Recently, DC Comics decided to bring back the Crime Syndicate of Amerika for a huge crossover event, Forever Evil. If you aren’t familiar with them, the jist of them is that the Crime Syndicate are evil versions of the Justice League from a parallel world. While their ranks have changed from time to time, they usually consist of Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick. Well, this got me feeling nostalgic for an animated movie made a while back that also featured the Crime Syndicate, simply entitled Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths.
Based off Gardner Fox‘s story, “Crisis on Earth-Three!”, and Grant Morrison‘s “JLA: Earth 2“, this movie was originally conceived to act as a bridge between season two of the Justice League animated series and the start of Justice League Unlimited. However, for reasons I’m not sure I completely understand, that plan was scrapped and it was instead reworked into its own story in its own continuity. So, how does it fare? Pretty awesome, albeit not perfect. As usual, let’s do a summary of the plot before I talk about what I really liked and didn’t like.
So the movie starts off with Lex Luthor and an alternate version of The Joker called The Jester breaking into a maximum security vault to steal something called the Quantum Trigger, but it becomes clear right away that this isn’t the Justice League’s Earth (which, for simplicity’s sake, we’re just gonna call their world Earth 1 and the Syndicate’s world Earth 3) when evil versions of its members corner Jester and try to kill him, only for him to go out with a bang to buy Luthor time to escape. While Luthor is briefly cornered by the Crime Syndicate’s five leaders, he manages to get away by escaping to Earth 1. Once there, he contacts the Justice League and, since Superman can tell he’s from a parallel Earth right away with his x-ray vision, they hear him out. Apparently, Luthor’s Justice League has been taken out one by one, with him as its last member. The Syndicate have almost complete control of the world, and only the threat of a nuclear response is keeping them from achieving that much. As such, the Justice League votes on the matter, with Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Wally West, THANK GOD, lol), Hal Jordan, and Martian Manhunter vote to go help, with only Batman opting to stay behind, as their new Watchtower isn’t even complete yet.
Arriving on Earth 3, the Justice League find Lex’s base of operations being ransacked by the Syndicate, who are looking for the Quantum Trigger. The Quantum Trigger is the last component to a bomb capable of destroying the world, which they plan to use as leverage on the government of the world to make them bow to them. A huge brawl breaks out between the League and a large number of villainous counterparts to various heroes of the DCU, including Vibe, Vixen, Elongated Man, and the Shazam family. Barely escaping with Owlman’s jet, the League go to Jester’s hideout, where Luthor explains the command structure of the Crime Syndicate, and Superman decides they need to move out in teams of two to stop their various operations. Meanwhile, Owlman has learned of Luthor’s device that allows him to travel to alternate worlds, and it becomes clear to Superwoman, who is his mistress, that he’s growing increasingly nihilistic. After all, even if they were to detonate the bomb on Earth 3, all it would do is cause the world to branch into two: One where they made the choice to detonate the bomb, and another where they didn’t. In essence, he feels that nothing he does will ever matter because there’ll always be another world where he did the exact opposite, or worse, where he never existed at all. As such, he commits himself to finding the original Earth, the one from which every Earth in the multiverse spun from, and destroy it with the bomb, as it’s the only decision he could ever make that would have lasting consequence, and since Superwoman is a murdering psychopath, she goes along with it.
Superman’s operation turns out to be a complete success, even to the point where he and Luthor manage to get Ultraman arrested. However, President Slade Wilson (seriously) orders his release, on account of the fact that there’d be no way to protect anyone willing to prosecute. This enrages his daughter, Rose, who thinks her father a coward, but Martian Manhunter suggests that isn’t the case, having accidentally read her thoughts since they appear to be attuned for some reason. Superman simply tells the President that they’re not leaving until the Syndicate is defeated, and they show themselves out. Afterwards, Slade is visited by Ultraman, who tells him to tell his daughter to stop speaking against the Syndicate in public, or he’ll do to her what he did to the First Lady. Slade is rightfully pissed off and threatens to nuke Ultraman if he comes anywhere near Rose, but Ultraman laughs him off, informing him that the Syndicate are creating a bomb of their own.
Sure enough, during a public speech, Rose is nearly assassinated by an evil version of Green Arrow called Archer, but Martian Manhunter had been posing as one of her guards and easily stops him. It seems that, being attuned to Rose, J’onn can’t get her out of his head, and the two are quickly falling in love due to how well their minds compliment each other. Meanwhile, Owlman sends Superwoman and the evil Shazams to Earth 1, as it seems that Lex hid the Quantum Trigger on the Watchtower when he was there. Batman puts of as good a fight as one can expect, but it’s clear that he’s out-numbered and out-gunned, so he calls in the Calvary, teleporting Black Lightning, Aquaman, Red Tornado, Black Canary, and Firestorm in to tilt the odds in his favour. While this works for the most part, Superwoman still gets away with the Quantum Trigger, and while Batman gives chase, he finds himself captured instead. Despite being completely outmatched by Superwoman, however, even to the point of being toyed with, Batman outsmarts her by tricking her into breathing in enough anaesthesia to kill an elephant, knocking her out. After calling the Justice League, Lex admits to hiding the Quantum Trigger on the Watchtower, but only because it was impossible to destroy it, and the Watchtower was the safest place to hide it, or so he thought. A quick off-screen interrogation of Superwoman reveals Owlman’s plans, and, with Rose granting knowledge of the Syndicate’s base on the moon, they go to face them, with J’onn remaining behind for the time being.
