Justice League: Doom (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Justice League: Doom (2012)

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Another year, another opportunity to remark at how absolutely safe DC Animation is handling their Justice League properties. This time we get an adaptation of the short arc "The Tower of Babel" mixed with an odd tinge of nostalgia for the Superfriends of old. Thankfully it's not the Wondermutt and Wendy iteration, but the spirit of the Wonder Twins era. Both were best forgotten (even if the Wonder Twins made an effective return in Justice League: Unlimited), but mixing the ridiculousness of those times with the blood and bone violence still lingering from Frank Miller is a dodgy proposition at best.

I wish Justice League: Doom went with the tackier approach. DC Animation has yet to do anything of note with their superheroes in the animated realm, at least not for a long time. There's nothing here that will top the maniacally brilliant entertainment of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker or the best animated distillation in Mask of the Phantasm. Instead we get a few episodes of the comic mushed together in animated frames with nary a whiff of the characters spirit and past.

As with the other films, there is very little to ease the non-converted into the world of the Justice League. Either you're familiar with the characters and their backstories or you'll just be wondering why a girl dressed up as a cheetah is wrestling with an American dominatrix in iron braces. For anyone familiar with the comics there's nothing unusual done with the characters. Hal is brash and glib, Batman broods and barks orders, Wonderwoman dominates, and The Flash (as always) lightens up everything by trying to joke as much as he can.

I imagine this approach may soon be like comfort food for those who were not huge fans of the DC relaunch of all of these characters. But comfort food only works for the fans of the dish to begin with, those of us who might like a little change from day to night won't find the same meal appealing. These are the exact same iterations of the characters I have been watching in these animated films for over five years now. There's none of that evolution comic fans come to expect and film fans will find little innovation or execution to love here.

The animation is clean and crisp but sparse. There are very few details in the backgrounds and daily lives of heroes in the city, which feels curiously empty throughout the film. The voice acting is good, as usual, but clashes with the design of the characters this time around. I can't quite place the artist inspiration here (as previous films have taken queues from the likes of Frank Quitely and Michael Turner) but none seems to be employed.

The characters look younger, and make the mistakes of a younger League, which doesn't quite fit the commanding presence longtime DC voiceover vets (Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly) and relative rookies (Nathan Fillion) alike bring to the table. The fight scenes are even less memorable than they were before, with little variation between the fisticuffs Batman and Wonderwoman employ, versus the aerodynamic combat of Superman and Green Lantern. The whole mess gets homogenized to a degree showing no passion on behalf of any of the creative staff, who desperately could use a Bruce Timm back in their ranks.

Time was I'd be looking forward to the next DC Animation films as a way of enjoyably passing the time and broadening the mythology of characters I like to watch. Now they're the comic book equivalent of putting Barney on for toddlers. It feels like I'm babysitting my brain each time I sit down to watch one of these films, and I wish someone would bother taking a risk with them at some point. They aren't functioning as commentary, there's nothing in the presentation that suggests anything further than "evil is bad", and they're all starting to bleed into each other.

I'm not saying it's time for Batman to team up with the reanimated corpse of Don Knotts, but any change of pace would deafen the Barney theme that's suddenly erupted into my skull.

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Justice League: Doom (2012)

Directed by Lauren Montgomery.
Screenplay by Dwayne Mcduffie.

Posted by Andrew

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