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Timm talks JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS, SPECTRE

Plus: The L.A. event and new images from the film

By Mania Staff     February 18, 2010
Source: Warner Premiere

Executive producer Bruce Timm offers new perspective on the creation of “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths,” the latest entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe animated original movies, and “The Spectre,” the inaugural DC Showcase animated short, in an all-new Q&A with the guru of super hero animation.

Timm will be joined by filmmakers and cast members on Thursday night at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills for the West Coast Premiere of “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.” The premiere is presented by Warner Home Video, Newsarama and The Paley Center for Media. The screening will commence at 7:00 p.m.

Gina Torres, the seductively powerful voice of Superwoman, has joined the panel of filmmakers and cast members to follow the screening. Josh Keaton and Vanessa Marshall, the voices of Flash and Wonder Woman, respectively, will also be on hand to field questions.

Filmmakers slated to attend are co-directors Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu, dialogue/casting director Andrea Romano and screenwriter Dwayne McDuffie.

Fans in the Los Angeles area wishing to receive free tickets to the event must RSVP via email to justiceleagueLA@newsarama.com. Tickets will be distributed on a “first come, first served” basis, and fans are encouraged to arrive early to ensure good seating for the 7:00 p.m. screening and panel. Limited edition prizes will be awarded to select members of the audience during the Q&A panel session following the screening, including “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” script covers signed by the entire cast, autographed copies of the Blu-ray and DVD, and two mounted posters signed by Thursday night’s panel.

Warner Home Video will distribute the full-length animated Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths on February 23 as a Special Edition 2-disc version on DVD and Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def, as well as single disc DVD, and On Demand and Download.

Timm, the executive producer on “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths,” has been the creative force behind many of Warner Bros. Animation’s modern-day successes, elevating DC Comics’ canon of super heroes to new heights of animated popularity and introducing generations of new fans to the characters via landmark television series and made-for-DVD films. The latter task includes the creation of the current series of DC Universe animated original movies, which have drawn critical acclaim and further whetted the public’s appetite for comic book entertainment. “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” is the seventh film in the ongoing DC Universe series.

And here’s what Mr. Timm had to say …

 

Question: What excites you about Juctice League: Crisis on Two Earths?

Bruce Timm: In a weird kind of way, this is a return to my favorite show Justice League Unlimited. The original script was intended to be the bridge story between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to explain how we went from seven heroes to more than 50 super heroes. We loved the story and the script, and it floated around here for years while we tried to figure out what to do with it – it was considered for a comic, but fortunately that got shot down. Then we took a look at it and, with just a few slight tweaks, we jumped at the chance to make it a DC Universe movie.

 

Batman attempts to save the Earth, er, Earths as he faces off with his evil doppleganger Owlman in JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS

Question: What sets it apart from the TV version of Justice League?

Bruce Timm: It’s a very satisfying, grand scale adventure movie with a big cast of interesting, quirky characters. It’s amazing how much it feels like a great episode of Justice League Unlimited as a big, epic film with slightly different visual stylings. That’s a good thing.

 

Question: Did this film present challenges that the first six DC Universe movies did not?

Bruce Timm: The biggest challenge, and this is kind of esoteric, was that we had to find the line between the original source material and making it feel like a stand-alone movie so anyone that didn’t watch JLU could follow it. We really didn’t have to tweak the script too much – I think about 95 percent remains untouched. In terms of visual styling, we also wanted it to stand on its own and not necessarily as a continuation of the old show. We have this brilliant character designer – Phil Bourassa – who draws in a style similar to my own in terms of simplicity, but slightly different. So it doesn’t look 180 degrees away from the old show, but it definitely feels unique.

 

Question: What are the benefits of having two directors on the same film?

The positive for Sam and Lauren is that having two directors lightens the workload, because it’s a big movie. They have similar strengths, and they’re both very good at what they do. They’re both all around talented in terms of understanding story, acting, the emotional core of the story, and they’re both really good at directing big crazy action scenes. But they’re methodology is different. Sam thinks a lot, he’s very analytical. Lauren is more intuitive about everything. I just kind of stayed out of it when they had disagreements – fortunately I never had to be the tiebreaker, They just worked things out between the two of them.

