Directed by: Lauren Montgomery
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Nathan Fillion, Carl Lumbly
I’ve said it time and time again, DC Comics, or DC Entertainment if you will, has it going on in the animated film department. Marvel animated films generally suck. Yes it pains me to say that but it’s true. The DC films take advantage of creative from their hit television shows such as Batman the Animated Series, Superman Animated, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited to craft these new direct to DVD films. That’s a smart decision since these award winning shows are some of the best comic book TV shows ever made.
As is common with DC films the story in Doom is taken from a Justice League story arc. It is watered down a bit to make it fit the palate of a wider audience and probably to make it a little cheaper to produce in a single film but overall the heart of the story from the books is left intact. In the story a plan is hatched by a group of super villains to take out the Justice League for good. Sure that sounds like a pretty typical lowest common denominator type of story but the drama behind the story gives it much more complexity. The villains discover that Batman has a database with the weaknesses of each of his fellow super heroes listed and suggested ways to take them out if it were ever necessary. They access this database and use the information to formulate their plan of attack.
The inevitable fights are energetic and as satisfying as you would hope. The plan is kept straightforward, thankfully, rather than turning into a Rube Goldberg style plot that takes Dennis Miller and Stephen Hawking to keep up with what’s going on. The twists come in the ultimate plans of the leader of the Legion of Doom and the reveal to the heroes that Batman has been crafting plans to defeat them. Each of the heroes has a strongly developed personality that carries over from the television shows so their reactions to the news are all different. You get all of the core heroes here including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter. There’s also the lesser known Cyborg in the mix.
As great as Doom is, and overall it’s really good, there are some things to complain about. First of all this feels a little like a two part episode of the Justice League television show. While that’s not a bad thing you expect the “movie” to feel a little more upgraded with better animation and an overall more epic feel. Also, Batman is the Wolverine of the DC universe. In Marvel Comics it feels like Wolverine is at the center of every important story. Sure, Iron Man and Captain America appear in a lot of books but Wolverine is everywhere and more often than not he’s portrayed as the most badass of the bunch. It’s the same for Batman. What about a Justice League story where some other character is more than just funny dialogue or muscle? Green Lantern or The Flash are capable heroes too. These are minor quibbles in the end because Justice League: Doom is a well-executed and entertaining story for fans of these heroes. They all get plenty of action and the little drama that runs through the story is surprisingly complex and conversation worthy. What might surprise you is just how dark this film is. There’s mistrust and betrayal of true friends but beyond that the goals of the main villain are dark too, but what’s most dark is the way the Legion of Doom attempts to deal with Batman. The filmmakers pushed the envelope here and it’s much appreciated. By the way DC , Thanks for bringing back some of the voice actors that made the characters amazing in the television shows rather than filling the cast with big name actors.
The 1080p widescreen presentation on this Blu-ray is as bright and vibrant as a comic book animated film should be. With that said darker scenes are appropriately so without any weird artifacting that often happens in animated HD releases. Detail levels are a bit low in places but that’s more due to the source material than the Blu-ray presentation. Edges are soft in the art too but purposefully so, possibly to give the film a more cinematic feel. Overall this is one of Warner Brothers’ best presentations of the series of DC films.
The DTS-HD presentation here is shockingly well executed. Surround sound usage is strong throughout the film in both big action scenes and more subtle moments. The dynamic range here is wide and well balanced offering up a few instances of lively subwoofer use. Dialogue throughout the film is generally crisp and on top of the mix with only a few instances where a line here or there fades into the mix too much. That’s unfortunate because outside of the few instances quiet dialogue this would be a perfect mix.
The Packaging and Bonus features.
The two disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is presented in a slim Blu-ray amaray case featuring Batman’s head. The artwork needed another pass. From a distance on a store shelf you’d just think this is a Batman movie, which now that I think of it might have been the goal all along. Before I get into the main bonus features I have to comment on this new proprietary Ultraviolet digital copy that comes in this package. Setting up the service is overly painful and using it is even worse. Why do these studios even pay attention to Sony and their shenanigans? Have they so easily forgotten the fiasco that was Divx? This whole thing is a mess. There’s a reason that the iTunes digital model has been successful; it’s easy to use! Don’t buy this package hoping to utilize the digital copy. You may find it more of a pain than it’s worth. One of the options is a streaming copy! Really??
This film is dedicated to the memory of Dwayne McDuffie, a comic book craftsman who recently passed away at a very young age. The documentary “A League of One” is a retrospective of his life and work and truly surprised me at just how moving it was. He was a brilliant writer and he touched the lives of so many through his work in and out of comics. The film closes with a handful of YouTube videos featuring fans of all ages discussing the man, his influence on them, and how much they will miss him. This is easily one of the best documentaries I’ve seen on one of these discs and a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in comics and animation.
There are two additional featurettes on the Blu-Ray. The first covers Cyborg, a new character to the animated world of DC but one that’s been in the comics for many years and the second focuses on the dramatic elements of the movie, Batman’s need to be able to stop his friends if it came down to it in particular. Both docs are a bit short but they offer some insight into the reasons the story went the way it did.
There are a few episodes of Justice League here too, this time in HD! There’s a preview for the next Superman animated film, and finally a DC digital comic which doesn’t work well on TV by the way. There’s an audio commentary but it features two of DC’s great creators that are now on the executive level of the company. So it was a little disappointing not to hear from some of the actors, the writers, or the director. At the same time the commentary does offer lots of interesting information on the characters in the film and how they compare to their personas in the comics.
Overall the bonus features here are great additions to the overall package and are much better than we’ve come to expect from direct to DVD/Blu-Ray films.
Justice League: Doom is another fantastic entry in the DC animated films library and is easily one of the best of the bunch. The film is action packed, full of solid drama, and super dark. Any complaints just don’t matter at the end of the film. This is good stuff. The script for this film was written by Dwayne McDuffie and it’s a solid addition to his impressive legacy.
Overall (Not an average) 8.5/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10