After a couple of lack-luster films (lack-luster in comparison to the VFH Seal of Approval winning Wonder Woman film at least), Warner Bros. Animation's DC Universe line is taking another crack at a completely original animated film, instead of adapting a pre-existing comic book story-arc, this time with the Justice League. Note, this is a review of the DVD edition, as have all the other DC Universe films on DVD and collector's OCD won't let me go Blu.
As stated, Crisis On Two Earths isn't based on a pre-existing DC book or story-arc, so it requires a bit more explaining. It should be noted that the general idea for this film was penned back when he Justice League animated series was on television, and a TV-movie, titled Justice League: Worlds Collide, was written as a bridge between that series and the then-upcoming series, Justice League Unlimited. But obviously that never came to fruition, and we now have this film, which follows a similar story as planned, but completely removes itself from the series by having new character designs, voice actors, and characters (i.e, no Jon Stewart Green Lantern, it's Hal Jordan).
The film mainly centers around an alternate world's Lex Luthor, who has come to the familiar Earth after losing the final member of his Justice League to the Crime Syndicate, evil parallel versions of the good Justice League. The primary Justice League is a bit weary of this Luthor, but is soon in agreement to save his world, all except for Batman.
But, once in this alternate world, our Justice League learns that things are much different from their world, and this Crime Syndicate isn't afraid to use lethal force, even against the President of the United States and his family. But what seems like a regular Justice League TV plot soon gets a bit heavier, when the evil universe's anit-Batman, Owl Man, carries out his plot to not only destroy the good universe, but reality as we know it.
Overall, the film holds together pretty well, even if it does feel over-reminiscent of the television series, albeit a bit heavier and more mature in tone. I also found that due to the diversity of characters, there's never a big focus on just one, other than Owl Man (James Woods), and you end up forgetting that these characters have completely new voices from what you're used to. Like I'd like to say that Mark Harmon and William Baldwin did good jobs portraying Superman and Batman respectively, but you never even get to hear them that much. Even Nolan North, playing both the Green Lantern and his evil version, Power Ring, who you may be tired of by new after playing games like Uncharted, Prince of Persia, and Dark Void, isn't on screen long enough to even have an opinion. But, James Wood's Owl Man, who does get plenty of screen time is perfect, as the subtle, menacing mad man that he is. As for character design, gone are the super-bulked up characters from the animated series and Public Enemies, and these trimmed down designs move a bit more fluidly.
My only complaint about the movie is that there's some subplots that really don't have time to flesh out in this 75 minute film, and would have to rely on an unlikely sequel movie to make sense of their inclusion. I also found that the characters a persuaded a bit to easily, perhaps to make up for the short run time. And, please, some of the lines in this are just stupid, "well, I'm a murdering psychopath..." the whole thing that makes a murdering psychopath a murdering psychopath is that they aren't aware that they're a psychopath; you should know better Super Woman.
For the first in what I assume will be a regular feature on these DC Universe animated release, is a DC Showcase short, which focuses on lower-tier DC characters. The first one, included here is The Spectre, a ghostly crime fighter at night, and a detective by day. Running at just over 11 minutes, the film doesn't really have time to express itself storywise, but visually this short was awesome. It takes a page from Grindhouse, adding in film grain/scratches, lo-fi sound track, funk music, and surprisingly gory violence. It's a really nice treat, and hearing Gary Cole trying to be menacing in what is essentially a 70s noir is just awesome. Definitely worth watching.
As usual, the first disc extras are crap. Other than The Spectre short, you have re-hashed previews for previous DC Universe films, an interesting preview of the next film, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and trailers for other Warner Bros. projects, like the recently released Halo Legends. Otherwise, no commentary whatsoever.
The second disc is of course the actual special features disc, well at least you'd think it was. But when you boot up this disc, you'll be surprisingly shocked to only see two options on a bare menu. First is a 25 minute documentary called DCU: The New World which focuses on the various "Crisis" story-arcs in the DC Universe as well as the people and background behind the major events in the DCU. It's really informative if you're looking into the back-story of major comic book stories, but if you're someone that just likes the DC characters in film/animation, and don't care for the actual comics, then you might not have much interest here.
Then there's he two-part Justice League episode, "A Better World," which features a similar parallel universe storyline and is one of the better episodes of that series. But it also feels like a cop out for new content. If you want features, like more JL episodes and un-aired TV pilots, get the Blu-ray.
Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths is definitely a step above Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, both in visual appeal and storytelling, and just overall is a better film. However, it still falls flat in the extras department. Sure, The Spectre short film is worth the asking price, but the somewhat alienating Crisis documentary and the Justice League episode being the only features on the second disc is really upsetting. If there's one thing DC should learn from what made Wonder Woman so good it's that not only was the film great, but the extras were both informative and plenty. And it's a shame that a good film like Crisis On Two Earths suffers from a lack of proper supplementary material.
Overall Score: 8.3/10