 

The Justice League makes its pitch to stand and fight the Crime Syndicate to an alternate Earth’s President Wilson in JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS

Question: What are Dwayne McDuffie’s strengths?

Bruce Timm: Dwayne is really well-rounded as a writer – he knows comics inside and out, he understands the lore, he knows what makes a good super hero story, and at the same time he’s really good with character dynamics and conflict. Plus he’s one of the best dialogue writers in the business.

 

Question: Of this fairly huge casdt, do you have a favorite character?

Bruce Timm: In this story, it’s probably Owlman. He’s a fascinating character himself, but the dynamic with Superwoman is so messed up as a couple, and yet really appealing in a weird kind of way. It’s a little similar to JLU’s relationship between The Question and Huntress. Superwoman is this badass hot chick, and he’s the quiet, brainy, nerd guy. They’re an interesting, odd couple. Plus I loved both James’ (Woods) and Gina’s (Torres) performances – they were spot-on. The amazing thing is we like to get all the actors to record as an ensemble, but in this case it wasn’t feasible, So they never met or performed together, but they totally mesh. It’s such an interesting chemistry considering they’ve never even met.

 

Question: You’ve brought another all-star cast to this film. Anything fans don’t know about the casting choices this time around?

Bruce Timm: There’s an interesting side note in that Vanessa Marshall, who plays Wonder Woman, came this close to playing the role in Justice League. We were down to the final two choices, and they were neck and neck. The thing about Vanessa is that she sounded perfect for Wonder Woman – exactly what she should sound like. But Susan Eisenberg had this vulnerability. We thought it would be interesting to not play her to type, which ultimately played really well. When it came to casting for this movie, we thought, “What if we go down the road not taken?” So we opted for Vanessa in a full-length movie and she is great.

 

Question: “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” includes the premiere of the first DC Showcase animation short, “The Spectre.” How have the DC Showcase shorts changed your work day?

Owlman explains his nefarious plot to destroy all Earths with a devastating weapon in JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS

Bruce Timm: The DC Showcase is fun because it gives us an opportunity to play with characters that maybe don’t have a broad enough marquee value to support their own movie. As much as I like Batman, Superman, etc., the more lower tier, offbeat characters are really fascinating to me. It’s fun to mess around with others characters in the DC Universe. Super heroes are great, but it’s nice to do a change of pace, and that’s a lot of what we’ve done here. “The Spectre” is a supernatural thriller,; “Jonah Hex” is a western, and so on. So the Showcase is giving us a chance to stretch different muscles.

 

Question: After taking a break from episodic TV for the past several years, are you enjoying a return to the short-form with the DC Showcase?

Bruce Timm: The interesting thing is these are really short form – they’re half as long as a half-hour TV episode. So the story has to be really tight and condensed – you have to cut away the fat, but it can’t be just wall-to-wall action. It still has to be a story. Fortunately we’re working with some really great writers, and because of that, every time we roll tape on these shorts, they feel like you’ve watched a whole episode of something. There’s a clear beginning, middle and end – a full story. So mission accomplished.

 

Question: What made Steve Niles the right guy to write “The Spectre,” and how did you lure him into writing an animated short?

Bruce Timm: I’ve admired Steve Niles’ work for a long time and, honestly, it would have never occurred to me to approach him. That was Todd Casey’s suggestion. He contacted Steve, and Steve was thrilled to get the assignment. He’s a big Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo fan, and a big fan of “The Spectre” – especially that 1970s era of the character. Steve is very into crime fiction and horror, so he was the perfect writer for it.

 

Question: Does “The Spectre” hold any special significance for you?

“The Spectre” was one of my favorite characters back in the 70s. Even by today’s standards, those comics are pretty hard core, and they were written in 1974, I don’t know how they got some of that stuff past the comic code. It was so different from any other comic on the stands. It’s really dark, really nasty. The character is pretty easy to understand – he’s the dark avenger of the night, even more so than Batman. He punishes bad guys in horrible, horrible ways. He’s like the benign Freddie Krueger. I’ve wanted to use “The Spectre” for a long, long time and we never had a opportunity to do it, and this was our chance to go hog wild with him.

