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Justice League: Doom

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // February 28, 2012 // Region 0
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 28, 2012 | E-mail the Author
Clones. Mind control. Metahuman mimics. Counterparts on parallel words. Grief. Vengeance.

Insanity. A complete loss of control. All of that's happened many times before, and it's just a

matter of time before they happen again. The Justice League
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are heroes all, yes, but they're also the single greatest concentration of

power the world over. The damage any single member of the League could inflict, were that power to

be misused, is incalculable. In secret and over the course of many years, Batman has assembled a

series of contingency plans to disable any one of his teammates should the need arise. Some of

these methods of last resort strike at the core of their power; others attack their hearts and

minds. All have been crafted with infallible precision. Now these plans have fallen into the

wrong hands, and the Justice League is being swiftly dismantled one member at a time. Vandal

Savage and his newly-assembled Legion of Doom -- Mirror Master, Bane, Metallo, Cheetah, Star

Sapphire, and Ma'alefa'ak -- aren't doing this for something as mundane as mere vengeance. The

stakes have never been higher, and with the Justice League in tatters, no force in existence can

hope to stand in their way.



A few days before sitting down to write this review, I grabbed the "Tower of Babel" trade that

Justice League: Doom uses as a springboard, and it's great. The premise is immediately

compelling -- a schemer like Batman secretly plotting ways to disable or outright kill the people

who trust him the most -- and the aftershock of the mistrust fostered by those contigency plans

threaten to have a long-lasting impact. As much as I enjoyed those issues and as much of a fan as

ever as I am of Mark Waid's writing, I was completely unprepared for how floored I'd be by

Justice League: Doom. For what it's worth, this isn't at all a straight adaptation. The

skeleton of its story, along with some of the general methods of disabling a couple members of the

Justice League, are carried over, but most of what transpires here is unique to this movie. The

League's roster has been pared down from Waid's storyline, here consisting of Batman, Superman,

Wonder Woman, The Flash, the Martian Manhunter, and Hal Jordan still carrying the mantle of Green

Lantern. Cyborg makes his first animated appearance alongside the Justice League, and he's

integral to the story despite not yet being a member of the team. The Tower of Babel that lent

Waid's story its title has been replaced by a more directly brutal, genocidal scheme, and Ra's al

Ghul and his mostly faceless henchmen make way for the far more cinematic Legion of Doom.



What really sets Justice League: Doom apart from the story that inspired it is...well,

Dwayne McDuffie. This movie plays to just about all of the late writer's greatest strengths. In

an animated movie with a lean runtime like this, every moment counts, and lesser writers would

struggle to make the most of such a sprawling cast. McDuffie handles his character work with such

brilliantly surgical precision, able to immediately establish who these heroes and villains are --

what makes them unique, what their temperments are, what their lives under the masks are like --

with just a few lines of dialogue a piece. Everyone has at least a couple of showcase moments that

show off who they are and what they can do, and Justice League: Doom makes it a point to

leverage their powers in inspired, wildly creative ways. It's hardly just a bunch of guys in

tights punching each other and throwing stuff around. The relationships between the members of the

Justice League are a defining element of this story, and the
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way they work together and the banter back and forth between them are

handled remarkably well. As bleak as the tone of Justice League: Doom so often is --

teeming with mistrust, betrayal, and staring death squarely in the face -- McDuffie deftly balances

that with a spectacularly witty sense of humor. The one-liners here are sharper and rightly earn

more of a laugh than the previous twelve DC animated movies put together. Its final moments are

also far more powerful, more effective, and more in keeping with the spirit of these characters

than what made it onto the printed page.



Visually, Justice League: Doom is in the running as the strongest of DC's series of animated

movies as well. The animation is dazzlingly fluid. I'm also impressed by how expressive the

character designs are. There are so many flourishes that are expertly executed, such as an arm

wrestling match with Superman where Ace's cybernetic arm slowly buckles and eventually shatters. I

mean, it's a robot, for crying out loud, but the way it's drawn and animated still hurts to

watch, and I mean that in the best possible way. The entire movie is propelled by a kinetic sense

of energy that never lets up. The action sequences are intense enough to earn a PG-13 rating...not

lazily exploitative or anything like that, but a few attacks do draw blood, and it's more that the

fights don't pull their punches rather than revel in the sheer violence of it all. Minute for

minute, I'd wouldn't be surprised if Justice League: Doom delivers more action than any of

the other movies in this series to date. Again, the brawls are inspired, making the most of the

heroes and villains' power sets with an aim to show viewers something they haven't seen time and

time again. From the Martian Manhunter's shape-shifting battle royale in the climax to Wonder

Woman unleashing some appropriately Greco-Roman wrestling moves, the action is just a blast to

watch unfold. I mean, I could've watched that tremendous opening assault against the Royal Flush

Gang for another twenty minutes, and it only gets better from there. Longtime fans of DC's

animated universes will no doubt be thrilled to hear most of the Justice League's established vocal

talent stepping in front of the mic again: Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, Susan

Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, Michael Rosenbaum as the Flash, and Carl Lumbly as the Martian

Manhunter. Nathan Fillion, who previously voiced Hal Jordan in Green Lantern: Emerald

Knights
, reprises the role again here. As well-crafted as Justice League: Doom is on so

many levels, I don't think it would've been nearly as effective with a different slate of voice

actors.