Once on the moon, Superwoman manages to get free and knock Lex out, making it a 5-on-5 fight with the League each squaring off against their evil counterparts. While the League gets the advantage, Owlman’s computer locates Earth Prime (no, not Superboy Prime’s world), and he teleports himself there with the bomb. Once the rest of the Crime Syndicate figure out what’s happening, they all come up with a plan to stop him: Johnny Quick will vibrate his body as just the right speed to piggyback on Owlman’s signal and open a portal, but they can only send one person, so naturally, Batman decides to go, squaring off with Owlman 1-on-1. It becomes clear in the fight that Owlman has the advantage in nearly every way, but Batman manages to trick him, tying him to the bomb as he teleports it to another Earth in the computer’s memory banks: A frozen, uninhabited world. Owlman has enough time to abort the detonation, but opts not to, claiming “It doesn’t matter”, dying in the explosion. Batman returns, but despite desperately yelling at Johnny to stop vibrating, he dies, having gone so fast that his body aged to the point of death. Ultraman quickly decides to end their truce, but J’onn arrives, accompanied by the President, who was not to thrilled with the attempt on Rose’s life, and the Marines. They’ve also come packing nuclear warheads, and in the face of that, the Syndicate surrenders. In the end, while Rose asks J’onn to stay, he made a promise to protect his new home, so sadly, they say goodbye, the League returning home as Superman suggests they could use a few extra hands in the future. Batman agrees, opting to start a membership drive, as Black Canary and the others greet them on the Watchtower.
So, like I said, this movie is pretty awesome, but it does have its flaws. And, since I wanna end this review on a high note, let’s look at those flaws first. Oh, and before anyone asks, no, I have not read the source material this was based on (yet), so I will not be making comparisons, with a single exception, and you’ll understand why when we get to it.
- While I don’t have a problem with Hal Jordan or the casting of his voice actor in this movie, it’s pretty clear he was not intended to be here. I’ll get to why in a second, but there just isn’t enough of Hal being the snarky, flirtatious, and possessing-the-greatest-of-wills kind of guy that he is in this movie. In fact, a lot of the time, it doesn’t really feel like he nor Power Ring are really doing much of anything. Of all the main characters involved, they seem like the ones with the least going on…though I DO love the Rock Beats Scissors moment Hal has in the Earth 3 JLA headquarters. lol However, as I said, it’s clear he wasn’t meant to be here, which brings me to the second major problem I have with this movie…
- Why the hell did they abandon the plan for this to be a Justice League animated series movie?!?! Think about it, all of the pieces are in place: The Justice League in this movie consists only of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter, which were the same team at the end of Starcrossed when Hawkgirl quit. The Watchtower had been destroyed, which would explain the new one being built here. Black Canary, Aquaman, and the others all become supporting members of the JLU. The only thing off is that, in the movie, this world’s Lex Luthor is in prison, Aquaman doesn’t have his hook hand, and, as I mentioned before, John Stewart is swapped out for Hal Jordan. And speaking of which, because they did that, they left out a great opportunity for a story with John here: He could’ve encountered evil Hawkgirl, which would in turn dig up his issues of having broken up with her recently and put him in a situation where he needs to deal with it.
- Okay, this isn’t so much a complaint, just a sorta WTF moment when I sit back and think to myself “How the hell did they get away with Superwoman in this movie?” This is a PG-13, and in case it got past anybody’s brilliant senses, Superwoman’s character is pretty much that of an evil dominatrix…No, really. Watch the scene where she takes on Batman again and tell me you don’t see it. Also, while I said I wouldn’t be comparing to the source material, I do have to admit that I find it a little jarring that they changed Superwoman from being an Amazon Lois Lane to being Mary Marvel (hence the evil Shazams), which is kinda icky because now I have no idea how old Superwoman ACTUALLY is…o.O
- This is actually something that even the movie points out as making little sense: Why is Batman the one to save the universe? Think about it: The bomb’s gonna blow the whole multiverse up. Wouldn’t you wanna send your best guy in to stop it? Y’know, SUPERMAN?! Really, the only reason Batman is there is because it’s his evil counterpart, which I don’t think is enough to justify his presence, and because he’s DC’s biggest meal ticket, which I swear to God is making it harder to be a Batman fan EVERY DAY.