For more information, images and updates, please visit the film’s official website at www.JUSTICELEAGUECRISIS.com.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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thecheckeredman 2/18/2010 12:30:44 PM

On a whole, I love Timm's body of work.  Having said that, I'm not as keen on the DC UNIVERSE flicks.  Strong showings like GL:FF and WW are off set by mediocre efforts like (the much aniticipated but ultimate let down) JL:NEW FRONTIER and PUBLIC ENEMIES.

Also, I am so darn tired of the word "crisis".  Honestly.  As a rule I'm not much of an anime fan but GOTHAM KNIGHT was an inspired offering -- a unique story with an unconventional art direction for the subject.

 The DCU direct to market films are still in their infancy and here's to hoping for many more years of growth and development, but hopefully the brains behind the work realize that their stronger films have been based upon smaller character-focused stories.  PG-13 mainstream superhero films are wonderful, but I hope future instalments use the story more to influence the rating rather than the action.

I'm not excited at all to see CRISIS.  I simply don't care.  On the other hand I do want to see the SPECTRE short-film!!!  Once more I hope for more exciting development like this in the future to bring some attention to DC's vast wealth of characters.

In conclusion I'd like to drop a few ideas I'd like to see DC UNIVERSE consider for features:

THE OUTSIDERS: An anime-inspired design following a Nightwing lead team of young adult heroes that take the fight to the bad-guys in a revenge/out for justice style film.  Arsenal/Red Arrow, Katana, Jade, Black Lightning, and Metamorpho are interesting and provide a good combination of classic vs. modern incarnations of the team.  Gritty and graphic remniscant of Cowboy Beebop seems to be a good fit.

SHAZAM!: The Big Red Cheese is too important a figure in the legacy of the superhero and comics in general to keep getting passed up.  I hate it when people "darken" stuff up when it shouldn't be.  Captain Marvel is fun!  Keep it fun!  A loose, more traditional hand-drawn animating style harkening back to old Disney adventure films like Robin Hood with equal amounts of fun, action, and humor.

KINGDOM COME: This was mentioned somewhere not too long ago and I'd like to expound upon the concept...  JL and JLU were amazing shows.  How about take the story of Kingdom Come and apply it as the future of the JLU show -- a continuation...a bookend to the fantastic series.  The key component is sticking to the Timm-style character designs for continuity purposes.  This idead IMHO could be a masterpiece waiting to happen.  The only trick is a good, solid adapted script -- something the other direct-adaptations have lacked.

gauleyboy420 2/18/2010 2:03:35 PM

Tottaly Jazzed for this! Love me some crisis!

"ReadingCrisis on Multiple Earths right Now"

 

Checkered man, can't believe you though New Frontier was an ultimate let down.

I though tit was more fantastic, than the buid up for it let on. One of the best DC animated films to date.

 

animefanjared 2/18/2010 7:20:37 PM

I have to agree with thecheckeredman, I found "New Frontier" to steadily decrease in quality the further into the runtime I got.  It started strong, but then suffered from too many characters being shoehorned into too short a running time.  It was almost laughably bad by the end, IMHO.  Like several of the other DC direct to video features, I think it could have really benefited from a longer runtime.

sinister666 2/18/2010 11:22:29 PM

 Just got back from the Paley Center in west l.a.  I absolutely loved CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS!  I got to meet the lovely Miss Andrea Romano and I got a kick ass poster autographed by her and the rest of the panel.  ALL HAIL... ANDREA ROMANO!!!...SON!!!

thecheckeredman 2/19/2010 7:22:56 AM

Trust me folks, I love the fact that the DC UNIVERSE films exist!  I'm rooting for them all they way!  I'm more tired of the Crisis this and Crisis that which has over run the DCU comics for years now.  :-(  It's become a bit boring.  A crisis in general is an alarming event!  When it's every other month and the exception becomes the rule...well...its just not as special or exciting anymore.

The reason JL:NF let me down so much is my long love for the comic series.  It was revolutionary for me as a reader, fan, etc.  I'm talking right up there with Bone, Killing Joke, Watchmen, etc.  There's something about that series that spoke to me on a whole different level and to see it so dilluted was heart-breaking.  Much like the FF live action films...so sad...  :-( 

 

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