Movie Review: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

The election is finally over, but as this post was written before it ended, I still don’t know what happened. Depending on the results and our own personal stances, the ability to launch ourselves into an alternate reality might be really appealing right about now. Then there are movies like Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, which exist to remind all of us that the dystopias in other worlds are somehow even worse than the one we already live in.

A Crisis on Two Earths is a direct-to-video animated film released back in 2010. Originally, the movie was going to be called Worlds Collide and take place between the Justice League animated series and its then-upcoming Justice League Unlimited sequel series. Based on a 1964 comic called Crisis on Earth-Three, Crisis on Two Earths delves into the multiverse and the possibility of many different versions of the characters we know and love running around.

In an alternate universe, the good and bad guys of the DC world are reversed—both Lex Luthor and the Joker, now called Jester, are good guys fighting against the Crime Syndicate. The Crime Syndicate is like an Injustice League, led by Ultraman, Owlman, and Superwoman, who are Superman’s, Batman’s, and Wonder Woman’s counterparts. After they kill Jester and every other hero in their world, Lex manages to escape to a reality we are more familiar with, one where Superman and the rest of the Justice League are not evil.

There, he explains to them the situation on his Earth and that he needs help to stop the Crime Syndicate from completely ruining the world. Although they initially don’t trust Lex, the Justice League agrees to help, and with the exception of Batman, they head on over to the other world to kick Ultraman’s and the rest of the Syndicate’s asses.

Meanwhile, Owlman develops a weapon that can potentially destroy whole worlds, and he figures that if he detonates it on Earth Prime, the original Earth, all parallel worlds born from that world will be destroyed as well. Batman pursues Owlman but can’t stop him from arming the weapon, and is himself incapable of disarming it. While the two of them fight, though, he manages to get both the bomb and Owlman transported to a version of Earth that’s a barren wasteland. The bomb goes off, presumably with Owlman being the only casualty. The day is saved on the alternate Earth—all Crime Syndicate leaders are either jailed or killed—and the Justice League heads on back home.

I really liked this movie when I first watched it, and part of me really loves it now. The DC multiverse is fascinating to me, because it’s not often we get to see so many versions of each character within canon. I love hero-villain team up stories, and seeing the characters all have to put aside their preconceived notions about one another to work together was a lot of fun. Lex Luthor is also one of my favorite characters in the whole of DC, largely in part thanks to Smallville. I even nominated him for president one year just to spite Lady Geek Girl—he’s a horrible president—so any movie where I get to see a good version of him is most definitely for me.

Mostly, what’s really fun about Crisis on Two Earths is getting to see the “what if” factor. What if the characters did this one thing that we know they would never do? Superman, as an iconic hero, doesn’t just rely on his strength to save the day. He also relies on kindness and compassion, and a lot of times he holds himself back so as to not hurt anyone. Ultraman, in comparison, doesn’t have those same self-imposed limitations. He relies on nothing but brute strength in order to intimidate people. As a result, he fails to see a potential betrayal by Owlman, and very clearly doesn’t think things through as well as Superman. He is what would happen if Superman was out of touch with his own humanity. The same is true for Owlman and Batman. In most universes Batman forgoes killing, no matter how much he wants to give into murderous tendencies, because he knows that the minute he starts down that path is the minute he loses himself to darkness. Owlman has made that decision. He is essentially a very somber Joker.

Although Ultraman only wants to use the bomb to blackmail people, Owlman wants to destroy all the worlds because he believes that that is the only action anyone could possibly take that would matter. Even right before he dies and he sees that he doesn’t have enough time to disarm the weapon and save himself, he says that his death doesn’t matter. This is because regardless of what happens, unless the worlds are gone, there will always be another version of himself who’s not dead, and any decision those versions make are automatically pointless, because in another world, he’s already decided something else.

Both Ultraman and Owlman are perfect counterexamples for Superman and Batman. The same could also be said for Superwoman, Wonder Woman’s alter ego. Sadly, her character is nowhere near as interesting as I would have hoped. On the whole, I can’t say that this movie does well in terms of representation for, well, anyone. Wonder Woman and Superwoman are the two most prominent female characters. While Wonder Woman is always awesome, I couldn’t help but notice that her evil counterpart was much more sexual. This unfortunately conflates her sexuality with her villainy, and that is something I cannot stand in movies. She is, however, as Wonder Woman’s opposite, significantly less feminist. Whereas Wonder Woman is a leader, Superwoman is a follower. She cares more about her boyfriend, Owlman, and falling in line with him than she does about forming her own opinions and taking her own initiative. It is an interesting contrast, and it does make her unlikable, which is what the movie was going for. But the biggest failing with her character, sadly, is her sexuality, and Lord knows we could do with fewer movies teaching us that sexual promiscuity in women is evil.

The only other female character we get to see is Rose. Rose is President Slade Wilson’s daughter—she and her father don’t always see eye-to-eye, since she wants him to stand up to the Crime Syndicate and do his part to put them in jail. He refuses to do so, because he believes that going against them will get even more people killed. I did like meeting Rose and seeing a female character as outspoken and involved as her, but she sadly gets relegated to the role of love interest. The Earth hero Martian Manhunter saves her from an assassination attempt, and the two fall in love because of it. Just like that.

Crisis on Two Earths doesn’t really care about representation all that much—it’s more focused on just having a fun time with the story. On some level on I understand that, but as someone who knows that stories can be both inclusive and fun, I am a little annoyed. I wouldn’t say that in terms of representation it’s insultingly bad—its representation is just either not good and stereotypical at best, and completely non-existent at worst. Ultimately, I remember the viewing experience as being really harmless. It was an interesting take on a lot of characters I know and love, and although Owlman’s probably one of the creepiest villains ever—he attempts to destroy all reality just because—I enjoyed seeing him too.

The animation is pretty good, and the dialogue and characterization we get is also well done in a lot of areas. If you’re a DC fan, I would check this movie out if you get the chance to. It’s a fun way to pass just over an hour of your time.

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1 thought on “Movie Review: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

  1. I’d say even if you weren’t a DC fan – I watched this when I wasn’t as into super heroes and enjoyed it a lot. Plus, James Woods as OwlMan is by far one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in a animated super hero movie.

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