And that’s all the stuff I didn’t like. So, what stuff did I like the most?
- Pretty much every time Wally opens his mouth. lol Seriously, I miss the crap outta Wally in the comics these days. There’s also a running plot (pun intended) of Flash thinking Batman REALLY doesn’t like him, until the end when Johnny Quick is dying and correctly deduces that Flash could’ve opened the portal, but Batman told him he wasn’t fast enough because he knew there was a chance it could’ve killed him. I thought that went pretty well.
- Wonder Woman gets her Invisible Jet in this movie, but it’s actually Owlman’s jet. Thing is, it has a cloaking device, but when the Shazams blast it with lightning, it fries the circuitry and keeps it invisible. I thought that was a really good explanation, plus I loved Owlman’s little Air Force One moment when he told Diana to “Get off my plane”. Cute, Warner Bros.
- While the romance sub-plot with Rose and J’onn seems kinda rushed, the explanation allows me to forgive that, and really…J’onn doesn’t get enough romantic interests! I honestly feel bad for him sometimes. When you watch Justice League, where is he most of the time? Cooped up in the Watchtower. It wasn’t until the last season he finally met someone, and that was off-screen! And these two actually do give the feeling that they would work well as a couple…although I dunno if that justifies people making AMVs of them to the song, I swear to God I’m not kidding here, “Kiss From A Rose”. Also, I admit to getting a small giggle out of him saying that, knowing his luck, the Earth 1 version of Rose is evil, to which I always say “…Erm, kinda…ish…Depends on who’s writing her.”
- EVERYBODY is in this movie! Freaking EVERYBODY, whether it’s the real them or their Earth 3 counterparts, are in this movie. On top of the ones I already mentioned, there are CSA versions of Looker, Gypsy, Halo, Katana, Hawkman, Mister Terrific, Man-Bat, Wildcat, Power Girl, Swamp Thing, Lobo, and TONS more! And while a few of them do stand in the background, a lot more are shown using their unique powers and abilities so that they aren’t wasted. Heck, Vibe’s evil counterpart actually gets a good shot in on Superman…before being promptly punched out like a jobber, but still, a good shot. And, of course, seeing the Justice League Reserves show up for an awesome fight scene is really cool too, though it would’ve meant more if they had, again, gone ahead with the original idea for this movie.
- All in all, with a possible exception for Hal Jordan, I find the characters are all well-represented. Aside from the ones I already touched base on, Superman is distrustful of Lex Luthor, but would still risk his own life to save Lex’s world. Wonder Woman is a kickass fighter that’ll punch out Superwoman when she gets outta line, but is compassionate to her team-mates and even suggests that if J’onn wants to stay with Rose that he should. Ultraman works as a great cautionary example of what someone like Superman could’ve been if he hadn’t been raised by the kindly couple that he was. Batman and Owlman work as great opposites, as one is occasionally paranoid of others but would still lay down his life for his team, while the other is sleeping with one of his team-mates but would still kill her to get what he wants. I should note, though, that while the voices aren’t what I’d call bad, in fact some are really good, the voice actor for Batman had clearly been watching The Dark Knight Trilogy. He doesn’t quite go too far with it, but he’s got this growl in the back of his throat that makes me think that, at any moment, THIS was gonna happen…
So, overall, how does this movie stack up? Awesome. Yes, it has a few flaws, and I REALLY wish they’d stuck with the original idea for this movie (especially since we woulda gotten the DCAU voice actors), but if I were to do my best to ignore that and not fault the movie for it, I’d say this movie is one of the better DC Animated Movies out. So, if you’re looking to start a collection of DC movies, this should DEFINITELY be on your To-Buy list.
So, what do you guys think of Crisis On Two Earths? Love it, hate it, indifferent towards it, never seen it before? And hey, how do you think it compares to the current story in DC, Forever Evil? Leave your comments below, and will see you next time. Ja né!
- Crisis on Earth-3D!: Villains Month, Week Two (robot6.comicbookresources.com)
- Crime Syndicate of America (en.wikipedia.org)
- DC’s We Can Be Heroes Charity Campaign Adds Lynda Carter Experience, Exclusive Covers (geek-news.mtv.com)
- Forever Evil #1 Review A Whole New World (toastandtelevision.wordpress.com)
- Johns’ New 52 “Forever Evil” Villain Team Has A Familiar Name (comicbookresources.com)
- Crime Syndicate: Where Do I Start? (ifanboy.com)
- Forever Evil: The Justice League is Dead (fangirlsarewe.com)
- Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (jawahlblog.wordpress.com)
- Tim Daly Interview (scifitalk.com)
- AICN COMICS Opinions Are Like @$Holes: The Crime Syndicate! (aintitcool.com)