WARNER HOME VIDEO
The mightiest crime-fighting team in the universe once again combines their awesome powers to defeat the forces of evil. In In Blackest Night, Superman and the League fight to solve a deadly mystery when robotic Manhunters put the Green Lantern on trial for destroying an entire planet! Then, when undersea treachery threatens to drown planet Earth, only an unlikely alliance between Aquaman and the Justice League can thwart the plans of The Enemy Below.
Butch Lukic, Dan Riba
English Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
Portuguese Dolby Surround
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Runtime: 87 min.
Release Date: 4/22/2003
• Episode Introductions with Producer/Director Bruce Timm
• “The Look of the League”
• “Justice League Watchtower”
• “I.D.” Game
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Justice League: Justice On Trial (2001)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 28, 2003)
Almost exactly a year after the DVD release of the three-part pilot episode of TV’s animated Justice League series, we get the next four programs. Interestingly, the show followed its extended introduction with a pair of consecutive two-part episodes. We find both of these on this newest disc, Justice League: Justice On Trial.
Broadcast as the fourth and fifth programs of the series, In Blackest Night (aired November 19th and 26th, 2001) opens with a quick scene of an alien High Tribunal. A group of disparate species comes together for the trial of someone who’s committed some unspeakable – and initially unspoken here – atrocity. The accused remains at large, so the aliens send some robotic Manhunters out after him. The baddie in question? John Stewart (voiced by Phil LaMarr), the Green Lantern!
After a quick introduction to Stewart’s day-to-day life, we check out the Justice Leaguers aboard their space station. When the Manhunters arrive in the Earth’s atmosphere, they go on alert. The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum), Hawkgirl (Maria Canals), and J’Onn J’Onzz (Carl Lumbly) are on duty and find the other Leaguers to be preoccupied, so they take on the job. A fight ensues, and it proves to be a real struggle even when Superman (George Newbern) becomes involved.
Stuck in a deadlock, the battle ends when the Lantern arrives and turns himself in to the Manhunters. They take him back to the tribunal on Ajuris-5, and there he encounters other members of the Lantern Corps, some of whom accuse him of being a disgrace. While he awaits his trial, the Leaguers hop on their spaceship and head to Ajuris-5 to get to the bottom of the situation.
After another tussle, the Leaguers make their way to the trial, where they sit in the gallery. We learn that the Lantern allegedly caused the destruction of a world and the death of three billion beings. This comes out via testimony of a criminal named Kanjar-Ro (Rene Auberjonois). The Leaguers suspect that he’s lying, but the Lantern states that he did what he’s accused of doing. However, Supes and the others don’t think they’ve gotten the whole story, so they investigate.
When I watched the series pilot last year, I thought that Justice League demonstrated potential but the opening three-part program didn’t exploit the subject well. Happily, “Blackness” goes a long way in the fulfillment of that potential. A very cool episode, the program helps develop the characters nicely. We get to learn more about the Lantern Corps and its Guardians, and the individual personalities grow as well. The Flash remains the cocky goofball, but this crew of self-serious folks needs a wacky dude, and he accomplishes that role naturally.
We also develop more of an understanding for Stewart and Hawkgirl, and the story itself provides a lot of great material. It packs some fine action and presents an intriguing and clever mystery. It avoids the predictable paths and keeps things moving briskly. After a lackluster start with the pilot, “Blackness” shows how good the series can become.
Quibble: since when did Superman need a spacesuit to survive the elements?
Called The Enemy Below (aired December 3rd and 10th, 2001) provides our second two-part program. The series’ eighth and ninth shows, these introduce Aquaman (Scott Rummell) to the package. A ship from his Atlantis attacks the USS Defiant submarine. When the Leaguers go to its rescue, they encounter Aquaman and deal with his demands. He’ll allow them to remove the sub’s crew but they must leave it there. Despite the protests of the Lantern, they agree.
Back home, Aquaman addresses the concerns of his people, some of whom want war with the “surface-dwellers”. Led by Aquaman’s brother Lord Orm (Richard Green) and General Brak (Xander Berkeley), they regard such a confrontation as inevitable, but Aquaman feels he should give peace a chance. He heads to the surface to give his terms to the World Assembly. They don’t much warm to his concepts, and matters take a turn for the worse when an assassin critically injures Aquaman. The plot thickens when he investigates the people behind this attack and comes up with a surprising villain.
After the superb “Blackness”, it seemed almost inevitable that “Below” wouldn’t be as good. I felt that was true, but “Below” still offered some good material. Part of my lowered enthusiasm stemmed from the heavy emphasis on Aquaman. I never much cared for that character, so a program that so strongly focused on him appeared unlikely to become one of my favorites.
