What if Superman decided to kill the very people he’d sworn to protect? What would happen if Wonder Woman snapped or if Flash starting robbing banks?
These are questions that Batman has always asked himself as the only non-super powered member of the Justice League of America, questions that lead him to create a series of contingency plans should one or more of his allies ever go rogue. When those plans get stolen in a daring plot orchestrated by a new group of super villains, the Justice League is forced into one of the most tumultuous and dangerous situations it has ever faced, with each hero’s fears and weaknesses being exploited to the fullest, incapacitating them and leaving the earth to fall prey to the teams’ powerful group of new enemies.
This premise for Warner Bros’ newest direct to video animated feature release is an understandably explosive one and allows fans to see one of the most powerful teams of superheroes fall apart at their very foundation – a harrowing and intense experience indeed. I personally loved how emotionally resonant each character becomes, even the traditionally 2-dimensional Superman (excuse the pun of course), when forced to face their certain doom. The situations each hero is forced into are heart-poundingly thrilling, the machinations of the terrible plots so ingenious (I mean, Batman did create each contingency after all) that the normally infallible super beings show their inherent humanity (or Martian in the Manhunter’s case) with only Batman, the one non-powered member of the team, able to save them from his own traps.
Once again, Warner Bros’ high standard of animation production values becomes apparent, with smooth, gorgeously rendered motion and gloriously choreographed action scenes that drip with attention to detail and style. Speaking of style, I was actually fortunate enough to find several members of the production team on Deviant Art and hence had a sneaky inside view to the creative process behind the feature. What I really enjoyed seeing was the development from Mel Zwyer’s initial design sketches through to Phil Bourassa’s slick and perfectly considered final visualisations, it’s a working process that only makes you appreciate the level of work and dedication that goes into a piece like this even more. The character’s forms were well-considered and designed and the background design bolstered already high production values – this is a visually superior piece to many other Superhero-related animated features, especially in comparison to most of Marvel’s productions, despite its Disney ownership, so kudos goes to the production team for the level of excellence in this film.
JL:Doom’s story is paced beautifully and never seems tedious or drawn out, which is partly due to the excellent standard of Lauren Montgomery’s direction, especially in her choices of camera angles and timely cutting to help emphasise every nuance of each situation that the characters find themselves in. What really made the story interesting to me was observing how each hero’s complacency towards their evil counterparts/nemeses after having beaten them so many times before affects their judgement to such a degree that they pretty much get suckered into their respective traps, completely unaware of just how ingenious each plot truly was.
Adding to that is the voice cast, which just like Red Hood, was perfectly chosen and completely suited to each character. I was personally ecstatic that Kevin Conroy reprised his role as Batman, pretty much because Conroy will always be THE Batman voice to me (for those of you that are going “Huh?” Conroy voiced the Dark Knight in the acclaimed Batman animated series, as well as Bruce Wayne’s voice in Batman Beyond and again as Batman in both of the Arkham games.) Nathan Fillion, of Firefly fame, was also fantastic in his reprisal of Green Lantern’s voice, but overall, the entire cast delivered fantastic performances.
The flaws in the film were few and far between, with only minor continuity disparities and an unexplained plot point that didn’t quite reveal how the bad guys knew that Batman had compromising data on all of his allies and later how Bane does nothing with the knowledge of Batman’s true identity, which is a little odd. Like I said though, these issues are minor in the grand scheme of things which can be overlooked in comparison to the truly great whole that is Justice League: Doom. The final ‘Saving the Day’ sequence was especially memorable, with a scale of grandness one could expect from such an awesome team of superheroes. Let’s just say that I’m rather looking forward Superman vs. The Elite, which is WB’s next release due in June of this year and it’s set to be one to look out for, especially after the precedent set by its predecessors.
I have to mention the first fight scene between Wonder Woman and Cheetah, the choreography and technical skill evident will make you shed a tear of happiness. The sequence is just downright awesome, and watch how Cheetah careens through the air as Wonder Woman tosses her into a group of attackers – it’s pure magic I tell you!
To wrap up, JL: Doom is a sublime piece of animation and a fantastic adaptation of Mark Waid’s original comic version JLA: Tower of Babel that oozes style and professionalism in every facet of its production. Whether you’re a fan or not, I can highly recommend adding this film to your DVD shelf, alongside Under the Red Hood and Superman Batman: Apocalypse of course. Again, my one real gripe though is the DVD itself… With no special features in particular to mention besides a sneak peak at Superman vs. The Elite and the standard language and scene selection options, it’s not much to speak of. I WISH WB would add production art to the disks, because I’d be sitting and looking at that stuff for hours!
About the author:
Ray is a native Jo’burger that rebelled against his Southern heritage and took to reading comic books instead of pumping iron – a passion that took him all the way through to getting his Master’s Degree in Animation. He’ll take you on a spandex-clad journey into the glorious realm of the camp and the absurd, and then past his bedroom into the world of comic-based animation and animation in general.
Ray writes a weekly column on In the Kan titled “From Pages to Pixels” where he talks everything animation and comics. You can find Ray’s awesome artwork HERE