Crime is on the run as the newly formed Justice League keeps Metropolis safe and this makes evil genius Lex Luthor very unhappy. Together with Black Manta, Sinestro and a gang of ruthless recruits, Lex builds his own league and declares them the Legion of Doom. With this super powered team of terror and a plan to attack the top-secret government site, Area 52, can Lex finally be on the verge of victory? Sound the "Trouble Alert" and get ready for the bricks to fly when Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League face off against the world's greatest Super-Villains!
The cast features some of the top voiceover artists in the industry, led by Justice League heroes Troy Baker (Batman), Nolan North (Superman), Josh Keaton (Green Lantern), Khary Payton (Cyborg), James Arnold Taylor (The Flash) and Grey Griffin (Wonder Woman, Lois Lane). The Legion of Doom includes Mark Hamill (Trickster, Sinestro), John DiMaggio (Lex Luthor, Joker), Kevin Michael Richardson (Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta), Tom Kenny (Penguin), Cree Summer (Cheetah) and Tony Todd (Darkseid). Dee Bradley Baker is both hero and villain as Martian Manhunter and Man-Bat.
The LEGO videos have been as hit or miss as any other animated genre, although their excellence in design remains consistent Some succeed very well, like 'Star Wars: The Padawan Menace,' 'Batman The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite,' and of course, 'The Lego Movie' itself. Others, however, are less worthy, including 'The Adventures of Clutch Powers' and the previous Justice League adventure, 'Justice League vs. Bizarro League.' The current episode under review, 'Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom' (must all these titles use multiple colons and infinite letters?), falls into that every burgeoning category of the "it's okay, I guess" when it comes to our regular consumption of mass-marketed entertainment. No doubt I would have gone nuts over this flick if it debuted on Beta or VHS back when I was a pre-teen (VCRs cost a small fortune back then), since animated superheroes were limited to 'Batman and Robin Meet Scooby-Doo and the Harlem Globe Trotters on Gilligan's Island' or some unwatchable shlock like that. However, with DC and Marvel characters appearing on the silver screen every other week or so, longtime fans like me can afford to be mored discriminating and sneering.
'Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom' should be of specialized interest to audiences of two types: comic book fans who delight in seeing their favorite Underoo-ed heroes in any media, and to children who are captivated by anything LEGO and like watching colorful characters do pratfalls and slapstick which would make Three Stooges fans roll their eyes. Anyone in between this wide range will probably find this animated feature worth a half-hearted chuckle or two, but forget about it the minute the credits roll.
In this adventure, Lex Luthor bands together a group of super-villains following yet another defeat by the world's mightiest heroes. Joining him in this injustice league is Black Manta (a water-based foe of Aquaman), Sinestro (who might be accurately described as "Yellow Lantern"), Captain Cold (who wields a nifty freezer gun), Cheetah (Wonder Woman's version of Catwoman) and Grodd (a highly intelligent gorilla who has telepathic powers). The fordmidable Darkseid lurks in the background to assist the more earth-bound villains as they invade a military base to recruit a mysterious green alien names J'onn J'onnz. The superfriends confront their nemeses, with mixed results at first, but later win the day thanks to Cyborg and a newly admitted member now known as the Martian Manhunter. However, the movie ends with a preview of a new invader approaching earth in the form of Brainiac. I can only imagine that he's up to no good.
The plot could have been really involving if we weren't so distracted by the character's cutesy antics. The introduction of Martian Manhunter has been handled well in multiple reboots of the character, and the LEGO version could have been equally intriguing. Instead, the viewer must sit through one whimsical moment after another which slows down the story to a crawl, despite an abbreviated running time of slighly over one and one-quarter hour. Cyborg's antics over his own insecurities as a member of the League, and the modest rivalry between Flash and Green Lantern to gain Wonder Woman's attention wear out their welcome within seconds. Superman acts like a friendly oaf, while Batman behaves like a self-serious loner. It's pretty broad and juvenile stuff. Still, there is no doubt that comic aficionados of the silver and bronze age will find enough entertainment with all the DC Comics in-jokes DC Comics as well as references to the old 'Super Friends' cartoon of the seventies. In fact, it boggles the mind that a cold-blooded assassin like Deathstroke The Terminator from the 1980's New Teen Titans comics and from the controversial 'Identity Crisis' story would ever be realized in animated plastic form and act like he's in a Roger Rabbit cartoon. Scenes which point out the modern changes in costume (Batman wearing more armor, Superman getting rid of the red underwear and yellow belt) are highlighted with tongue-in-cheek humor, as well as an explicit reference to alien evidence being found near Area 51 in a different place called "Area 52" or the "New 52." It's enough to make any four-color fan squeal with delight.
