23 February 2012

Ranking Justice League: Doom and the DC Animated Films

DC has delivered yet another worthy entry in its line of animated films, this time with Justice League: Doom. While paying homage to the classic Challenge of the Super Friends series and loosely adapting the JLA: Tower of Babel story line, Doom also managed to offer up a pseudo follow-up to the Justice League animated series by bringing back many of the voice actors from that fantastic effort. Sure, they swapped out Green Lanterns, switched Flashes, and exchanged Cyborg for Hawkgirl but this movie has that same feel of the best offerings of JLU.

Doom  served up plenty of action by pitting the League against not only the Legion of Doom, but also the Royal Flush Gang. While the number of foes was truly impressive, Doom did lack that one charismatic villain to really sell the threat. Don't get me wrong, Vandal Savage was good, but I think sticking with Ra's Al Ghul may have been even better.

The plot of the story, like Tower of Babel, involved the villains execution of Batman's own contingency plans to neutralize the League. The employed tactics were clever and the take down sequence was compelling, though the end result probably should have been more effective. I guess its no spoiler to say that despite the poor outlook, the League triumphed in the end. Where the movie truly succeeded was in presenting Batman as both vulnerable and heroic. Too often he single handedly saves the day. In Doom, victory was a team effort.

Doom is narrowly edged out by the prior Justice League film, Crisis on Two Earths, but only barely and mostly because I am a sucker for alternate reality stories and because Owlman was just so cool. Doom is still a triumph which easily stands among the great DC animated movies.


#20 Superman: Brainiac Attacks belongs at the bottom of any list as it is a horrible and horribly disappointing movie. The movie has plenty of punching but remains irritatingly boring. Lex Luthor is given one of the character's worst interpretations and most egregious, the movie used the look of the Superman: The Animated Series to try and sell a sub par and unrelated Superman story. Of all the movies on the list this is the one that really has no significant redeeming qualities.

#19 Batman: Gotham Knight at least has style on its side, but little else. Gotham Knight promised a mature bridge between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and delivered a hodgepodge of freakish Batman designs loosely connected with a story that doesn't deserve to be remembered. It pains me greatly that I didn't fall in love with this Batmanime, but try as I might, even on attempted repeat viewing I haven't been able to invest in this stylish mess.


#18 Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo is a serviceable outing that falls short of the series best episodes. The movie really doesn't stand on its own either, offering fans one last dose of Titans rather than delivering a solid story to general audiences. A stronger villain would have gone a long way to saving this movie, but as it is, the final product is a fair amount of blah.

#17 Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman comes in as one of the less memorable Batman films. The actual mystery is somewhat interesting but the movie doesn't escape the feeling that it was stuck with leftover villains Penguin and Bane, two of Batman: The Animated Series weakest foes. Maybe The Dark Knight Rises will propel Bane to the A-list, but in this movie he will still seem like just a goon.

Not Without Their Charm

#16 Batman vs Dracula just may be the best thing that came out of The Batman. The movie has a surprisingly darker tone than the series and manages to pull off an interesting showdown with "the original Batman." The long capes and animation style also worked well here in a movie that should not just be written off by critics of The Batman.

#15 Superman Batman: Apocalypse was technically the first sequel in the DC animated movie line, but aside from few token bits of background there was really no connection to Public Enemies. This movie is essentially none of the fun of Public Enemies but twice the action. Apocalypse dropped the light camaraderie of Public Enemies in favor of serious and intense fight sequences. In fact, the movie plays more as a series of fantastic action sequences than as a story with any sort of emotional connection. In any case, this was certainly not a worthy follow up to the previous entry, Batman: Under the Red Hood, but hey, they cant all be home runs. Sometimes you have to settle for a solid double.

#14 Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero bests the similarly plotted Batman and Robin live action movie hands down. Having said that, the movie although enjoyable, doesn't quite seem to escape feeling like an extended episode of the TV series. Granted, the series was awesome, but this entry failed to raise the stakes to a whole new level.

Solid Entertainment

#13 Superman Batman: Public Enemies though on the low side of the countdown was still an enjoyable romp. While Gotham Knight was just dumb, this is dumb fun. As an adaptation of the comic book, this was very faithful, maintaining many of even the most obscure cameos with designs that were spot on (for better or worse). While the story certainly wasn't deep, the movie delivered with one showdown after another. Actually, the plot points that deviated from the comic were welcome improvements. Consider this the Twinkie (or maybe the Suzy Q) of the DC line. I wouldn't want to eat seven of them in a row, but one now and then hits the spot. In fact, my appreciation for this movie has grown ever so slightly since its release while I still haven't found that soft spot for Apocalypse.

#12 Superman: Doomsday was awfully ambitious in trying to tell the whole death and return of Superman story in a single outing. While the death part was done well, the retelling of Rise of the Supermen arc felt like a cheat. Instead we were basically given a retooled Identity Crisis episode from Superman: The Animated Series. Having said that, without comparison to the original comic or comparison to the animated series tale, this story is enjoyable enough. I probably like this one more than most, maybe I just like mullet Superman. Or maybe it is just the epic way that the opening fight with Doomsday introduced DCs new line movies making me forget just how bad was Brainiac Attacks.


