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Justice League: Doom rests on one of the oldest tropes of comic book heroes, supervillains teaming up to destroy their rivals. The interesting twist on Doom is that the plans to defeat the heroes come from within their own ranks. Batman has devised a doomsday scenario for every member of the Justice League, preying on both their physical and mental vulnerabilities.
The cleverness of the idea is offset by its execution several times, though. The Wonder Woman and Green Lantern scenarios hinge entirely on the two of them being incapable of simple deduction, with Lantern’s resting mostly on making him feel bad. The Flash’s scenario seems both generic and easily solvable, and is once Batman points out the obvious answer to him. Seeing as Superman has only one weakness, his is easy enough to deduce, but the solution is clever, and Martian Manhunter’s takedown is the easily the best. That was a horrible thing to do to a friend, and more should have been made of that idea.
Batman gets a pretty easy time of it, considering that his uncharacteristically lax security is to blame for Vandal Savage forming the Legion of Doom to enact his sanctions against the League. They brush over the topic with cursory anger and disbelief, but the outcome is never placed in doubt. Batman’s nonchalance about the whole thing is the only good part of his being tried.
Savage gets the barest bones of a backstory, which is an interesting one when given time, but the two-minute telling does little to make him credible. It’s a matter of time available, though, and was probably best left unsaid at all if that was what he was going to get. A mystery unsolved is better than an unsatisfactory answer. The Legion is generally the most obvious of villains—Kryptonite powered Metallo; the Cheetah, Wonder Woman’s most workable villain in a short story; the Mirror Master for Flash, who gets an interesting treatment and actually seems like a threat for once; Bane’s plan deserved its own animated film and time to show its psychological toll on Batman; Star Sapphire, still working the Hal-Jordan-broke-my-heart angle, offers no higher agenda than being a scorned woman; and Ma’alefa’ak, twin brother of J’onn J’onnz, previously the last of the Martians, who seems like an interesting villain but gets too little chance to prove it.
The problem with the final battle, once all the players are revealed and the combatants are in place, is that the League never uses any strategy to battle the Legion. Superman goes straight for Metallo, the cyborg housing literally the only substance deadly to him, while Green Lantern or Wonder Woman could have fought him without ill effects, and Superman could have handled the rest of the Legion almost singlehandedly. It would have been much more interesting for Batman to direct traffic, applying his planning ability to point each Leaguer to his or her best matched opponent, especially seeing as that same skill nearly got the League killed moments before this battle. Seeing him outsmart Mirror Master, for example, while Flash unhooked Bane from his Venom supply is what these big team battles are designed to showcase. It was a letdown to see them all just go head to head with their regular foes, especially since the clash was so brief and anticlimactic anyway.
The big draw of Doom is the reuniting of the Justice League: the Animated Series cast. I don’t believe these two are supposed to take place in the same reality, given that the Flash was Barry Allen rather than Wally West, but it was still a treat to hear all of the familiar voices again. I don’t know why DC Animated films ever stray from Kevin Conroy as Batman, but they do seem determined to allow someone else to inhabit the role in at least every other film, always with the effect of wishing for Conroy. It’s almost an event every time they bring him back. I would have been fine with someone else voicing the Flash once I realized it was a different character, but Michael Rosenbaum did his usual great job. He’s just a little too jocular for the more serious Barry Allen. I think Nathan Fillion stands a chance to turn around the Hal Jordan Green Lantern by his casting alone, which is more fan service than staying true to the character. I almost think Hal could be retconned into having some humility if Fillion picks up a stronger presence and identification with the character, instead of being the self-serving blowhard he’s been recognized as in recent years. Despite any criticisms, though, the casting and voice work are well above par, as usual.
Doom is a fine standalone work, bringing a new spin on an old standard, though it could have benefited from straying less from that story’s usual rules. Still, the idea is always fun, the film has the big event feel to it, and the animation and acting deliver. 3 ½ stars

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The Eliminators, a movie I watched as a kid and had the fortune to catch again On Demand over the holidays, held up remarkably well for what it is. I expected to laugh at it but, while I may have done so in places, as an adventure movie it does OK. Like a lot of these kinds of movies from the Eighties, The Eliminators’ plot seems as though it may have been generated by a random encounters table (TM TSR…get used to it. This will be a nerdy review). And it well may have been, because this movie is For Nerds, By Nerds.

