The latest addition to DC’s animated universe is another Justice League movie, but this time, not a single cape in sight! Justice League: Gods and Monsters is based in an alternate universe where Superman is the son of Zod who crashed on earth from a destroyed Kyrypton and was raised by Mexican immigrants, Batman a scientist mutated into a vampire and Wonder woman is from Apokolips. Totally an original story Directed by Sam Liu and Produced by none other than Bruce Tim, who has overseen numerous DC animated projects, with this version by far being the most diverse and furthest away from the Justice League we have known since…forever! There have been alternate universes and “what if” scenarios in the past, but this one takes the cake!
The story is centered on the Justice League and how the world around them responds to their presence. Some fear them, others worship them. They spend their time in the Justice Tower ready to answer to distressful circumstances and save the day. Sure, that about the JL hasn’t changed at all, only they use a zero tolerance approach to every situation. This is made clear at the beginning of the movie when they tear apart a terrorist cell and make quick work of them, with Superman pounding baddies to a pulp, Batman sucking the blood from their bodies dry, and Wonder Woman putting her sword to good use, blood paints the floor literally! The authorities detest this executioner style of justice and are ever plagued with the question, “Do the JL serve the world? Or themselves?” Their loyalty and intentions are put on the line when a sinister force begins to murder some of the world’s top scientist in a fashion resembling the Justice League’s tactics. Framed for these acts, will they take the righteous path and try to clear their name? or is this beneath them as they answer to no one…
Violent and bloody, this one is definitely not for the kids. This is a dark movie, very dark and a lot of disturbing imagery has been used! These guys don’t mess around! The usual Justice League would either put bad guys in jail or vanquish them to some dimensional world, but here they butcher them! I, on the other hand, appreciated this approach despite how far away it was from what we’ve come to expect from the JL trio. I’ve always wanted to see a merciless Superman who doesn’t hesitate to kill his enemies. The whole boy-scout shenanigans were growing old and this new perspective on the man of steel truly felt more efficient. The theme was very mature, edgy and lot of the violence goes down in an unsettling way, but it doesn’t feel as though it was forced into the movie so as to make it look more appealing to mature audiences, rather the violence fuels the story beautifully as it impacts the world of the characters.
The story is decent enough to keep you entertained all through, but what really stood out were the origins of the characters. While not done all in one go, each character’s back-story is revealed in the form of a flashback at different points through the movie. Superman’s was at the very beginning then Batman and Wonder woman’s came at their own time. These segments were rather long and often made me come close to forgetting the movies main plot, after every flashback I’d be like, “Oh yeah! What was happening again?”, but still they were thrilling and intriguing, especially Batman’s.
A few weeks before Gods and Monsters released, there were 3 shorts titled JL: Gods and Monsters Chronicles that introduced us to this radical change in the characters. Thanks to chronicles, I jumped into this movie knowing what to expect and it helped save the time of trying to relate to the characters when watching the movie for the first time. On top of everything story related; If there’s one thing that I rarely feel in these DC animations, it’s an emotional impact on me. Most times it’s just a matter of action to a kickass soundtrack and an acceptable storyline. Gods and Monsters rises above that and really tugs on your emotions at times.
The art was fantastic and very visual with color grading definitely suited to the nature of the story. Bruce Tim’s style was quite notable and great work was done, although in some scenes the art did seem inconsistent and not as solid all through the movie. Character design though is where I see a big split in opinion. Superman and Batman looked great to me, but I wasn’t too fond of Wonder Woman’s design. White is a subtle color, and using it on the character with the highest body count could have been some sort of an irony thing or just for laughs, but all in all I didn’t like her design. Music was pretty much the usual Superheroie tunes we hear now and then and sound effects were as great as any of these DC animated movies, they pretty much don’t fail there as far as their sound libraries go.
Having already covered how violent this movie is, the action is definitely within those boundaries. The action was great but not too memorable given how much it was lacking in choreography, but for a more story driven movie, that doesn’t drop its rating. Apart from Superman, the others possess some very new and interesting abilities and they are depicted well in the action scenes. The only thing different in Superman’s powers is that he uses them to the fullest and without holding back. Voice acting was great all around! Michael C. Hall as Batman was what won it for me, a cold and lifeless voice was quite fitting for the character, though he could have left that voice tone out of the flashback to portray a different Batman before his mutation.
Apart from the minor things like the inconsistent art and wonder woman’s design, the only major disappointment of the movie was the main Villain and how they didn’t justify their reason for their acts well enough to convince me. The stakes are high but the villain was just an utter disappointment. The other thing was the characters that retained their familiar personalities that we know well, Lex Luthor, Amanda Waller and Lois Lane. All make quite insignificant appearances! Sure Lex is involved in the story a bit more towards the end, but they felt more like cameos for all of them.
The overall concept of this movie is great! I mean, seeing that The Justice Tower is a penthouse where the heroes chill out and sip on some whiskey, that alone could have sold it for me, but this movie is more than that. It doesn’t sit back and dwell on “Look! Look how different I am, Superman kills!” No, none of that. It tells a compelling story that matters and could pass for anything canon. Despite being a dark tale, it’s shines a positive light of hope in that people with powers and a god-like stand in community still try to save the world. In fact, can this become a thing? I would watch another Justice League based in the same universe. Should this ever become a franchise, I’m in! Go, watch it!