ask, Stan Lee”!!!

Just so you you know, there aren’t any Aquaman comics that you can buy right now and there haven’t been for a long time. He’s been dead in the comic universe for ages and while he was resurected in Blackest Night as a black lantern he was only featured for 1 issue.

So while you might think the movie was telling you to go buy an Aquaman comic in couldn’t because there aren’t any. (And if you buy some old used Aquaman comic it’s not like DC makes any money off it.)

Sounds to me like you’re just too fixated on searching for cynisicsm and things to hate that you couldn’t just enjoy the celebration of a character that frankly isn’t represented enough. Lighten up man it’s only a movie.

I liked it, but there were some things that bugged me:

1. Lex Luthor, a genius, pronouncing “nuclear” as “nukyooler”. The voice director should have caught that.

2. The lack of Conroy. I’m sorry, but no Baldwin, least of all Billy, could replace Kevin Conroy.

3. J’onn J’onzz was essentially useless, and his sub-plot seemed to be a way to give him something to do.They could have scrapped him and used someone else.

4. At one point, Ultra Man punches Lex Luthor in the head. His unarmored, unprotected head. Now, I’m sorry, but if Superman punches you in the head, and he’s evil and doesn’t hold back, then your head will be gone. Just… Gone. They really should have had that punch be to the chest, or they might have considered that the genius Luthor would have some sort of head protection before fighting Ultra Man.

First of all, I completely agree that Kevin Conroy is a necessity for an effective and likeable Batman. William Baldwin simply does not have any of the edge or power that Conroy brings to the character. Instead William comes off as a rather dull, monotone Batman who sounds as if he should be running a library instead of striking fear into his enemies. I don’t understand why DC seems hellbent on ruining each of their iconic characters by replacing excellent voice talent with boring lifeless ones. DC has continually ruined other animated movies & DC: Universe Online by miscasting Adam Baldwin (no relation to any of the Baldwins) as Superman over the vastly superior Superman voice talents of George Newbern and Tim Daly. I like Adam Baldwin fine, but not as Superman. As for William Baldwin I can’t say I’ve seen any of his work before but I can say that he is no where near Kevin Conroy’s superior Batman. I mean, this is not rocket science people. How hard is it to keep using consistent voice actors and consistent animation styles throughout your entertainment medium. It is extremely distracting and truly detracts from the overall quality of these animated movies when the characters voices are lackluster shadows of what we’ve grown to know and love from years of faithfully watching the animated series. But I digress. The second issue I found with this film pertains to Owlman in comparison to Batman. Most of the other parallel universe “evil” superheroes mimicked their Justice League counterpart fairly well. However, in the case of Owlman, he seemed wildly superior to Batman. His suit amplifies his strength to Wonder Woman proportions, it auto-deploys a gas mask, it has claws, it was basically armor plated all over, and it has a metallic cape that grants the ability to glide (an ability that is inconsistent with Batman’s character for some reason). In other words, Owlman had all of Batman’s agility, fighting prowess, intelligence, and even batarangs of sorts, and yet he also had all these massive amplifications that dwarfed Batman. He was the only doppelganger that massively surpassed his Justice League counterpart. In fact, one could almost argue that this was the exact opposite case for Wonder Woman’s doppelganger named “Superwoman,” as she seemed to lack Wonder Woman’s unbreakable Rope of Truth, and her deflective wrist guards, thus making her inferior to the original. It can’t merely be stated that the Crime Syndicate world just has a better Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, and Martian Manhunter variant as this is never actually shown or insinuated (with respect to Owlman) in this movie. After all, the Justice League continually defeats Joker and Lex Luthor in their own world. Simply give them the desire to kill and swap their roles of good guy and bad guy and you would pretty much have the same scenario. I guess my point is, that they made Batman pretty much terrible in this whole movie. He wasn’t present for a good portion, had a terrible voice actor, and overall would have most likely been defeated by Owlman if not for Owlman’s own bomb and parallel universe traversal system. So basically Batman had to use Owlman to beat Owlman. Honestly, I was more impressed with Owlman and thought he was more intriguing to watch during most of the fight scenes, which simply put, should not happen in a Justice League movie. As stated by others, James Woods was one of the only commendable voice talents in this whole movie.

On a scale of 1-10, I would give it an 8.. my only complaint was that Superman got beat up a lot..there is no way super woman or captain super should have beat him up like owl man was able to go toe to toe with wonder woman? Get out of was good tho..I just would have liked a little more action

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