Unfortunately, much too much time is spent on the heroes, and not enough on the villans who are comical enough not to be taken too seriously by younglings, but diabolical enough to know that they are the bad guys. I wanted to see more of Captain Cold and how his power differs from that of say, a Mr. Freeze (of course, I know the answer but non-geeks probably don't!) as well as why Black Manta looks like an alien instead of a sea creature. Instead, we get too much talking and plotting and not enough doing and showing when it comes to these fearsome foes, especially with Darkseid, whose Darth Vader-like presence is well-presented, but he doesn't get enough screen time. Characterization is also kept to a minimum, with the exception of Lex Luthor who at times seems derived from the Richard Donner Superman movies, which I appreciated. On the plus side, it was a trip to see that old Hall of Doom headquarters which has been modernized, but remains recognizable, as well some distinctly Jack Kirby-ish styles incorporated into the production design. One thing is for sure, when it comes to sophistication and storyline, this version of the 'Super-Friends' beats almost every episode of that heavily sanitized, dated cartoon hands down.
Finally, I whined about the vocal characterization of Cyborg in a previous LEGO Justice League adventure, and I'm somewhat relieved to see that there is less racial exaggeration in this episode. All voices except for Batman's are played for camp, which makes the humor a bit obvious most of the time, but still palatable for the kiddies. It's just too bad that there is not enough wit or surprise to maintain the interest of anyone beyond elementary school
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats:
'Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom' is presented in high definition on a BD 25, along with a DVD version of the movie. The contents are housed in an environmentally friendly Blu-ray keepcase with inserts explaining how to access the digital downlods.
This animated feature is AVC MPEG-4 encoded and presented in 1080p high definition, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. As with nearly all Lego animated features, 'Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom' looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Primary colors are bold and bright, and there is a glossy sheen to the whole production which is distinctly digital, yet one sometimes forget that we are not looking at moving plastic pieces.
Even though Lego pieces are by their very nature big and blocky, fine details and textures are displayed in other non-plasticized items like the fabric in Batman's cape. The movie has an extremely clean, day-glo look which is always appealing and easy on the eyes. You won't find an even-present gloominess and persistent darkness dominating this version of the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.
The main feature offers several soundtracks, including a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French, German and Spanish. Subtitles are also offered in each language, with very little paraphrasing on the English version.
Overall, the audio is simply terrific, and is on par with the attention-grabbing visuals. There is a clarity in the voices which stand apart from the busy soundtrack which is filled with environmental effects and an energetic, pseudo-rocking score. Bass is tight and solid, and channel separation is notably distinct.
One particular scene involving villains sitting at a table and scheming evil deeds pans voices across the front three channels from left to right as the camera circles the table clockwise. Luthor's voice appears in the center, drifts towards the left, and disappears as another villain speak, then reappears in the right channel and back to the center when the camera focuses back on him. It's this kind of sound design which immerses the viewer without being showy or bombastic.
The Blu-ray disc 'Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom' is accompanied with a DVD counterpart along with a Digital HD download accesible by the written code. Front loaded trailers and advertisements can be skipped without too much fuss. The disc itself supplements the main feature with the following:
Trailers for 'LEGO Justice League vs. Bizarro League' (HD 1:35), in which the preview is much better than the movie itself, and for 'Batman Unlimited' (HD 1:43) which is a non-Lego based feature. Both are offered in high definition and stereo sound.
Click, Zap, Boom! Creating the Sound Design (HD 19:51) This featurette is a well-produced and involving behind the scenes examination as to how the audio is engineered. Foley effects are discussed in detail and with excellent examples of how the whole process works, while the sound designers go over what is involved a multilayered soundtrack. There is a slight incongruency in how a movie made for young kids would have such technically sophisticated bonus materials. Then again, I was grateful to get something out of this title.
Some Blu-rays apparently come with a Trickster mini-figure as part of a Limited Edition package. Mine did not, despite a sticker which read "Limited Edition Gift Set."
'Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom' is pretty much the kind of product one might expect when turning popular charcters aimed at young adults and turn them into toys which appeal to kids, but animated into an adventure aimed primarily at children. It's attractive, cute, but bland entertainment. Despite some enjoyable moments, this video is not something I would see again unless threatened by Omega Beams unleashed by Darkseid himself.