Justice League: Doom is one of DC Animation’s best films
Were it not for some major departures from the source material, Justice League: Doom could have been the best entry in Warner Bros. Animation’s DC Comics library. Even with the changes, it’s definitely in the upper echelon of the consistently quality animated films of the DC Universe.
The Justice League — in this film represented by Superman (Tim Daly), Batman (Kevin Conroy), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumby), Green Lantern Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion) and Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) — are trying to track down the Royal Flush Gang, who have utilized some new technology to thus far avoid capture. This marks a bit of an all-star voice acting cast as this collection seems to be easily everyone’s top choices for the characters.
With some assistance from Cyborg (Bumper Robinson), the team is able to finally take them out just in time to stumble into a new problem. Longtime foe Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) has assembled a team of super villains — Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo), Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Ma’alefa’ak (Lumby) and Cheetah (Claudia Black) — that are armed with an unbeatable strategy for defeating the League devised by one of their own.
Completely outmaneuvered, the JL has little hope of stopping Savage’s Legion of Doom unless they can find some upper hand against an enemy that knows all of their tricks.
The script — the last by longtime Justice League writer Dwayne McDuffie —makes significant changes from the excellent comic storyline, Tower of Babel. That story had Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Assassins taking out the JLA. The comic worked better as it was shocking to see a bunch of regular guys take out Superman and company.
McDuffie omits JLA members Plastic Man and Aquaman, which was unfortunate as the Assassins’ tricks in taking them out are far more creative than having Superman deal with yet another Kryptonite bullet. Cyborg brings welcome diversity, but not much else.
There’s some confusion regarding Flash though as he’s identified as Barry Allen, has Allen’s blond haircut and career as a police forensics investigator, but his demeanor and costume are clearly the Wally West version of the Flash, who was voiced in the long running Justice League TV series by Rosenbaum.
Director Lauren Montgomery is proving to be Warner’s go-to director for the more action-oriented films.
Similar to her amazing work on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Montgomery has an amazing comprehension for laying out multi-layered action scenes that smoothly transition from one battle to the next without feeling disjointed and switching too often.
Under her direction, we get a better sense of the physical toll of these battles on our heroes as Batman gets cut and staggers around, Superman comes across as vulnerable, but not weak and Wonder Woman actually sweats and battles exhaustion.
Once again, Green Lantern steals the film from Fillion’s delivery to the creative use of his ring’s ability to conjure anything from a slingshot, boxing glove to a bird cage. He’s written like the fearless daredevil he’s portrayed in the comic and is a lot of fun.
The film has stronger language than you’d expect and the darker tone warrants the PG-13 rating, which works in this more mature JL story. The animation thankfully isn’t too stylized beyond slightly rounder eyes (hinting at a mild anime influence), but it’s simple and smoothly handled.
Plot changes aside, Justice League: Doom is a definitely a Top 10 effort from Warner Animation and a must-add to any DC Comics’ fan’s library.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10