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Having never read the popular “Tower of Babel” story written by Mark Waid I was really interested in seeing how the late Dwayne McDuffie would adapt the story of how Batman’s contingency plans to take out his fellow Justice Leaguers.  The new animated DC Universe direct to video feature, Justice League: Doom, represents the last script McDuffie completed before his untimely death in 2011 as a result of complications from heart surgery.  The film is suitably dedicated to him and is in fact being released as digital download on February 21st, exactly one year after his death.
Doom showcases how well McDuffie understood the need for powerful drama with these larger than life characters as well as how much he understood the characters wearing the masks.  While there is humor in places where needed, Justice League: Doom is first and foremost an action filled drama where the secrecy and insecurities lying beneath Batman’s well protected exterior lead to events that not only drives a wedge between the Dark Knight and his fellow heroes, but could very well lead to a global cataclysm.  
The script does assume that the audience has some familiarity with the DC universe with there being no time spent on establishing background information so the uninitiated viewer understands things such as Hal and Carol’s history or why there are two Martians, but that certainly should pose no problem for the film’s target  audience.  I will say too that like some of the other DC animated films the short running time that the production team is forced deal with creates a problem for a story of this magnitude.  Not enough time is spent driving home how deeply the existence of Batman’s plans drives a wedge in the League and the final sequence lacks the punch that the Justice League: Starcrossed movie had.

A League divided

 The whole plan comes via Vandal Savage who carefully manipulates Batman and creates a situation where the caped crusader’s contingency plans for taking down his comrades are compromised and then used by his newly formed Legion of Doom to bring the Justice League to their knees.  As unwitting pawns the Royal Flush Gang creates the right moment for the Mirror Master to gain entry to the batcave and gain access to all the data he needs for Savage, whose grand plans require that the Justice League be sidelined in order for him to change the world and create the opportunity for him to rise to power again as he once did thousands of years ago.

Kevin Conroy is given a lot to do here and as always he turns in a great performance.  As a long time fan it was great to hear so many of the familiar voices from the past and it certainly makes the film a sentimental favorite.  Michael Rosenbaum’s return as the Flash, although the Barry Allen version rather than Wally West, was a treat even though he doesn’t get a lot to do here.  Nathan Fillion, who I hope continues to be the voice of Hal Jordan for some time to come, does a wonderful job as we’d expect, lending a great performance in what was perhaps the most emotionally demanding sequence in the movie.  I will admit that hearing Claudia Black’s Australian accent coming out of the Cheetah’s mouth was a little distracting, however.

Nathan Fillion does a superb job as a Hal Jordan who gets mentally broken

The film does a great job balancing the drama and the action as we see the Justice League fall one by one as Batman’s deep understanding of how to take his fellow heroes down play out in well planned attacks which in some cases could lead to their demise.  The new Legion of Doom comprising of Savage, Mirror Master, Bane, Metallo, Cheetah, Star Sapphire and Ma’alefa’ak, toast their success and their is the feeling that this really could mean the end for the Justice League thanks to the great score by Christopher Drake.  DC animated veteran director Lauren Montgomery returns for Doom and she clearly understands how to get the most of the script.

In terms of animation the film looks as good as we’d expect from Warner Brothers’ animation, however some of the character designs do look a little understated in some shots, particularly Wonder Woman who on occasion looks more like a cosplayer than an Amazon princess.  A daring wardrobe choice is the design for Carol Ferris’ Star Sapphire which represents the more modern skin baring outfit worn in the comics.  I think I personally would have preferred a more metallic looking palate for both Metallo and Cyborg, but their designs work well for the amount of screen time they have.

The new Legion of Doom toasts their victory over the Justice League

In the end Justice League: Doom plays very well although like most of the films I’d love to see them with a bit more running time so the story has more room to breath, but as long as they are forced to keep the running time set at the seventy minute range that will continue to be an issue for the more epic storylines that are being adapted for these films.  I’d rank this film as one of the best in the series thus far and definitely worthy of adding to your collection.  Four out of five lanterns.

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