Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths DVD and Blu-Ray

Actors: Mark Harmon, William Baldwin, James Woods, Gina Torres, Chris Noth, Nolan North, Vanessa Marshall, and Bruce Davison
Format: Animated, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: February 23, 2010
Run Time: 72 minutes



As Warners' straight-to-DVD superhero series moves past its most prominent figures, it's beginning to adopt notable storylines taken directly out of the comics.

On the whole, they haven't matched the quality of more hero-specific titles like Wonder Woman or Green Lantern: First Flight. Crisis on Two Earths, however, finally cracks that code. It achieves the right balance of insider details and wide-range accessibility that earlier adaptations like Public Enemies lacked, while providing a strong sense of menace from an extremely unusual source.

Most sci-fi and comic book fans are familiar with the "mirror universe" routine: a parallel dimension where the series' good guys now act as the bad guys. In this case, they represent a twisted version of the Justice League - led by doppelgangers of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman - who basically rule their world through fear and intimidation.

That world's last surviving hero, Lex Luthor (voiced by Chris Noth), invents a device to transport himself to the DC Universe we know and love, there to seek help from the Justice League. While Batman (voiced by William Baldwin) expresses doubts about trusting Luthor, the remaining five members agree to return with him to their mirror Earth and put a stop to their duplicates' reign of terror.

Directors Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery keep the proceedings on track by adopting the same tone evinced by Warners' earlier Justice League animated series.

Witty banter is the order of the day, along with an escalating series of fights which demonstrate ample imagination. The bad guys help enliven the proceedings as well, with Superman's duplicate Ultraman (voiced by Nolan North) behaving like a Mafia godfather and his Amazon accomplice Superwoman (voiced by Gina Torres) playing the role of psychotic minx to the hilt. For fans tired of the same old thing, they represent a real breath of fresh air, as well as pushing the Justice League to the limits of their abilities like any good villains should. (Batman, in particular, really takes it in the shorts for this outing.)

The real joy comes with James Woods, who plays the Caped Crusader's duplicate Owlman. Like Batman, he's detached and clinical, but without the corresponding sense of morals to keep his ambitions in check. When he realizes that an alternate Earth - and indeed infinite alternate Earths - exists, he embarks upon a nihilistic scheme to give his actions meaning. The psychological underpinnings of his dilemma are simply draw, but lend the mayhem significant weight, while further adding to the danger he represents.

It makes for a decidedly enjoyable 72 minutes, aided by a fun script from Dwayne McDuffie which lets a number of second bananas have their moments without disrupting the main proceedings.

The only real shortcomings entail some of the vocal work. While Woods is exemplary and the supporting cast does extremely well, Baldwin and Mark Harmon (who voices Superman) are a little too well known to slip into their characters properly. We hear the actors, not the heroes, which causes a bit of cognitive disconnect as the film proceeds.

That comes as a fairly minor quibble amid all of the solid elements on display, however. The color palate is energetic and well rendered, while avoiding the oversaturated day-glo of Public Enemies. The script maintains a sharp pace, but doesn't feel like it skimps on any detail. The results make for a lean, engaging piece of entertainment that further adds to the legacy of this well-regarded DVD series.

THE DISCS: As usual, the disc contains a plethora of extras, though most are fairly self-serving. A short cartoon based on DC's The Spectre marks the high point, along with a preview of the next DCU movie (a Batman piece) and regurgitated looks at earlier titles in the DCU collection.

A semi-coherent half-hour documentary covers the various "Crisis" specials in the history of DC Comics, and animation guru Bruce Timm introduces a quartet of old Justice League episodes with similar themes to Crisis. The Blu-Ray also contains a pair of treats: the unaired pilot for a never-produced Aquaman series and the first episode of the 1970s Wonder Woman show, featuring Lynda Carter in the role she was born to play.

WORTH IT? For DC and animated fans, absolutely. Comic book newcomers can get up to speed fairly quickly, but may want to verse themselves on the characters before purchasing the disc.

RECOMMENDATION: A reliable addition to DCU's well-regarded DVD series, and a quiet treat for comic book fans of all stripes.

- Rob Vaux



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