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Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/23/2010

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/21/2010

Are superhero comic books science fiction? I'm not enough of sci-fi aficionado to jump into this debate, but I can see how arguments could be made on both sides. For starters, these comics feature humans who have powers beyond those of a normal person, enabling them to fly, shoot lasers from their bodies, etc. That sounds pretty science fiction to me. On the other hand, most are set in the present, and focus more on crime-fighting than on technology. This isn’t to say that superhero stories can’t branch out into sci-fi. For decades, stories in DC Comics have focused on the existence of parallel worlds which contain characters similar too, but often quite different from, those found in the company’s biggest titles. This type of tale has been brought to an animated movie with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.

As Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths opens, we witness Lex Luthor (Chris Noth) and someone who looks like The Joker breaking into a high-security building to steal a small device. When they are pursued by super-beings, Luthor escapes and, using a machine, disappears. When then shift to a satellite above Earth, where the Justice League -- Superman (voiced by Mark Harmon), Batman (voiced by William Baldwin), Wonder Woman (voiced by Vanessa Marshall), J’onn J’onz (voiced by Jonathan Adams), Green Lantern (voiced by Nolan North) and The Flash (voiced by Josh Keaton) -- are hard at work, when Superman receives a call that Lex Luthor has been captured. Superman interrogates Luthor and realizes that he’s from an alternate world. Luthor explains that in his world, he is the leader of the Justice League, and a group of super-villains, called The Syndicate, have taken over. He implores the Justice League to help him. All but Batman go with Luthor, and soon find themselves fighting their evil mirror images in order to save his world.

The appeal of parallel worlds stories is a simple one -- we want to see a place which is similar to our world, but has just enough differences to be similar or creepy. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths certainly delivers on this front. The Syndicate is comprised of super-powered beings whose abilities directly mirror those of the Justice League -- there’s Owlman, Super Woman, Ultraman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring just to name a few. We also get to see Lex Luthor cast in the role of not only hero, but sensitive and light-hearted hero at that. The story does a good job of brining in politics and crime to flesh out the story somewhat.

The problem with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is that it’s a one-trick pony. We are here to see the Justice League fight their alter-egos and the movie clearly knows this. Thus, we have to wait until the final act to see it. Until then, we are treated to a lot of exposition, and scenes where the Justice League members battle “Made Men” -- non-descript super-beings -- or super-villains whose power doesn’t match theirs. Once the battle of the equals finally begins, it comes off as a bit anti-climactic, as we’ve been forced to wait so long. I also found some of the alternate world characters to be a bit silly. Owlman is just a dumb name and the character looks a lot like Nite Owl from Watchmen. Any time “Ultraman” was mentioned, I thought about the Japanese TV show which I loved as a kid.

My nitpicking aside, DC fans should love Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. The story doesn’t contain any of the big changes which have occurred in DC’s “Crisis” comics, but it does deliver some other goodies. The odd alternate reality characters aside, the movie features cameos by some famous and popular DC characters who come to the aid of the Justice League. I’m not DC expert, but I don’t think that these characters have shown up in animated form very often in the past. As with Green Lantern: First Flight, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths shows an improvement over some of the early DC direct-to-video feature-length stories. The powers-that-be are clearly getting a better handle on how to balance familiar characters with well-written stories from the comics. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths bites off a bit more than it can chew, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths beams us The Flash on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. I would assume that this is a digital-to-digital transfer, as the image is razor sharp and displays an impressive crispness. The colors look fantastic, from dark hues to pastels. The image is never too dark or bright. The HD transfer doesn’t reveal any jagged lines or problems with the animation. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. While I would have preferred a lossless track, the sound here is still pretty good. The action sequences provide notable stereo and surround effects. These effects are nicely detailed and show good separation. The fight scenes also throw in some mild, but effective subwoofer effects.

The Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray Disc contains only one extra which is related to the movie. DCU: The New World" (33 minutes) explores the history of blending characters in DC Comics, the creation of superhero teams, and the creation of the multiple Earths in the DC Universe. The piece contains interviews and comments from writers and editors at DC. The remainder of the extras feature samples from other DC animated projects. "DC Showcase - The Spectre" (12 minutes) is a new animated short featuring the green-hooded character. The piece has the scratches and marks, like a "grindhouse" movie. The story concerns the murder of a movie producer and contains some nice horror movie homages. We next get four episodes of the Justice League TV show which deal with alternate Earths. Also included are the pilots for the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman (114 minutes) and a live-action Aquaman (41 minutes), which features Lou Diamond Phillips and Ving Rhames.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long