Justice League: Crisis on Two-Earths is the latest original DC animated film and takes on a legacy that is forty years in the making. The idea of parallel Earths has been a staple in DC continuity since the advent of the Silver Age of comics when it was decided that the Golden Age and Silver Age Superheroes came from different Earths. Longtime DC writer Gardner Fox penned the first “Crisis” story involving the parallel worlds way back Justice League of America #29-30, in 1964. Since then, Crisis has become a regular plotline in DC comics…some may say its even an obsession.
In this story, the Crime Syndicate is an evil version of the Justice League. They control their Earth in an organized crime manner with each of the core members controlling a territory with a “family” of under-villains to help enforce their rule. Here, Lex Luthor is one of the last superheroes alive and he uses a dimensional transporter to travel to the Earth of the JLA and enlist their aid to save his world.
While most of the League is in favor, Batman refuses, believing they have more important tasks on their own world. Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and J’onn J’onzz travel with Luthor back to his world to confront the villains. Here they will not only fight their own evil counterparts, but also evil versions of heroes such as The Marvel Family, Green Arrow, The Elongated Man, and Vibe. But a more serious threat is soon uncovered…Owlman, the parallel to Batman is hatching a plot that could destroy the entire universe.
One of the strengths of DCs animated films over those of Marvel’s is their use of well-known actors to voice the characters. This works both for and against DC in this film, however. The familiar voices of Kevin Conroy and Rino Romano as Batman, and Tim Daly and George Newbern as Superman, have been replaced by William Baldwin (Batman) and Mark Harmon (Superman). Baldwin is passable as Batman but Harmon just doesn’t sound right. His voice doesn’t have the power and authoritative tone you expect from Superman. On the other hand, James Woods is brilliant as Owlman. He single-handedly raises the bar for the other actors with his voice that oozes sinister evil. Chris Noth is fine as Lex Luthor but you definitely miss Clancy Brown’s deep resonations. Another notable actors include Bruce Davison as the alternate Earth President and Kari Wuhrer as Black Canary.
Justice League: Crisis on Two-Earths is a solid story although not quite on a par with Green Lantern: First Flight or Superman/Batman Public Enemies. It plays like an extended episode of the Justice League TV show with nothing truly making it momentous.
The DVD also comes with a short animated feature starring The Spectre and I’m tempted to say this is worth the price of the DVD alone. The Spectre is the most important DC character yet to appear in animation. The story is written by Steve Niles is largely influenced by the 1970s incarnation of the Specter in Adventure Comics, written by Michael Fleisher with art by Jim Aparo. This was a Spectre that dealt with criminal in the most gruesome fashion and Niles has brought that style to this short. It’s even set in the 1970s with Jim Corrigan as the Spectre, trying to track down the murderers of a top Hollywood film producer. The animation is done in a misty, grainy style with traces of Anime influence. Just a fantastic addition to the DVD!
Other extras on the two DVD set include: