Nearly every seat was filled inside the Paley Center for Thursday night's screening of Justice League: Doom. The latest in DC's string of direct-to-DVD releases, Doom will hit the streets on Feb. 28. Fans can also catch it on-demand beginning Feb. 21.
Loosely based on Mark Waid's JLA story Tower of Babel, Doom is significant in that it is the final script from Dwayne McDuffie, the comic book and television writer who died last year at age 49. McDuffie previously scripted All-Star Superman and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He also wrote for the animated series Justice League, among many other projects.
During the panel following the film, voice director Andrea Romano commented on McDuffie's work, stressing that he made comic books “actable,” that he had a gift for turning “thoughts into dialogue.” It's a special ability to turn comic books into scripts, she added.
This much rings true for those of us who have stopped counting how many times we've walked out of a theater disappointed in the latest comic book-turned-film. Indeed, DC's animated, direct-to-DVD offerings are often a much better bet than much of what hits the big screen. That was acknowledged last night when one audience member asked director Lauren Montgomery, who has worked on a number of DC titles, “How does it feel to direct a better Green Lantern movie…” with boisterous, fanboy/-girl laughter erupting over the end of his question.
Take Doom as an example. Its connection to the source material is mostly in terms of general plot and themes. Some of the characters and other elements have been changed, so it's best to watch this as a stand-alone piece or as part of the animated DC canon. Bruce Timm, co-creator of Batman: The Animated Series (and the frequently cosplayed character Harley Quinn), is the executive producer for Doom, and has been for a number of other DVD releases. With that in mind, you can expect the same quality, and a similar aesthetic, to the acclaimed 1990s series. Montgomery and Romano do a wonderful of job of cultivating genuinely emotional moments throughout the feature.
The voice cast for Doom, as with other similar projects, is stellar. A number of actors have reprised their roles from the Justice League series of the early 2000s. Doom also features Tim Daly, who played Superman in the late 1990s Superman series as well as DVD releases, in the role fans love. Nathan Fillion is back as well, playing Green Lantern/Hal Jordan. The Castle star previously portrayed the beloved character in Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.
Following the screening, L.A. Times' Hero Complex blog editor Geoff Boucher moderated a panel featuring Montgomery, Romano and Daly along with Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Phil Morris (Vandal Savage) and Olivia d'Abo (Star Sapphire). It was, at times, a revealing look into this long-running project.
“I didn't really realize how important Superman was to humanity,” said Daly, who admitted to not reading many comics in his youth. Daly elaborated on this, saying that he did have difficulties with playing the legendary character at first because he's “such a straight arrow.”
“It's not easy to play the straight arrow,” added Phil Morris, who plays the villainous Vandal Savage, “It's much easier to rise to the ire.”
In Morris' hands, Savage proves to be a formidable nemesis for the Justice League.
“The heroes are always better when the evil is great,” he said.
This time around, the team worked with a studio in Japan beginning with the storyboard process, a move that appears similar to what Warner Bros. did with its ThunderCats reboot.
As for news on the animated DC front, well, there wasn't much of it. Romano mentioned that she's working on four projects right now. The only one that could be mentioned by name is The Dark Knight Returns, although she could not say who would be voicing Batman in this adaptation of the Frank Miller classic.