I’m not going to play that game where I make you wait until the end of this review to get my overall take of the newest DCU Animated movie – Justice League: Gods and Monsters.
I’ll get it right out in the open.
Instant fan. Loved it.
I’m not usually the type to be an instant fan of things because I respect the test of time. In this case, between the previews, what I’ve read in articles leading up to the release, the animated shorts on Machinima and the animated feature itself, I’m cool with it.
What follows is my spoiler-free review, or at least any major spoilers.
If you’re of the mind to watch Justice League: Gods & Monsters, be aware that it’s probably the most “adult” of DCU animated movies so far with a possible exception being Batman: Assault on Arkham. Bruce Timm (yes, that Bruce Timm) wanted to tell a more mature story than what he has in the past with DC animated universe fare and in fact did so.
The violence is turned up a notch, death is a natural result of engaging super powered beings with deadly force and a few harsher profanities are tossed around. The PG-13 notes also list nudity, but to be honest when said nudity appeared it took me a bit to realize that’s what it was. I never quite felt anything was gratuitous other than the profanity (and the so-called nudity didn’t seem to serve a purpose thematically or story wise, more of a character design choice).
If you’re not up to speed on Gods and Monsters‘s premise, it’s what we used to call an “Elseworlds” or “What If” but is now basically a parallel universe with a Justice League of three, a take on the DC “trinity” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In this case only the names are the same and the people sporting the names are quite different than those we know.
- Superman is a Kryptonian and the last survivor of Krypton, but he’s not Kal-El / Clark Kent.
- Batman is a scientist who gave himself vampiric powers (and needs) through rash medicine.
- Wonder Woman is a New God who wields an indestructible sword with a built-in mother box.
Two of them are existing DC comics characters that find different destinies in this universe. The third is a completely new character who to the best of my knowledge has never been seen before in any DC world.
When things begin, the three are already established as the Justice League complete with impenetrable fortress in downtown Metropolis. They seem to be on the side of good but their methods are brutal (and in many instances, deadly) compared to the Justice League we know. They’re also not afraid to let the government know exactly where everyone is in the pecking order and the relationship is at best an uneasy one. One wonders if they are at the tipping point of becoming complete outlaws or even dictators.
It’s best summed up by the scene of Superman and Wonder Woman high up in their tower, looking down at protestors on the pavement below with Superman enjoying a post-terrorist-killing drink and wondering if the “dots” below might be better off with the JL in charge of everything. When he says he’s serious, Wonder Woman remarks he’s become less sexy but doesn’t exactly quit the team in a huff at the suggestion. Batman meanwhile offers statistics as to how many people locally and worldwide would welcome such a change.
Regarding the plot itself, a mystery unfolds early on as brilliant scientists (names we’re already quite familiar with from mainstream DC) begin dying in quite nasty ways and the evidence starts pointing towards the Justice League. One thing I like about how things unfold is that the JL twinges very quickly to what is happening rather than missing the obvious fact they are being framed, and instead of appearing worried Superman is actually offended that someone would try to frame them. “Who would have the balls,” he wonders aloud.
The story that is told in this movie is quite good with the creators deftly working in three origin stories without jarring the flow of the movie. It’s an action / mystery story and I appreciate how the mystery is handled in the sense that when the inevitable third act “all is revealed” moment happens it’s all quite obvious in hindsight.
This being a DCU animated movie it can’t all be cerebral and there’s plenty of action and super powered punches and booms that lead to the obligatory (and let’s face it, hoped for) property destruction all around.
It’s a wonderful story with wonderful characters and dialogue. The character designs are also excellent and everything seems to click together as if this is an ongoing series in its second or third season that has found its voice rather than a first, experimental outing.
Things that I really liked or that stood out:
This Superman was raised by a migrant couple instead of the Kansas Kents. Not only does this resonate powerfully in today’s culture where legal and illegal immigration are a hot issue, but it also helps contribute to his outlook on life as opposed to the Superman we’re already familiar with.
Wonder Woman’s sword. I love this thing and I love how she uses it while fighting. It’s sleek, it’s black, it’s got cool techno designs on it and it can create boom tubes. It’s cool to me like stuff in comics was cool to me when I was 12. Nicely done.
Out of all of the character designs, I liked Wonder Woman’s the best. Great costume. My least favorite was Jimmy Olsen’s cameo. Seemed like they were trying too hard to make him Millenial.
Although I’m kind of jaded on the “Batman as vampire” thing, the voice acting and characterization of this take on Batman connected with me. He’s sort of deadpan but with a hint of warmth.
Without giving anything away, Gods & Monsters‘s Lex Luthor is really refreshing. There’s a real world, famous scientist they are obviously paying homage too as well.
A smiling Darkseid. I’ll say no more. You just have to watch it.
If I have to point out any negatives, and these are quibbles not major sticking points for me, I would say I hope future Justice League: Gods and Monsters material fills us in on why these three characters work together and why they landed on the side of good as they did. Those are basically just assumed in the movie without any real reason given.
As I said, quibbles.
Check it out, especially if you’re a DC animated universe fan. Check it out now, or this Justice League just might come for you. You really don’t want to meet this Batman in a dark alley.