When it comes to the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, it’s hard to know what to expect. Ranging from amazing (Wonder Woman) to horrendous (Superman: Doomsday), the ongoing series of direct-to-video movies tends to be hit-or-miss. Thankfully, Justice League: Doom, the 13th and most recent film in the series, ranks near the top.
Loosely based on the comic JLA: Tower of Babel, written by Mark Waid and originally published in JLA #43-46 in 2000, the members of the Justice League find themselves at the mercy of some of their most formidable foes. Having stolen Batman’s secret files pertaining to the heroes’ weaknesses, the new Legion of Doom, led by Vandal Savage, systematically incapacitates the Justice League, leaving the world undefended. It’s not exactly a new story, having also been adapted in Justice, the 12-issue series from 2005 – 2007 by Jim Kruger and Alex Ross, but Justice League: Doom manages to tell it well, exposing the physical and metal vulnerabilities of these larger-than-life superheroes. Heavy on the action, but not skimping on drama, the film keeps your attention and even has a few good moments that will make the fans cheer. However, like past films Justice League: The New Frontier and Superman: Doomsday, JL:D feels rushed as a result of compressing a multi-issue story into an under-90-minute movie. Much of the Tower of Babel story is left out, most notably the communications breakdown that occurs throughout the entire planet. The story is stripped down to its barest elements.
JL:D also falls victim to the all-powerful force of marketing, taking plenty of creative liberties in order to tie the film into the current state of the DCU. Gone are Aquaman and Plastic Man, who appeared in the original Tower of Babel comic, only to be replaced by Cyborg in order to reflect his Justice League membership in the New 52. Kyle Rayner and Wally West are also absent, replaced by their Silver Age predecessors, Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, both of whom have been resurrected since 2000, and are extremely prevalent in ongoing DC storylines. Bane appears as well, joining up with the Legion of Doom. I’m sure his starring role in The Dark Knight Rises prompted his inclusion. The replacement that makes the least sense is that of Vandal Savage in the place of Ra’s al Ghul. It’s essentially an exchange of one immortal for another.
The biggest treat, however, to come out of JL:D is the cast. Voice director Andrea Romano opened up her little black book and brought back almost every major player in the DC animated universe from the last 20 years. Leading the cast are, of course, the only men who should ever be allowed to voice the World’s Finest, Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly as Batman and Superman, respectively. Joining them are Justice League alumni Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Carl Lumbly (J’onn J’onnz), Michael Rosenbaum (The Flash), Phil Morris (Vandal Savage), and Olivia D’Abo (Star Sapphire). Rounding out the core of the League is none other than Nathan Fillion, reprising his (rightful) role as Hal Jordan from Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Even David Kaufman, the voice of Jimmy Olsen from Superman: The Animated Series makes an appearance. Having heard many of these voices coming out of these characters for so long, it’s hard to imagine an animated Justice League without them.
It has its shortcomings, but Justice League: Doom is a great deal of fun for both fans and casual viewers alike. Spectacular action coupled with great character moments make it one of the better installments in the DC animated movie series. Directed by Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight) and written by Dwayne McDuffie (All-Star Superman, Justice League), Justice League: Doom arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on February 28th.
Justice League: Doom is dedicated to writer Dwayne McDuffie, who died in February 2011.