The highlight of the film was without question John the Mandroid. Mandroid, a catchy term tossed around in this movie, is the same as cyborg. A rebuilt pilot (of course), John struggles with his murderous programming by an evil scientist, who plans to use John as the prototype for his army of Mandroids. He is introduced in the final stages of testing for this purpose, then ordered to be disassembled. A Japanese scientist (important later) has some moral qualms about dismantling a living person for scrap, though. Mad scientists always hire squeamish assistants. Dr. Quandary helps John escape, but not before being lasered through the heart, giving our Mandroid his Uncle Ben moment. Anyway, back to the Mandroid suit: he has removable/replaceable arms a la Evil Master of the Universe Trap-Jaw, as well as a working half-track lower body, which he can switch out for his robot legs (you were warned about the nerdiness. I forgot to mention the geekiness). The half-track is slow to the point of being ridiculous even when he does use it but it doesn’t matter because it looks BADASS. The Mandroid design team members are the real heroes of the movie.

John breaks into a military base to try to find some help with his hardware issues and picks up the next member of his adventuring party, a Colonel Hunter (I have no idea of what, she never wears any sort of uniform) working in military R & D. She has a pet robot named S.P.O.T., seemingly designed to make a neat toy. She asks John how he managed to get past the guards. “Knock out gas,” he replies. Security in this top secret base is lax, even by James Bond villain standards. A two ton metal man with one glowing red eye manages to sneak in more or less undetected. Hunter, played by Denise “Tasha Yar” Crosby no less, instantly believes his story and falls in with his quest. There’s no time for it but the “initial misunderstanding and big fight before the team up” is one of the only clichés missing from the movie. She also takes the lead at this point, being that she is strong-willed, resourceful and has military experience and John is a Mandroid with memory issues who is easily confused.

In the next role play session, uh, I mean movie scene, our party picks up its next member. Fontana, a smuggler (who in spite of his noodle arms insists on cutting the sleeves off of his shirt) and our next adventurer, is introduced arguing with the Greedo to his river rat Han Solo, Bayou Betty. Tasha Yar walks in and announces that the toughest pirate in the bar wins their fare upriver. A battle royal immediately breaks out, as times are tough and fares scarce. And you thought people on the river were happy to give. Luckily Fontana is smart and sits out the whole thing while Bayou Betty beats the snot out of the entire bar full of stereotypical tough guys. Then he clobbers her from behind and flees with his prize. Bayou Betty gives chase when she wakes but they escape her because, though she may have a superior craft and be a more skilled and ruthless pilot, she did not pack a laser-equipped Mandroid. Them’s the breaks, BB.

Our next intrepid hero to join the party, seemingly at random, is that most essential warrior of the Eighties, The Ninja. Kuji was pretty average for a ninja, though. On a scale of Foot Clan soldier to Snake Eyes, this guy barely rates a Lee Van Cleef. The best part about the guy is the actor’s name: Conan Lee. That name just screams warrior. But Kuji wasn’t just randomly staking out this TerrorDrome. Remember the guy who sacrificed himself for John’s escape? That was- DUN-DUN-DUUUNNN -the ninja man’s pappy! He wants vengeance or redemption for the honor of his clan or whatever it is ninjas want. So he throws his lot in with the Eliminators, which is finally taking shape with his addition. Everyone knows an adventuring party isn’t fully formed with less than four members, Priest (or Mandroid), Fighter (or Ninja), Thief (or Smuggler) and Wizard (or Scientist).

As you will recall, our villain planned an army of Mandroids, to use as an invading force. His end goal is to conquer the Roman Empire. Yep, the man has also perfected time travel. Pretty ambitious guy, too bad he was SO EVIL. Now that they have battled their way into his stronghold, the Eliminators attack with all their might. They do defeat him and foil his history altering and textbook-reprint-requiring scheme, stranding him, in a nifty twist, in the year 4,000 or so B.C. This makes him, as the Hunter so aptly puts it, “the ruler of nothing.” And that’s where the movie abruptly ends.

Given the nature of The Eliminators’ concept and likely target audience, the few female characters come off remarkably well. They neither ask for nor need rescuing in the film, and frequently are better at important tasks than their male counterparts. None of this makes the movie better or worse, but I think it worth noting in a movie so grounded in boy-friendly themes that it didn’t even bother with a romantic subplot. And make no mistake, this is a boys’ movie. Mandroids, ninjas, river pirates, laser-firing robots, Roman soldiers and caveman tribes guarantee that. As Fontana puts it, “What is this? A comic book?” And, yes, save the fact that it’s on film it is a comic book. But that is also the charm of the Eliminators. It is put together with a mixture of attention to detail and silly broadness that only love of genre and a low budget can provide. I don’t like to normally go so deep into the plot during a review but the Eliminators has become somewhat scarce and I don’t know how easily found it is on the internet since I never checked, but if you read this I think you’ll know how interested or not you will be in the film. 3 ½ stars, nicely hokey action/adventure genre piece, and a pretty good specimen of the Eighties too