Digital Review
Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One

"Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One" is the first in a trilogy of movies that features the Justice League being recruited among a myriad of superheroes from throughout the Multiverse to stop a force of nature that has the power to end all of existence. Part One stars the Flash as he navigates time and space, amid a wedding to the love of his life, with the solution that will save an endless number of worlds if he's fast enough to get to the end in time. But will everyone cross the finish? Find out in "Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One" when it releases today on January 9, 2024 on digital and on January 23, 2024 on 4K and Blu-Ray.

The movie's winning move is its masterful execution of nonlinear narrative. You've seen it throughout the decades: Once Upon a Time in America, Pulp Fiction, Vanilla Sky, Mulholland Drive, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Prestige, The Fountain, Last Night in Soho, The Haunting of Hill House. Rather than tell the movie in a standard chronological order, we see years worth of events out of order: when Flash and Green Arrow showed up at Wayne Manor on Halloween, Barry and Iris's wedding, the unveiling of the Hall of Justice, the threat of the Antimatter Wave. All this immerses the audience into Flash's point-of-view and his scattered mindset and together with him, we navigate a roller coaster of suspense, shock, elation, and grief all wrapped in an impactful love story, a tragic one, but one that spans past, present, and future as if it was all one in the same. Rather than center the story around a new character (who still has a gruesome cameo here), Alexander Luthor, like in the comic, centering the movie adaptation on the Flash and expanding on his pivotal role in Crisis was a smart move. Bringing it back to a long past event like the day the Hall of Justice was revealed to the public in nonlinear fashion stealthily sets up the decisive role it plays in the finale. What appeared to be just a one-off reveal of how the Flash influenced the formation of Justice League turns out to be a crucial component of how Monitor's think tank of superheroes manages to avoid annihilation: the Flash makes a connection to Amazo to convince him of Lex Luthor's treachery leads to how Flash, Iris, and Amazo in a pocket of time spend the decades of the remainder of their lives to complete the Defense Tower and thoroughly plan out how to successfully use it before the Antimatter Wave sweeps over Earth which was only possible because Flash ran to Iris and refused to give up and professed his love of her only to activate that time defying ability. The wedding of Barry and Iris was teased way back in 2021 and seeing it happen is fulfilling for fans but also serves to cement the love story that permeates throughout the movie. All while Amazo goes out truly fulfilling his programming to its ultimate degree. These separate subplots all intersect in complex, engrossing, and unique character arcs.

If anyone is coming into Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part One expecting it to be a faithful 1:1 adaptation of the classic 1980s DC Comics event, you will be mildly disappointed. In the overall history of this direct-to-video line of animated movies, it has been over 12 years since any title has broached being nearly or completely unchanged from the source material. Most have gone the pragmatic route of making changes, some minor and some major, for the story to work in animation versus the printed page or to work within the ongoing continuity of movies. In terms of the latter, Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One is executing storylines that have been ongoing and growing over the past since August 2020 with seven movies starting with "Superman: Man of Tomorrow" then "Justice Society: World War II", the 2 part "Batman: The Long Halloween", "Green Lantern: Beware My Power", "Legion of Super-Heroes" and "Justice League: Warworld" but then touching on various DC Showcase shorts like "Adam Strange", "Blue Beetle", "Constantine: House of Mystery" and dealing directly with the ramifications of a decision made by Flash and John Constantine in the final moments of a previous continuity of movies that ended with "Justice League: Apokolips War" before Man of Tomorrow released! Even further back technically with 2013's "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox".

The character Pariah, punished for viewing the creation of the universe, is reworked to be a barely recognizable John Constantine now a non-coherent homeless man doomed to jump from Earth to parallel Earth all witnessing their untimely ends by Antimatter wave as a form of punishment for influencing a timeline reset by utilizing the Flash's powers. Much like the CW's Arrowverse television continuity, an existing character with important ties to the seemingly insurmountable threat is turned into a new version of Pariah makes more sense in the context of the continuity rather than slavishly adapting the original character from the comics. Likewise, the character Harbinger has been reworked in this movie to be Supergirl, an existing character. instead of introducing Lyla Michaels from the comics. Unlike Constantine, there are little clues from the past movies to rationalize this change with Harbinger. Right now. More context is likely on the way with Part Two of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

For what I think would be for pacing, the story cuts to the chase and instead of Harbinger going from Earth to Earth the movie shows her popping into the satellite with various heroes then cuts to the chase of Monitor's speech about the Antimatter wave. Shadow Demons do not come into play yet and appear to be reserved for later in the adaptation, likely in Part Two. Despite some changes in narrative and characters, Crisis on Infinite Earths is very much like the source material and follows the general pattern of the first couple of issues of the comic: the impending threat of the Antimatter wave, the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 fails to save their world, Monitor and Harbinger summon heroes from various Earths, some initial skepticism, the debut of Doctor Light, Psycho Pirate. and the many many heroes banding together to construct cosmic tuning forks to save as many Earths as they can. The premise and story of Crisis is there and the core of certain tentpole characters are preserved with some relevant alterations while a pivotal character, the Flash, is given a stronger presence to foreshadow his tragic role and the extraneous material is jettisoned for the sake of streamlining about four issues of content into a 90 minute film. All in a day's work.

