Last year fans of comic books and cartoons based on comic books lost a great storyteller far too early with the untimely death of Dwayne McDuffie. This week, we have been given a gift: Justice League: Doom, Dwayne's last work.
Loosely based on the incredible Mark Waid storyline "Tower of Babel" from the JLA book, Justice League: Doom examines what would happen if Batman's secret contingency plans against his Justice League teammates were stolen and used against the JLA, and the fallout that comes with the other members of the League learning that Batman has such contingency plans to begin with. The title comes from the inclusion of the infamous Legion of Doom, who were not present in the original story. Other changes include Hal Jordan (voiced by Nathan Fillion) taking the Green Lantern role from Kyle Rayner (voiced by nobody, cuz he ain't in it) and Wally West being replaced by Barry Allen as The Flash (voiced by Michael Rosenbaum, who voiced the Wally West version of the character in the Justice League series), as well as the inclusion of Cyborg, a long-time member of the Teen Titans. Incidentally, this is not Cyborg's first forray into the JLA, he was a member of the League way back in the Superfriends: Galactic Guardians television series.
I really don't want to speak ill of Dwayne McDuffie's last script, nor do I feel comfortable doing it. It isn't a bad movie, it's actually a very good movie, taken by itself. It was a stellar voice cast, as is always the case with anything cast by Andrea Romano. In fact, the only real problem I've ever had with a voice casting decision was Deidrich Bader as Batman. I mean, come on! Most of the cast are returning from either the Justice League series or some other previous DC Comics animated work (Tim Daly returns from Superman: TAS and Nathan Fillion returns from Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, for example). I did have one issue, though, as far as casting went: Michael Rosenbaum. I love Michael as an actor and I love Michael as Flash, but not as Barry Allen. Wally West seems tailored for Michael perfectly. In this film, though, I felt as though Michael was wasted. He played Barry a lot straighter than he played Wally, which is absolutely true to the characters, but because of that Michael seemed to lack the energy he had as Wally West. Although it absolutely sounded like Michael, it didn't feel like Michael, and the true Michael really is missed.
I didn't like the decisions to replace Wally and Kyle with Barry and Hal. I like Kyle as a GL and would love to see him really done right in a cartoon, which we either haven't gotten or have gotten just a taste of. My problems with replacing Wally with Barry really all stem from the criticisms of Michael Rosenbaum's performance above. Michael did a great job as Barry, but knowing it's Michael and he's not being the Michael we all know really is disappointing.
Justice League: Doom also suffers from not being anything we haven't seen before. We've seen the "what if" contingency stuff with the Cadmus arc in JLU, we've seen the League betrayed by one of their own in "Starcrossed" (I should point out that I'm on Batman's side here. I don't see his contingency plans as a betrayal, though he should have kept them better guarded to protect his friends from just this sort of thing) and we've seen the Legion of Doom/Injustice Gang stuff really done to death. And the story is changed quite a bit from the original, which is surprising for Bruce Timm and his DTVs. They usually try to stay fairly close to the original stories and I wish they'd done that here. Instead, Doom is as different from Babel as Superman/Doomsday was from the original Death storyline, and with Babel only being four issues long, they didn't have the restrictions, and therefore the excuse, they had with Superman/Doomsday.
Justice League: Doom isn't a bad movie. It's a very good movie, if you're not looking for anything fresh. It's very derivative of stuff the team had already done in JL and JLU, and that's mostly because Tower of Bable was one of Dwayne McDuffie's favorite stories and he kept trying to do it. If this time he had finally done a straight adaptation, though, it would have been better.
This review, as much as the movie I'm reviewing, is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Dwayne McDuffie. Thank you for all you've given us, your legacy will truly outlive us all.