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For whatever reason this is a story that has been revisited a number of times in the past ten years, a suspiciously high number of times. It has been seen in Justice League Unlimited in the form of the Justice Lords storyline, Mark Millar’s comic series Wanted (from which this movie borrows liberally), and last year in Batman: the Brave and the Bold, featuring some of the same characters. Basically it’s a mirror universe story where evil has triumphed over good. In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths the filmmakers return to an old DC Comics story featuring the Crime Syndicate (a name unfortunately kept for the movie) from an alternate Earth. From what I remember this amounted to the world being terrorized by evil doppelgangers of the Justice League. For the most part it wasn’t really all that imaginative, best exampled by Evil Green Lantern, Power Ring. Yeah, why not call Evil Batman “Utility Belt” or Evil Wonder Woman “Magic Lasso” while you’re throwing out generic names.

I was pleasantly surprised at how detailed and character driven much of the film turned out to be, though. Though many of the Crime Syndicate characters get very little time to be fleshed out, the ones that do are interesting. Owlman is, I believe for the first time, more than simply Evil Batman. He has a completely different personality and outlook and this drives most of the drama in the final act. He is much more philosophical and introspective than Batman, while being wholly amoral as well. The movie actually looks at the moniker “Owlman” and dissects what it would mean to someone who chose it. Picking up a Justice League Unlimited storyline, Wonder Woman stand-in Superwoman is Owlman’s lover. She also gets a well done and more mature treatment as a sexually charged hedonist, easily bored by Owlman’s planning and only looking for a thrill. Superman double Ultraman has a sort of stereotypical Italian mobster appearance and attitude, with his square-headed coif and permanent sneer. There are many others but for the most part it’s these three that get actual character treatment. Flash ringer Johnny Quick’s character difference amounts to being British.

If you are a comics fan you will probably have a blast picking out the doppelgangers throughout the battles on Crime Syndicate Earth. The scene featuring a group of alternate Outsiders and Detroit-era Justice Leaguers is particularly fun. Random appearances of henchman like Lobo as possibly a Blue Oyster Bar biker don’t hurt either. My personal favorites were the black-clad “Supers,” a Marvel family stand-in. Best appearance in the whole film: Uncle Super. I would love to have seen more of the Justice League of that world. Alternate Lex Luthor (oddly the same, not even so much as having hair) is the last man standing, his final partner, The Jester, falling in the opener. Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson is the President, and his daughter Rose works by his side. They fill in a sort of national level Commissioner and Barbara Gordon role. All of this was cool but a few shots of the demise of good versions of the Legion of Doom would have been welcome.

Some of the voice casting I found problematic. Chris Noth makes a great Luthor, and Gina Torres’ Superwoman is perfect, but Mark Harmon’s gruff, authoritative Superman lacks the humble farm boy charm of Tim Daly’s work, and there is no improving on Kevin Conroy’s Batman. James Woods makes a perfectly detached Owlman, though. The rest of the cast is good, too, and even features a couple of appearances by Reno 911’s Officer Jones, Cedric Yarborough.

I was skeptical in the opening of JL: CoTE but it won me over shortly, largely through the portrayals of Owlman and Superwoman, and the dynamic of their relationship. This was one of the more enjoyable DC Animations released in the last few years. Recommended for Justice League fans mostly, maybe not such a great kids movie, though. 4 stars

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