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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


DC’s animated releases have been really hit or miss in the last three years. You had the good Wonder Woman, the very good Green Lantern: First Flight, and the great Justice League: the New Frontier and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. Then you’ve also seen such not-so-greats as Superman: Doomsday, the anime styled Batman: Gotham Knights, and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Now comes Batman: Under the Red Hood, which falls somewhere in the middle.

Taken from a tale I only knew in passing, this one proves that even when you do see the body in comics it doesn’t mean it’s dead. Sparing you any of the films obvious spoilers, the Red Hood, an identity of the Joker’s in his earliest career moment (i.e. the one which made him the Joker), is back in town and muscling his way into the drug trade. His deadly methods coerce a number of gang members to side with him against main drug lord Black Mask (picture Tony Montana with his face burned down to the skull). In a double effort to use the history of the Red Hood character and provide a much more interesting protagonist, the Joke plays a substantial role in the plot.

Relying too heavily on flashbacks, the story feels a little meandering, and features too many characters for its own good. Nightwing, the original Robin now grown, shows up to basically do Batman’s talking so he can keep up his grim, silent shtick. The constant flashbacks disrupt the pace of the film and could have been better summed up in about half as many. While appearances like R’as Al Ghul work in a multi-part comic story, it just takes up valuable screen time in Red Hood. I know, too, that Batman’s rogues gallery contains so many, many more interesting antagonists than Black Mask that his appearance frustrates in its banality. He does next to nothing of interest.

The voice acting comes and goes. Bruce Greenwood as Batman seems to be doing a Kevin Conroy impression in most of his performance, begging the question why DC ever casts anyone else. The man has the definitive Batman voice. Warner Brothers should redub all of Christian Bale’s lines as Batman to get them right in the future. John DiMaggio’s Joker take was interesting but I felt he had it about 75% down. His laughter worked perfectly, though, and that’s such a significant piece of the performance that I believe he can perfect it on another try, since Mark Hamill has officially retired the voice. Neil Patrick Harris might be the sole reason for Nightwing’s inclusion in the film. Great though he was, the story portrays the character as nearly bumbling, asking obvious questions and barely keeping up with Batman at all. Harris, though, was great and should be kept on board future Batman or Teen Titan productions as Dick Grayson.

The story wraps up neatly enough, with an easy to spot battle and characters seemingly disposed of whom we know still to fight another day. Overall, though, Batman: Under the Red Hood only partially satisfies as a film, a Batman story or an action cartoon. While the fights moved well and provided some fun moments, there were too many with faceless goons, and even the main antagonists only seemed like minor threats half the time. The story revolving around mentor and student’s paths diverging plays well when not interrupted by brawls involving no one of importance. I would have liked to have seen a tighter, leaner story with fewer superfluous characters and a cleaner resolution, but the film has its number of high points, too, such as good voice work, fair animation and no punches pulled in the action. Hopefully they will give this cast and crew another chance to make their mark on Batman in the future. 3 stars