Justice League: Doom is about as perfect a comic book movie -- animated or otherwise -- as I

could ever hope to see. It delivers a particularly inspired premise, a tremendous visual eye, a

phenomenal balance between its dark storyline and an occasionally smirking sense of humor, a more

robust sense of characterization than I ever would've thought possible with an ensemble this

large, and a breathless onslaught of superheroic action. Setting All-Star Superman aside

since it's such a different animal, I'd point to Justice League: Doom as far and away my

favorite of DC's series of animated movies, and this is from someone who's given high marks to just

about all of them too. Highly Recommended.




Video


Justice League: Doom has a distinctly different look to it than the rest of DC's animated

movies. Everything else up to this point has favored crisply-rendered linework, while Doom

prefers

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instead to cast

its animation in a soft, almost diffused glow. I have to admit that the softer imagery did throw

me off at first, and it certainly isn't as immediately striking in high definition as so many of

these other movies have been. I settled into that different aesthetic fairly quickly, and even

though I'm not sure how to quantify this, exactly, it eventually struck me as being more cinematic.

Doom's muted palette reflects the bleaker, more ominous tone of the film as well.



I've reviewed so many of DC's animated movies and have found myself making the same complaints in

just about all of them. I thankfully get to break away from that somewhat this time. No banding

or posterization ever caught my eye throughout Justice League: Doom. The bitrate is

modestly higher than what these movies are usually saddled with, and I couldn't spot any

compression artifacting at all from a traditional viewing distance. If I more closely examine

framegrabs, the seams do start to show somewhat, but it's not at all a concern in normal viewing.

The same goes for aliasing, which I can see in some of the screencaps I snapped but isn't a problem

in motion.



The softer linework certainly took some getting used to, but after settling into that, I'm really

not left with any significant complaints at all. It's certainly appreciated that Warner has

started to address some of the most frequently raised complaints of the past, and hopefully the

next DC animated release will boast stronger authoring still. Justice League: Doom is

presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a single-layer Blu-ray disc, and it's been encoded with

AVC. The second disc in the set is an anamorphic widescreen DVD.




Audio


Justice League: Doom's 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack easily ranks as

the best of these movies to date. The voice acting, as ever, is rendered with spectacular

crispness and clarity, and the same holds true for every last element in the mix. A few stray

lines do wind up sounding slightly difficult to discern -- I couldn't make out one whispered line

that explains the torment that's about to be inflicted on the Martian Manhunter, for instance,

which is kind of critical -- but that's not at all a constant nuisance. There's a very strong

sense of imaging that takes full advantage of the multichannel setup, from Green Lantern flinging

around large chunks of rubble in a frantic search for survivors all the way to something as simple

as Alfred trotting across the Batcave. The use of the surround channels in general is more

aggressive than any of DC's animated movies have been up to this point, brilliantly reinforcing the

action while also fleshing out a strong sense of place. Bass response also snarls with an

impressive ferocity, again outclassing everything else in this series of movies. Justice

League: Doom
's audio is by a considerable margin the most cinematic of DC's animated movies to

date, and it's the first where a proper 5.1 setup is an essential part of the experience.



Justice League: Doom also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 dub in French as well as a Spanish

Dolby Digital stereo track. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH)

and Spanish.




Extras



  • A League of One: The Dwayne McDuffie Story (37 min.;
    style="color:#0000cc;font-weight:bold">HD
    )
    : Justice League: Doom is dedicated

    to the memory of Dwayne McDuffie, and its release on Blu-ray further honors one of the most

    passionate, brilliant writers in comics and animation with this heartbreakingly emotional

    retrospective. "A League of One" does delve into his lengthy career as a writer, from his early

    days at Marvel to the founding of Milestone Media all the way to his more recent work in the world

    of animation. It's far more than just a curriculum vitae, though, rightly directing its focus away

    from the specifics of McDuffie's work and instead more towards the lives he touched along the way.

