Superhero Sundays: Justice League – Doom (2012)
Voice cast and character design 88
Story and superhero action8
Matthew Turner | On 24, Nov 2019Reading time: 4 mins
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Nathan Fillion, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Bumper Robinson, Alexis Denisof
Watch Justice League – Doom online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
On Sunday mornings, we like to watch cartoons. So we’re working our way through animated superhero cartoons. We call it Superhero Sundays.
Directed by Lauren Montgomery (who has made several other DC animated features, including Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight), Justice League: Doom is the 13th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. Loosely based on Mark Waid’s JLA: Tower of Babel storyline from the comics, the film is dedicated to acclaimed scriptwriter and producer Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited), who completed the screenplay shortly before he died from heart surgery complications in 2011. The film proves a fitting swansong for McDuffie’s career, packing in strong character work, a compelling plot and superb action sequences.
The plot sees immortal warlord Vandal Savage (voiced by Phil Morris) assemble the Legion of Doom, comprising one arch-nemesis for each of the key Justice League members: Batman villain Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Wonder Woman villain Cheetah (Claudia Black), Flash villain Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), Green Lantern villain Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo), Superman villain Metallo (Paul Blackthorne) and Martian Manhunter villain Ma’alefa’ak (Carl Lumbly).
Savage’s fiendish plan involves wiping out half of the Earth’s population, but first, he sends each Legion member to destroy their JLA nemesis, using contingency plans stolen from Batman himself, containing details on how to neutralise each League member in the event of them going rogue. (How Savage knew that Batman had such plans in the first place is never quite made clear.)
By effectively splitting the middle part of the film into six separate stories, the plot cleverly allows the action to showcase each individual member of the Justice League, including Cyborg (Bumper Robinson) who’s “just visiting” and isn’t yet an official member of the League. Accordingly, it’s very satisfying to concentrate on the individual powers and fighting skills of each member, before they once again all team up for the final battle. This is particularly effective in the case of Green Lantern, whose powers are used more imaginatively here than in other JLA movies.
Montgomery has an excellent eye for an action sequence, crafting several nicely staged punch-ups that use each hero’s powers to their full potential – for example, Superman using his laser vision to burn through a chunk of steel that Metallo has just dropped on him, or The Flash phasing through things (something he does much more frequently here than in other JLA projects).
As always, the voice cast are superb. Kevin Conroy (aka. The One True Batman) is on typically great form as the Caped Crusader and the film features several other cast members reprising their roles from the DC Animated Universe, including Tim Daly (Superman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Michael Rosenbaum (The Flash, but here playing Barry Allen rather than Wally West), Carl Lumbly (Martian Manhunter) and Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern). This also means that there’s tried-and-tested chemistry between the actors, which is especially enjoyable if you’ve watched previous JLA features. Also, in a nice touch, legendary voice casting director Andrea Romano and animator / producer Bruce Timm both have little cameos, as the voice of Batman’s computer and Ace, a member of the Royal Flush gang (seen battling the League in the opening sequence), respectively.
As for the animation, the character designs are by Phil Bourassa, the lead character designer of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (the previous movie in the series, also directed by Montgomery) and Young Justice. As such, they’re slightly more adult in concept than the 1950s-esque style favoured by the Bruce Timm JLA series (Star Sapphire’s costume is particularly risqué), but they feel nicely modern, with a tiny hint of anime thrown in for good measure.
The script is entertaining, with a good balance of humour (mostly from chief wise-crackers Green Lantern and The Flash) and strong emotion. It is also notable for its surprising darkness – the revenge plots against Batman, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, in particularm are genuinely disturbing, and possibly too frightening for very young children. (It’s even more disturbing when you realise that the revenge plots in question were Batman’s idea in the first place.)
In fairness, there is a slight issue with the script, in that time constraints prevent the film from properly exploring the ramifications of Batman’s actions. The plot raises a complex issue, but the film doesn’t get much of a chance to dig into it, other than a token discussion at the end. The DC Animated Universe films usually clock in at around the 80 minute mark (the rough equivalent of three to four back-to-back episodes), but this is one occasion where an extra 10 minutes might have elevated it into something really special.
Justice League – Doom is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of an £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.