Saturday, February 13, 2010

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray Review

The DC animated movies tend to be a bit of a no-brainer. We are so confident in the content and quality, Warner Brothers has to do little more than announce the release date and flash some pics, and we are there with our credit card at the ready. With a title like Crisis on Two Earths, I’d say that feeling is doubled! You say Justice League VS The Crime Syndicate (AKA Evil Justice League) and we’ll grin like 5 year olds waiting for ice cream and wait patiently for the goods to arrive.

There is a theory that every choice we make in life forms a new world. The alternate choice may be taken as well, creating a separate planet from our reality. Because of this, there are infinite numbers of Earths existing in parallel dimensions. On one such world, Lex Luthor is our last line of defense against super powered thugs who trample over society and threaten to attack at a moment’s notice if we even utter a word of resistance. Good Lex discovers the contemporary DC Universe and quickly devises a way to travel there to enlist the Justice League’s aid in overthrowing his world’s ultimate evil. This may seem like a clear cut battle for dominance, but evil comes in many forms… and one of the Crime Syndicate’s most devious and morally corrupt members has destructive plans of his own.

Crisis on Two Earths starts out with intense action right from the beginning. The violent nature of the imagery establishes, very early on, that the Crime Syndicate aren’t just thug versions of the Justice League. They are killers. With that, the stakes are set up and we follow Lex to the DCU we know and love, but his pleasant visit is cut short when the Syndicate arrives. Now the stakes are even greater, as knowledge of infinite worlds to conquer is too great a notion to pass up. The Crime Syndicate MUST BE STOPPED…and the Justice League will spend 75 minutes doing just that. The action is furious...and chaotic…and takes few breaks. I won’t say that these fight scenes are repetitive, but there does seem to be something missing. That WOW factor. We do get amusing diversions within, weather it be from The Flash firing off one liners as he takes down a foe, Wonder Woman crushing an opponent so furiously you’ll feel the crunch as she yells “SUBMIT”, or Batman at the top of his game overcoming any adversary, no matter how much stronger they may be. For a super fan, this is probably all you need. For a public that might be looking for a little more drama, the constant battle may leave you cold.

After watching the film, I’m left wondering what happened to their Go-To cast of voice actors? Your beloved crew has been replaced by an all star cast, and the difference is noticeable. William Baldwin lacks the steely resolve we’ve come to expect from Batman. Chris North almost achieves those familiar notes dripping with arrogance, but falls slightly short with his Lex Luthor. Mark Harmon comes the closest to scoring, but I fear his age may diminish the power we are meant to feel emanating from someone called Superman. This is all distracting to a degree; meaning that it will bother you if you let it, and I suppose I’m guilty of that, but having watched the DC animated universe for so long now, my standards are high!

Crisis on Two Earths presents you with a simple premise and doesn’t spend much time candy coating it. This is a battle for control of two planets. The ultimate beacon of humanity’s hope versus a despicable evil hell bent on supreme power over all they see, at all cost. The fights convey this epic struggle, but in the end, I was looking for a little more. Even a brief side story with Martian Manhunter seems oddly placed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Crisis is a failed attempt, but the story itself could use some work. After all, if I just wanted to watch things blow up, I can go to the movies!

Oddly, there is a secret weapon on this Blu-ray! For all the conflicted feelings I had with the feature, the animated Spectre short had me practically applauding from my couch (which is dorky enough considering I live alone!) This is a gritty little tale of murder run through a Quentin Tarantino 70’s grindhouse machine and when it comes out the other end, we’ve got gold. This tale is shockingly violent, unexpectedly creepy and so strong in its imagery and story telling despite its quickness, that I almost had a better time watching it than the feature presentation!!

DCU: The New World interviews EVERYONE involved in the dark turn DC comics made from the start of Identity Crisis. These were the architects responsible for years of torment for beloved characters known the world over, so of course, it was a huge risk to even attempt what they did. Luckily, the writing was so amazing, it all worked out in the end! Crisis on Two Earths may only mirror this to a very small degree, but the drama rolled out there shows its roots very clearly, and this little documentary explains it all. You’ll also get a first look at the next feature, Batman: Under the Red Hood, which boasts that it is the most dramatic and dark undertaking we’ve seen to date. Remember when Robin was beaten to death by the Joker? Want to see it? I’m positive we won’t get every gory detail, but it’s in there! Under the Red Hood is the story of what happens next. With an amazing cast including Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing and Bruce Greenwood as Batman, I’m already sold.

WB really stuffed this one to the gills!! Also included are 4 bonus Justice League episodes, the pilot for the original Wonder Woman TV show, the un-aired Aquaman pilot and the “first look” shorts for 3 other DC animated films. Do I need to say it? This is a must buy. For as much as I moan that something is missing, its still mind blowing, non stop super hero on super villain action. What more could you ask for?

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is available on DVD and Blu-ray on February 23, 2010!

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