It's great that so many reviewers on Netflix seem to be enjoying this movie, but I have to count "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" as a huge misfire. Though it attempts to translate Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly's well-liked graphic novel "JLA: Earth 2" to the screen and is even penned by one of the writers of the "Justice League" animated series, nearly everything about this production is flawed from the ground up.
On Earth-2, the Joker is a good guy known as the Jester
Before I get into any fanboy nitpicking that might of interest only to fans of DC comics, I can tell you why conceptually this film simply does not work. And that's because it's based on a more adult-leaning graphic novel and rated PG-13, meaning it's squarely aimed at the 14 and up crowd...however, the pacing of the film is terrible and before long it devolves into extended fight after fight after fight, which is frankly tiresome for anyone out of the 3rd grade.
But you can't actually screen this movie for anyone in the 3rd grade because of some language, a complex dimension-crossing plot, at least one sexually suggestive line, and some dominatrix-like costumes on some of the female super-villains.
The Crime Syndicate are like amoral dopplegangers of the Justice League,
kinda like the Marvel Universe's Squadron Supreme, heh.
My question then is: *who* is this movie for? In trying to please everyone - your basement dwelling Comic Book Guy and the little kids who have been watching the Justice League on the Cartoon Network - it pleases no one. Fans want more than super-powered brawls for 80 minutes, especially when you're translating the work of a writer as cerebral as Grant Morrison, but the PG-13 rating is going to be off-putting for parents who should definitely screen this movie before they let their kids watch it.
And as someone at Netflix kinda rightfully asks: why in God's name should you have to screen a Superman movie for your kids? Especially when the 90's cartoons from the likes of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm managed to have sophisticated storytelling without alienating a younger audience.
A fairly solid graphic novel bolstered by Frank Quietly's amazing artwork
But why else doesn't this movie work for the hardcore comic book audience who is ready to see Morrison and Quietly's "Earth 2" brought to the small screen? First: the voice acting. Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy are THE voices of Superman and Batman, respectively - no ands, ifs, or buts. The fact that they voiced DC's last animated effort ("Batman/Superman: Public Enemies") but were not involved here is especially egregious.
I don't care how much those guys cost; they're crucial to the audience's suspension of disbelief. They're truly the difference between whether these DC direct-to-video projects are going to be something fans rent once and never watch again or something that is purchased and placed on the DVD rack.
James Wood's gotta eat
William Baldwin does NOT cut it. In fact, he's probably the worst Batman I've ever heard. I'd rather have George Clooney back under the cowl than have to hear William Baldwin pretend to be Batman again. Mark Harmon was similarly atrocious as Superman; the guy made Big Blue sound like he had a speech impediment. James Woods barely registers as Owl Man, Earth 2's evil version of Batman. Woods is a great actor but here he sounds like he's just there for the paycheck. It's a narcoleptic reading.
And for that matter, where is Clancy Brown as the voice of Lex Luthor?
Oh, William, you smug bastard
Secondly, the script does a botched job of interpreting Grant Morrison's story. Where to start? The Crime Syndicate goes from being dark analogues to the JLA to being the Justice League meets the Sopranos. Ultraman talks like Ray Liotta in "Goodfellas" for cryin' out loud.
Not to mention the nitpicks that will be noticeable only to fanboys: the Flash appears to be Wally West like in Grant's story but the Green Lantern is Hal Jordan - why not stick to the original and have it be Kyle Rayner? There's an ill-advised, ridiculous romantic subplot involving Martian Manhunter and the…President's daughter? All the interesting stuff from the graphic novel involving Batman meeting Earth 2's Jim Gordon is gone, as is the Owl Man/Ultraman/Superwoman love triangle. We're left with a string of non-stop slugfests.
"Hey guys, there's a lull in the plot...let's fight!"
And you realize why the best JLA writers were the ones who made Batman seem like he was the toughest member of the team even though he was the only one without superpowers; otherwise, it makes no sense that Batman is even on the team! In this movie, Batman literally gets his ass kicked left and right by god-like beings. You start to wonder how he's even lasted as long as he has. We don't get a sense of Batman's fighting prowess or keen intellect at all. Not only that but he sets up the deaths of at least two characters. And again: he's voiced by William-freakin'-Baldwin!
I will say that I enjoyed hearing Nolan North as Green Lantern. If you've played any video game from this current generation then you've likely heard Nolan's voice, though he's most famous as Nathan Drake from the "Uncharted" series of games. If Nolan had voiced Hal Jordan for DC's "Green Lantern: First Flight" flick, I probably would have enjoyed it much more.
There's a scene of Batman stealing the Flash's pretzel
and munching on it. I wish I was joking
After "Planet Hulk" set the bar for adapting comic book story arcs into animated films, it's hard to go back to something like "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths." DC seems to be a step behind with their animated films. They must think that if they toss as many obscure characters as possible into a movie (see also: "Batman/Superman: Public Enemies"), then fanboys will lap it up.
But no, we're a bit more discerning than that. Nobody wants to read a challenging and complex superhero story in print only to watch it dumbed down for an 80 minute cartoon. Pardon the pun, but can't we get the best of both worlds?
Oh well, at least the animation is decent
POST-NOTE: Reviews for "Twin Dragons" and "Operation Condor" have been updated with new screen captures courtesy of yours truly.