Today’s article is about a DC animated movie which I personally really enjoy. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. It’s one of my favourite animated superhero movies, along with Under the Red Hood, and I’d like to talk a bit about the reason why I like it. But don’t worry, there will be nitpicking as well.
So let’s not waste any time and start with a brief plot summary.
(spoiler warning, obviously)
The story of the movie is that in a parallel universe, the world is terrorized by the Crime Syndicate, an evil counterpart the Justice League.
The parallel version of Lex Luthor, former leader and sole survivor of that universes Justice League, arrives in the “main” universe to request help from the Justice League in taking down the Crime Syndicate. Up until now, the Crime Syndicate has been kept from complete dominance of the world out of fear of a nuclear response.
(Insert Superman IV reference here)
But now, the Syndicate has developed an equalizer to the threat: the Quantum Eigenstate Device, or Q.E.D for short. Essentially, it’s a bomb that, when activated, will destroy the entire planet, meaning that the governments are given the choice of handing over power, or the complete annihilation of earth.
Had this been the extent of the plot, this movie would be pretty mediocre. However, there is an added complication, which brings us neatly to the reason I like this movie.
Owlman is a cold-hearted and calculating psychopath and the Crime Syndicate counterpart to Batman. He is fascinating to me, mainly because of his motivations for his actions.
You see, the idea of multiverse theory (at least as presented in this movie) is explained by Owlman like this.
With every choice we make, we literally create a world. History branches in two, creating one earth where we made the choice, and a second where we didn’t.
The thing is, when Owlman discovers the existence of parallel worlds, he doesn’t use this knowledge to amass power or wealth. Instead he reaches the conclusion that free will is an illusion, and that none of our choices matter. Because of this, he decides to prove that he DOES have free will, by making a choice to which there can be no alternative.
He intends to find Earth Prime, the original earth that all other earths stemmed from. And when he’s found it, he intends to use to Q.E.D to destroy it, which will result in the destruction of all of reality.
Now, I personally do not agree with that conclusion. Suppose I was presented with two doors, one red and one green, and that, when prompted, I chose to open the red door. While it may be true that somewhere else I picked the green door, that person is not me. We define ourselves by our choices, and we face the consequences of those choices, consequences that parallel versions of us may not face. Our choices matter, because we can only inhabit one reality.
But the reason it works here is because Owlman is described as “Never making a move without a reason”, carefully considering all options before making any decision.
Then he’s faced with the idea that all his carefully made choices are meaningless, because somewhere else, he made the opposite choice. So he decides to make what he feels is “the only true choice“. It makes him, to me, a very interesting character.
It’s just a pity, then, that his plan is fundamentally flawed.
But before I get into dissecting the plan, let me just clarify. I am not a comic book reader. I am not familiar with the details of how parallel universes work in the DCU. I am simply going by the facts regarding the subject presented in this movie.
Now, as for Owlman’s plan, there are three major flaws with it.
One, Owlman’s reasoning is that, with the advent of man came free will, and with that came the multiverse. Before mankind, there was one earth, with one history.
The problem is that for that to be true, humanity has to be the first and only sentient species in the universe.
And that is DEMONSTRABLY UNTRUE.
Both Superman and J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, who as his name suggests is from Mars, are aliens from societies which, unless I’m mistaken, predates humanity.
And even if they don’t, there’s Hal Jordan, part of the Green Lantern Corps, formed by the Guardians of the Universe, the OLDEST LIVING BEINGS IN THE UNIVERSE!
And the thing is, Owlman has been working with the counterparts of all three for a very long time! If it’s true in “our” universe, it has to be true for all universes, since all universes are only results of previous choices.
Owlman wants to destroy the original home of sentient life and source of all choices. Except he’s on the wrong planet.
Two, even IF he was on the right planet, he only talks about destroying the earth. At no point do they ever mention the bomb destroying the universe, only Earth Prime. This means that destroying the earth will not prevent the rest of the universe from continuing, along with all subsequent realities.
This is supported partly by the fact that the bomb was created BEFORE Owlman discovered that parallel universes was a thing, and partly because the way the villain is defeated is to send him to an earth that’s just a frozen wasteland, blowing that up instead of earth prime. If it blew up the entire universe, Batman just killed everyone in that universe.
And finally, Three, namely that there is no evidence that all of reality hinges on this one earth or universe. If something happens to Earth Prime, there’s nothing to support that it will affect earths that stemmed from it. If that was the case, all other earths would be blasted and desolate wastelands, just like Earth Prime. Since they’re not, that proves they are merely variants, but not actually connected.
In other words, destroying earth prime is less like cutting down a tree with myriad branches, and more like making a copy of a document, then destroying the original document. The copy will still be there!
So surely, all this should spoil the movie, right? The villains plan is less “threatening the universe” and more “unintentional suicide”.
Well, not really. This plan, while flawed, is perfectly in line with Owlman’s character in the movie. Owlman is another example of an Asimovian Idiot, much like Brain in Pinky and the Brain.
See, Owlman is incredibly intelligent. He is the evil counterpart for Batman, so he’d have to be. However, just like Brain, he is incredibly arrogant, which leads him to disregard obvious problems in favour of his own theory.
One could also make the argument that the revelation of how meaningless choices are actually drove him insane.
Not only is he calculating and psychopathic, but he’s also an extreme misanthrope, who considers humanity to be a “cancer“. This loathing of humans means that Owlman considers them solely to blame for all ills, and his arrogance is what blinds him to the possibility of him being wrong.
So much like Brain, he is very much a victim of his own madness and hubris, which actually carries through all the way to the moment of his death.
Standing alone on a frozen, dead planet, with the Q.E.D about to detonate, he looks at the big display, giving the option to abort the detonation, thereby saving his life, and what does he do?
He smirks and utters his final words
It doesn’t matter
And while I have no evidence to support it, it would be amazingly fitting if, because of Owlman’s dedication to his theory, that his decision to let the bomb go off?
If THAT was an option to which no other version of him would act any differently, actually fulfilling his desire to make a unique decision in a literally earth-shattering display of irony.