Release date: February 28th, 2012
Running time: 1 hour and 17 minutes
Written by: Dwayne McDuffie
Based on: The comic book series “JLA: Tower of Babel” by Mark Waid
Directed by: Lauren Montgomery
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, and Nathan Fillion
Starting with Superman: Doomsday in 2007, DC has been putting out several animated films based on their various comic book stories. I haven’t seen all of them, but the ones I have I’ve enjoyed for the most part. Most of them have just been light entertainment, but films like Batman: Under The Red Hood and especially Batman: Year One too things a step further. They actually told compelling stories and touched on some real drama. Because of those films, my hopes and expectations for these DC animated projects have risen dramatically. Which brings us to DC’s newest film Justice League: Doom.
The Justice League serve to protect and help the innocent, but Batman (Kevin Conroy) also sees the danger with the group. The League is made up of some of the most powerful beings in the universe. If they ever went rogue, someone would need to be able to stop them. Because of this, Batman has set up contingency plans on how to take each member out of commission. But things go wrong when Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) steals the plans and uses them against the League.
This movie has a cool concept, but it unfortunately has a very small runtime of 1 hour and 17 minutes. Now all of the DC animated films have short runtimes, but Under The Red Hood and Year One worked because they were small stories that focused only focused on a few characters. Doom on the other hand focuses on a team made up of seven heroes going against a group of seven villains. Not only that, but it’s also has to deal with the moral questions regarding Batman’s contingency plans. Because of that, the film feels rushed. These moral questions are what I was most interested in seeing explored, but the film doesn’t have a lot of time to focus on that. Those issues are more left hanging at the end. There’s also no real character development so if you’re not familiar with who the characters are, you won’t learn anything. What’s even more frustrating is a lot of these seems to be missing in favour of an unnecessary subplot involving Vandal Savage building a doomsday machine to kill 2/3s of the world’s population. This plot feels very tacked on and adds nothing. It feels like the filmmakers thought the story needed more of a threat, which is ridiculous considering that the story is about a group trying to kill the Justice League. That alone is a big enough threat. If they had cut that plot out, as well as cut parts of an overlong intro with the Royal Flush Gang, they could have spent more time on other, more important things.
Another thing these DC animated films have had in common is a lot of action scenes. Justice League: Doom does not break that trend, but I feel like the action here is a step down from what we’ve seen in a lot of the other DC animated films. The action scenes here don’t have the same brutality as the ones in Superman: Doomsday, Under The Red Hood, or Year One. These ones feel a lot lighter and they aren’t as viscerally grabbing. I also feel like while Doom has a lot of action scenes, most of them blur together and I can’t think of a single great action scene from the film. I still remember the brutal fist fight from Superman: Doomsday, the final confrontation in Under The Red Hood, and the SWAT team apartment raid in Year One for example. Yet no scenes from Doom stand out. With that said, the action scenes here aren’t bad, in fact I remember having fun with the action scenes, they just don’t stand out.
My biggest praise for this film is the cast. The basically got all the old favourites from the old series to come back. Kevin Conroy is Batman, Tim Daly is Superman, Michael Rosenbaum is The Flash, Carl Lumbly is Martian Manhunter, and Susan Eisenberg is Wonder Woman. The biggest differences from the old series is there’s no Hawkgirl in the film, and the Green Lantern is Hal Jordan instead of John Stewart. Nathan Fillion reprises his role from Green Lantern: First Flight and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. I haven’t seen these films, but I might give them a shot since I really enjoyed Fillion’s work here. The villains are all solid too, my favourites being Savage, Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), and Ma’alefa’ak (Carl Lumbly). Really, it’s the cast and characters that save this film.
My review probably reads like I hate this film, but I didn’t. The film is fast paced and I was never actually bored. I’m just really underwhelmed. For such a great premise, it just feels like a letdown. I should also point out once again that the last two DC animated films I’ve seen are Under The Red Hood and Year One, so I suppose it was unfair to expect that level of quality. All in all, Doom is light entertainment for anyone who’s a fan of these characters. If you’re not a fan, stay away entirely. But for us nerds, it’s alright.