It didn’t help that the plot felt fairly predictable. Whereas the twists of “Blackness” provided some actual surprises, those of “Below” were much easier to read in advance. In the positive domain, at least “Below” briefly brought back Batman (Kevin Conroy), though we didn’t see any of my other League fave, the Flash. The action seemed good but not as exciting as what we watched in “Blackness”. Perhaps if it didn’t immediately follow “Blackness”, I’d have liked it more, but as it stood, I regarded “Below” as a fairly entertaining but ultimately pretty average program.
Quibble: since when did Superman need an oxygen mask to go underwater?
The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B / Bonus D+
Justice League: Justice On Trial appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The first Justice League disc offered solid visuals, and Justice On Trial followed suit with equally positive picture quality.
The shows demonstrated solid clarity and definition. Sharpness was nicely well defined and distinctive. I detected only a few small examples of softness in some wider shots. One improvement over the old disc, jaggies created no noticeable problems, and I also discerned no concerns with moiré effects or edge enhancement. The shows remained nicely clean and fresh, as they displayed virtually no signs of various defects.
As with the prior DVD, colors presented the strongest elements of the shows. The hues came across as quite bright and vivid. Colored lighting appeared tight and distinct, and the cartoony tones were lively and vibrant. Black levels seemed dark and solid, whereas low-light scenes appeared clean and concise, especially during the underwater sequences; those showed nice shadow detail. The image really only suffered from concerns related to the cheapness of the source material, as inexpensive cartoons often look somewhat poor. Otherwise, Justice League presented a very solid image.
While the picture quality of Justice On Trial appeared virtually identical to the prior Justice League DVD, the new one presented distinctly superior audio. Both discs demonstrated fairly similar Dolby Surround 2.0 soundfields. The track focused mainly on the front channels, where I heard good stereo imaging for the music and nice usage of effects. Various elements seemed appropriately placed in the spectrum, and those pieces moved smoothly and blended cleanly. The surrounds didn’t play a terribly active role, but they added some general ambience to the package and bolstered the action sequences with generally solid reinforcement.
Where Trial improved significantly over the old DVD related to the quality of the audio. Speech remained perfectly adequate. The lines sounded crisp and warm, with no issues caused by edginess or intelligibility.
Trial worked much better when it came to the music and effects, however. Both sounded clean and fairly clear during the old disc, and they stayed that way here. The score was bright and concise, and effects seemed detailed and accurate.
Unfortunately, the first Justice League DVD suffered from a preponderance of midrange. Highs came across as dull while bass response seemed almost non-existent. That didn’t happen for Trial, which appeared decidedly more dynamic. Highs were clear, and lows sounded deep and rich. The latter element really added a lot to the package; for example, the crashing waves at the start of “Below” roared nicely. The audio of Justice On Trial didn’t provide something so active and vibrant that it blew me away, but given the poor quality of its predecessor, I felt impressed enough to give the soundtrack a “B”.
Just a few small supplements show up on Trial. For all four shows, we find Episode Introductions with Producer/Director Bruce Timm. His comments last between 115 seconds and 148 seconds for a total of six minutes, 16 seconds of material. Timm discusses some general notes about the League line-up plus specifics about the plot of “Blackness”, why they selected the John Stewart Lantern instead of Hal Jordan, the choices of villains for the series, the look of the Manhunters, and the development of Aquaman, Orm, and Deadshot. Although the clips seem awfully short, Timm gives us a lot of nice information here that helps provide some useful material about the series.
The Justice League Watchtower gives us some biographical basics about the different heroes. On top of a text screen with details, we hear a quick synopsis of each personality. Access the “Hero File” and you’ll watch a short music video style montage for the various heroes. The “Watchtower” doesn’t tell us anything that fans probably won’t already know, but it seems like a decent recap of the characters.
A quick featurette, The Look of the League discusses issues related to the visual design of the seven main heroes. We hear from Timm as he covers what they wanted to do with the characters. He gives us a nice examination of the various considerations in this tight little four-minute and 15-second piece.
Finally, I.D. offers a pretty lame trivia game. We hear some general characteristics of the different League heroes and then must identify them. This feels pointless and goes nowhere.
After a somewhat lackluster start with a three-part episode on an earlier DVD, Justice On Trial provided some more rousing material. “The Enemy Below” seemed generally entertaining, but “In Blackest Night” appeared very dramatic and exciting. Both shows helped bring the series to life. The DVD offered positive picture and sound but lacked substantial extras. Still, the programs themselves were good, and the disc presented them well. I liked the material seen during Justice On Trial and think superhero fans should get a kick out of this fun set.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.8333 Stars
| Number of Votes: 6