Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is one of the only films from the DC Animated line that I can wholeheartedly recommend and I think so much of that is because of the influence of Dwayne McDuffie. McDuffie, who died early in 2011, was a major force for equality in comics and media, he was a person who understood comics and characters. He understood what heroes were and I greatly respect him for that.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths still has deaths but they are offscreen, they aren’t violent, they are sacrifices or they are necessary – unlike most of these films. But the lack of visceral deaths, the constant message – having Superman respond to the President of Alternate Earth’s question about killing the evil Crime Syndicate – Superman says “No, we don’t don’t do that.” They don’t kill because killing is wrong, because those who have been forced to take lives are some of the people who are most opposed to having to do it.
The premise is simple – on an alternate Earth the Justice League is the evil Crime Syndicate and the Lex Luthor of that world is good. He comes to the main universe to save his own Earth and the Justice League have no option other than helping an entire other world. It is troubling that they refer to saving only millions of people on the Earth as opposed to billions, though that is just me being pedantic.
The film itself additionally had roots in the Justice League series with a story that was meant to theoretically cross between Justice League and Unlimited with the League realizing that it needs more members but that doesn’t really matter.
This is a movie where the superheroes are good, and the villains are evil enough – you don’t need to see them killing people. You only need to hear they are evil. You only need to see them fighting the good team. It is just a relief because like Superman says “We’re always stronger when we’re doing the right thing.” When the Justice League fights the Crime Syndicate, they don’t kill them. They knock them out, they arrest them and it is a relief.
The only moments that give me pause are one scene with a bloody nose and they say crap twice (and bugger once). The violence is just cartoony action. It is a relief.
Safely pop this in and enjoy it with kids of most ages.
The other two films this week are less easy to recommend.
Batman: Under The Red Hood adapts the modern classic story of the same name in which Batman’s partner Jason Todd returns from the dead to deal with criminals in his own way – either by killing them or making them work for him. The killing thing though is a pretty prominent choice – people get sniped in the head, others get lit on fire and when the Joker gets involved (in an almost distracting vocal role by John DiMaggio, aka Bender or Jake the Dog) the murders only get worse. There are a lot of heavy topics to go along with the violence as well, meaning that the movie isn’t really fun for kids.
The cartoon itself is actually really well done. The voice actors besides Joker and a shaky vocal job from Neil Patrick Harris as Dick Grayson are great. Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester from Supernatural) gets his brood on as the Red Hood. But at the same time the film starts with the Joker beating a young boy with a crowbar so proceed with extreme caution or just avoid it for younger viewers.
The final film for this week was Superman/Batman: Apocalypse or as it should have been called Supergirl: Apocalypse. The movie is one of the most horribly organized and voyeuristic cartoons I’ve seen where Supergirl is commonly sexualized along with most of the other good female characters and I generally would recommend avoiding the film with kids or without. There isn’t even a solid message and all of the heroes, including heavy involvement from Wonder Woman, leave the heroes as being generally unlikeable.
Trust me that sticking with Crisis on Two Earths is the best advice I can give for kids and adults alike.
Next time I’ll tackle the DC Showcase – Superman/Shazam! The Return of Black Adam along with All-Star Superman (also led by Dwayne McDuffie) and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, which I’ve not actually seen before. Hopefully it is at least as good as Green Lantern: First Flight.