    Tears are welling in the eyes of
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    virtually

    everyone that's interviewed, and understandably so. As a longtime admirer of McDuffie's work

    myself, "A League of One" proved to be perhaps the most intensely emotional piece I've watched on

    any DVD or Blu-ray disc, and it greatly heightened my appreciation for both McDuffie as a writer

    and as a man. I had no idea, for instance, that McDuffie was a genius in the most quantifiable

    sense, and he very well could've achieved his childhood dream of being an astronaut if not for

    being too tall for the program. I never knew he sold jokes to Letterman. It's revealed that he

    wrote the very-well-received pilot to the Static Shock cartoon in a single day,

    despite never having before penned a television script in his life. "A League of One" doesn't

    touch on how shamefully mistreated he often was in the world of comics, but I am glad to see that

    it paints such a strong picture of his legacy in corporate comics, creator-owned books, and

    animation. As spectacular a body of work as McDuffie has left behind, his future held so much more

    promise still. "A League of One" is a tremendous retrospective about one of the most towering

    talents the industry has ever seen, and it's absolutely essential viewing for anyone buying or

    renting this Blu-ray disc.



  • Cyborg: His Time Has Come (6 min.;
    style="color:#0000cc;font-weight:bold">HD
    )
    : Cyborg makes his debut as a member of the

    animated Justice League in Doom, and this featurette delves into the history of the

    character -- both in DC's original and newly-rebooted continuities -- as well as the elements that

    make him so uniquely compelling. Speaking as someone who was kind of obsessed with the '80s Teen

    Titans books, it's more than a little bit of a thrill to see Marv Wolfman interviewed here.



  • Guarding the Balance: Batman and the JLA (19 min.;
    style="color:#0000cc;font-weight:bold">HD
    )
    : The last of the disc's featurettes takes

    a very different bent, using Doom as springboard into the real-life political and

    psychological responses to concentrated power...the potential for abuse and the need for

    accountability. "Guarding the Balance" dissects many of the key themes touched on in the movie but

    starts to feel kind of self-indulgent and rambling after a while. I appreciate the gravity of the

    topic here but feel that this would've benefitted from a tighter focus.



  • Bruce Timm's Top Picks (42 min.;
    style="color:#0000cc;font-weight:bold">HD
    )
    : The bonus episodes this time around are

    in high-def, and that's always nice to see. In "Wild Cards", a two-parter from Justice

    League
    's second season, The Joker hits Vegas with a glossy new primetime TV special. He's

    scattered bombs and a couple hundred cameras all up and down the Strip, and the Justice League has

    twentysomething minutes to find and disarm them before Sin City goes kablooey. These episodes also

    pit the Justice League against the Royal Flush Gang, so it plays off of Doom pretty well

    too.



    The menu mislabels "Wild Cards" as being a part of Justice League Unlimited, and I'll admit

    that I would've preferred to have seen something from JLU since none of that's found its way

    to Blu-ray (at least not in HD) quite yet. Still, seeing "Wild

    Cards" again does remind me that I never got around to picking up the second season of Justice

    League
    on Blu-ray, so I guess I ought to take care of that.



  • Audio Commentary: The commentary track for Justice League: Doom features Geoff

    Johns and Mike Carlin, two people who have worn all sorts of hats at DC Comics and are involved in

    these animated movies on an executive level. That does mean that no one who wrote, directed, or

    performed in Doom is featured, and although that was a bit puzzling at first glance, I'm

    kind of impressed how well that ultimately works. Rather than approach Doom from the

    filmmakers' perspective, talking about breaking the story or why certain creative decisions were

    made, Johns and Carlin discuss the movie from more of a comic book
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    historian angle.

    It's very character-centric, and the two of them also delve into what sets these animated movies in

    general and Doom in particular apart from their comic book counterparts. It's a worthy

    listen, and I'm particularly intrigued by the revelation that Dwayne McDuffie was in talks to write

    a Martian Manhunter book before his untimely passing.



  • DC Digital Comic Book: If you don't mind squinting at tiny word bubbles on your TV, JLA

    #43 -- part of the "Tower of Babel" storyline that inspired Justice League: Doom -- has been

    included on this Blu-ray disc.



  • Superman vs. The Elite Sneak Peek (7 min.;
    style="color:#0000cc;font-weight:bold">HD
    )
    : Last up is a preview of the next DC

    animated movie, pitting the Man of Steel against a bunch of judge, jury, and executioner anti-hero

    types. As ever, this sneak peek doesn't show Superman vs. The Elite in motion, but you do

    get a quick look at storyboards, animatics, and conceptual art along with the usual barrage of

    interviews.



Again, the second disc in the set is an anamorphic widescreen DVD of Justice League: Doom,

and a code to download or stream a digital copy of the movie has also been tucked inside.




The Final Word


Justice League: Doom delivers absolutely everything I want in a comic book brought to life:

an inspired premise, dazzlingly fluid animation, a razor-sharp wit, skilled character work, and an

unrelenting adrenaline rush of action. It's such a crushing disappointment that the life and

career of Dwayne McDuffie was cut so short, but his many admirers can take heart that his final

work with the Justice League is something so truly exceptional. Very Highly

Recommended
.





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