There were few faults I took with this movie but some stuck out more than others. When it is revealed the spirit Warlord, Batman, Machiste, and Mariah see upon making it to shore is really the elder Flash, there is a bit of a conceit. In "Justice League: Warworld", Flash only had one line, "It's It's you isn't it?" then he vanished and the heroes continued on. In "Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One", the same scene is an extended version with lightning in the sky and Flash saying more before he vanishes and tells Bruce to go back to before the beginning to stop it. It doesn't ruin anything but it's an odd mismatch of scenes if you pay attention to that sort of thing. It was probably a victim of production schedules and editing. Maybe at one point, Warworld had the same scene we see in Crisis Part One but it was one of the scenes later shortened for the run time hitting a certain mark. Or it was just a choice to add the extra line in Part One. Some of the animation is glaring but it can't be helped when a production uses two animation studios instead of one. There was one distance shot of the heroes cheering on the satellite at the end that was cringe worthy animation-wise. Some of the voice acting was briefly jarring. I really thought that was Matt Ryan pulling a Michael Jordan and un-retiring as the voice of Constantine/Homeless Man but he was actually voiced by Nolan North. Bruce Wayne's first scene in the movie didn't sound like Jensen Ackles at all right but then for the rest of the movie, it was clearly Jensen. The in memoriam for George Perez ending in an antimatter effect felt out of place. None of these were deal breakers and this was still an overall strong movie. I could see the nuances of the adaptation or the nonlinear narrative being off-putting to some, while being lauded by others.

The special features are two featurettes. "Crisis Prime(r)" features the filmmakers discussing their intricate plan to create a comprehensive animated universe across several movies. Butch Lukic, Jim Krieg, and Jeff Wamester give quick one sentence explanations about what the central thrust of each movie from Superman: Man of Tomorrow up to Justice League: Warworld is. Mike Carlin also appears at the beginning and end of the featurette talking about building towards a building a finale in a shared universe. In total it clocks at 9 minutes, 39 seconds. "The Selfless Speedster" explores Flash's role in the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic series, adapting him into animation and the vocal performance by Matt Bomer. Jim Lee, Marv Wolfman, Jerry Ordway, and Robert Greenberger talk about creating stakes, picking an A-lister to kill off, creating a legacy for Flash, writing a scene that will resonate, and keeping DC relevant. Jim Krieg, Butch Lukic, and Jeff Wamester talk about keeping what serves the story, making it fresh but still honoring the comic, building attachment to Flash, how Flash wants to save Iris and everything, the pay offs, choosing Matt Bomer for his natural, audience-pleasing voice, Bomer having to voice Flash when he gets his powers, JL-era Flash, and old Flash. In total, it is 8 minutes, 2 seconds.

The digital version of the movie has one exclusive special feature called "Silent Treatment" which is a clip from Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part Two. However, at time of digital release, the clip was non-existent. It was bad enough that Warner Bros. is one of the studios that no longer offers these movies as a 4K and Blu-ray combo set, but taking away what is essentially the staple first look for the next movie away from the physical release is a confounding choice. And yes, it continues to be a let down there are no commentary track. It seems the costs tied to the home entertainment market have shifted to bare minimum standard releases for the same price. It is a small consolation that the 4K version comes in a Steelbook format.

One of the best Justice League movies made was one that in truth actually stars the Flash amid the backdrop of a cosmic crisis and written by Jim Krieg? Sound familiar? Mr. Krieg is two-for-two in my book with "Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One", topping his previous works namely "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" which happens to have a similar premise. James Gunn and Peter Safran know who to call if another live action one ever gets made. Crisis in essence concludes both a 10 year animated odyssey that began in summer 2013 with Flashpoint Paradox and the animated movie continuity that officially began a mere 3 years ago in 2020 with "Superman: Man of Tomorrow". "Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One" reverses course on a string of middling DC Universe animated movies and delivers a riveting story of love, triumph, and sacrifice expounded by an amazingly executed nonlinear narrative that places the audience on the shoulders of the tragic hero, the Flash. And that's just part one. Stay tuned for the rest of the trilogy later this year and it can't come fast enough. Minor quibbles aside, "Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One" is a highly recommended purchase.

Main Feature: 4.5 out of 5
Special Features: 2.5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5