Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery
A popular science fiction trope is heroes who are evil, villains who are good. From alternate universe to just same universe doubles, this phenomenon appears again and again, often involving goatees. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths continues the tradition, by utilizing the long-lived Crime Syndicate that has survived several decades of DC comics reboots and remixes. Instead of getting caught up in having characters face their dark side, the evil twins are just the setting for a tale of good versus evil that accelerates into the ultimate stakes, thanks to Owlman’s secret plan.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an Easter egg hunter’s dream. There are so many alternate versions of DC Comics characters that you need a flow chart to figure them all out. Add to that several of them being not only evil mirrors, but references to other non-comic characters and you will spend each viewing discovering something new. It’s one of the better DC animated films, getting the characters correct The setting in the alternate Earth allows for much more crazy stuff
We open with Lex Luthor and the Joker breaking into a secure vault. But hey, Joker is called Jester, and the two are breaking into the vault of murderous criminals. One sacrifice later, and Lex Luthor is the only hero left in a world of villains. So he warps away to our world (I’ll be referring to the DC Universe as our world, because it’s just easier), with is stuffed full of heroes like an overripe pinata.
On their planet, the Crime Syndicate is free to do whatever they want, due to a combination of fear and bribes. They only don’t kill the leaders and take over the planet due to fears of retaliatory nuclear strikes. But they’re working on their own bomb that can potentially destroy anywhere on the planet, which will tip the balance in their favor. Only a few brave souls stand up to them, as most who try don’t live to stand again.
On our Earth, Lex Luthor pleads for help with the Justice League, who feel they can’t just sit idly by while millions of people are threatened by murderous thugs. Except for Batman, who is content to stay to watch over Earth and help finish the Justice League’s space headquarters.
Things immediately hit the fan, the heroes warping into the villains looting the Justice League’s base, and leading to a fight the heroes aren’t prepared for yet. This sets up the ton of the heroes being constant underdogs, because in this universe, they are facing their equals who have intrenched power structures and numerous super-powered goons backing them up.
The villains are more than just bad counterparts, they have their own personalities. Ultraman (the evil Superman) is every Sopranos character on steroids. Owlman is cold, calculating, and dangerous, Batman with everything turned up to 11 with all morals discarded. Superwoman (evil Wonder Woman) literally calls herself a murdering psychopath and she’s right. Members who get the shaft include Johnny Quick (Flash), who is Australian and that’s all we know about him. Power Ring (Green Lantern) is content to sit back and observe before striking, which often means he does nothing. J’edd J’arkus gets killed off a few seconds after he appears, which leaves Martian Manhunter free to go off and have a romance story as he guards the president’s daughter, one of the few people who speak out against the villains.
Owlman and Superwoman are the standouts. James Woods gives an excellent performance, Owlman continually cold and menacing, never having emotional outbursts, but threatening through simple language and threats. His polar opposite (and lover) is Superwoman (Gina Torres), who is nothing but emotions and thrill seeking while delivering pain and terror. Despite the extremes, the two make a perfect team, and are both willing to put Owlman’s plan into play and threaten all creation. Owlman arrives to his plot by twisted logic and reason, while Superwoman just thinks it will be fun.
The heroes have their moments as well. Flash is sarcastic and filled with bad luck (running right out a wall to a huge drop!), and Wonder Woman is all too eager to punch her way through the villains and scores a new ride. Superman is 100% Superman, even apologizing to the alternate President Wilson after he chews them out. Batman’s reluctance to get involved turns into making sure he foils the ultimate scheme, and protects his friends while doing so. Martian Manhunter gets the biggest personality role, allowing him to play protector while highlighting his powers for those unfamiliar with him. The biggest missing character is Cyborg (especially odd as DC will push him hard as a major character a year or so later), who isn’t even among the second string group Batman recruits. There’s always next movie…
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths was originally conceived as a story that worked between the animated Justice League series and Justice League Unlimited. Some elements of this still remain, but the tale stands enough on its own without feeling like you’ve missed out on hours and hours of back story. Things just come together beautifully, and results in one of the stronger DC animated films. So track it down before your evil twin takes your copy!
Rated 8/10 (logo, acid spray, Harley, martian, fighting femme, not from Breaking Bad, alarms, Martina baby)
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