#11 Green Lantern: Emerald Knights ranks highly among DC's "good" movies, but feels more like a diversion than a complete movie. Although it was fantastic seeing so many Lanterns and amazing having some of the alien Lanterns finally getting their own focus, the anthology structure kept the movie from being as epic as First Flight. Great animation, choreography, and fan service make this a worthwhile film, but some of the segments were a lot better than other and without the heart of some of DC's greats, this one lands somewhere in the middle of the pack.

#10 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the only one of these movie to have received a theatrical release and although it is a great movie, I am just not as won over as some. I really enjoy the first half of the movie, in particular I enjoy the flashback sequences which show Batman beginning as well as any scene in Batman Begins. The movie's last act just doesn't do it for me as the inclusion of the usually welcome Joker seems too shoehorned in. Don't take my criticism too harshly; this is a solid movie, but for my money, there are a few better.

#9 Justice League: The New Frontier was a bit of a letdown on first viewing. There was something noble and nostalgic about the setup but the climax involving a dinosaur spewing flying island was a bit much to swallow. Since then, the movie has grown on me. I realized that the final villain wasn't really the point (though a better foe would have bumped this one up); the movie was about the dawn of a new age of heroism. I really appreciate that even though this is a Justice League film, it was Green Lantern, Flash, and the Martian Manhunter that really drove the story. Those three have never seemed so heroic.


#8 Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
can make a believer out of those who say Batman Beyond is a lame concept. What would Batman be without The Joker? This movie shows how the Joker legacy haunted Bruce Wayne even after his apparent death and gave the new hero a chance to prove his worthiness of the title of Batman. Plus, there were plenty of flashbacks to the good ol' Batman and Robin days as well.

#7 Justice League: Doom pays homage not only to the classic Tower of Babel comic arc, but to the classic TV series Challenge of the Super Friends. At its core, that's what this movie is, an epic League versus Legion tale. Particularly compelling was the dismantling of the League but just as satisfying was the League's rising back to the challenge.

#6 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths offered a a briskly paced alternate reality adventure. Highlights of the film were pretty much everything to do with Owlman including his diabolical scheme, his jet, and his main squeeze. Also enjoyable were the evil versions of heroes, particularly notoriously unpopular members of the Justice League Detroit.

#5 Wonder Woman was a real surprise. Unfortunately a lot of people think Wonder Woman is outdated and lame but this movie proved that a big budget Wonder Woman movie could be pretty great. Wondy offered the most violent outing of the bunch (well maybe second to Gotham Knight- both had beheadings) but was well balanced with humor. Of all the movies, this one exceeding my expectations the most.

#4 Green Lantern: First Flight finally gave the Green Lantern his own title and proved that GL deserves to be up there front and center. This space based action movie has a setting distinct from the other DC and even Marvel DVDs and in my opinion is begging for a sequel. Nevertheless, this movie felt like more than just a setup for another movie, a trap that many origin stories fall into. I would have liked a few more minutes of setup at the beginning giving Hal Jordan a bit more character, but overall this was a solid and polished movie.


#3 Batman: Year One is a masterful adaptation of one of the greatest Batman stories ever told and a great cop story. Before he had Bat-jets, satellites and sidekicks, Batman was an underdog just like his unlikely partner, Jim Gordon. Sure, the source material has been mined to death by other adaptations, but this is quintessential Batman, without all the frills.

#2 All Star Superman oozes reverence for the Man of Steel. Fans are going to gripe that their favorite scene from the graphic novel didn't make the cut, but what did make it into this film is the novel's ability to give Superman humanity. Its not just what Superman can do, but what he inspires in others that places him at the top of the pantheon of heroes. And in the end, even Lex Luthor learns that lesson. Just like Under the Red Hood captures the essence of Batman, All Star Superman is the quintessential Superman story, and the best Superman show in at least 30 years.

#1 Batman: Under the Red Hood joins this list at the top spot. Perhaps it will settle into a lower position over time, but I was really blown away by the grit and emotion of this movie. It also didn't hurt that it looked fantastic. Even though I was expecting the movie to be hurt because the identity of Red Hood was pretty obvious, I really don't think it was. This was one well crafted and slick tale that stuffed no less than five supervillains into a sleek 75 minutes. Stories like this is why Batman remains DC's most popular.

Check out my ranking of the Marvel movies here.


  1. I am a big fan of these super heroes. I had seen all the episods of justice league, batman, wonder woman, etc..You have provide good collection of its.

  2. I would take All-Star out of the top 15. Same with Public Enemies which was horrible. "Red hood" and "Year One" are 1 an 1A. They're both fantastic and its hard to put one over the other. I basically agree with the rest of your rankings. Havent seen doom yet though but looking forward to it.

  3. No love for All Star Superman? I can see why some people would hate Public Enemies though. Its more fan service than anything else.

  4. Well I didnt think All-Star was awful just painfully mediocre. I didnt care for Superman's voice work. Lois came off as annoying and kind of unlikeable but thats due more to how the character was written than voice acting. Animation was not up to the level recent DC animated features. I did like Lex's story and found it to be of more interest than the main story. His scenes with Kent in particular were very good. It seems like they tried to cram too much stuff into one feature though. The mini-arc with Sampson was utterly pointless and could have been left out.

  5. Those are some fair points, especially the Sampson one. Is that guy an established DC character? Perhaps having read the comics gave me some bias, but I thought overall it really captured the essence of Superman, and it did it not by making Superman darker or more "modern," but by emphasizing some of his "outdated" aspects.