written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Straying far from the norm of what DC animated films have been as of late, Justice League: Gods and Monsters takes an inspired take on DC’s holy trinity of superheroes. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Women are very different from the heroes we’ve grown accustomed to. In this reality, it’s the son of Zod… not Jor-El… who make the trip to earth; raised by Mexican immigrants, this version of Superman isn’t the farm boy turned symbol of hope he’s been for the better part of the last 75 some odd years. Batman is Kirk Langstrom, instead of his experiments turning him into Man-Bat, he becomes a vampire, a more supernatural take on the Batman mythos. Wonder Woman is Bekka, the wife of the New God Orion who leaves Apokalips and eventually travels to Earth where she meets the other two. This Justice League answers to President Amanda Waller while facing an uphill battle when it comes to public opinion.
Written by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, the most impressive part of the package was the film’s art direction. Done in Bruce Timm’s signature style, as a fan of Batman: The Animated Series growing up, what drew me most to this movie was its visual cues. An impressive voice cast including Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order, Miss Congeniality) as Superman, Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) as Batman, and Tamara Taylor (Bones) as Wonder Woman round out this impressive new tale.
When several genius scientists are found dead, seemingly at the hands of the League, it becomes clear that someone is attempting to frame them. Since this is a completely new story with a brand new spin, it’s never clear until the very end who the big bad of the whole thing is. Some familiar faces like Ray Palmer, Viktor Fries, and Lex Luthor make appearances but the one pulling the strings isn’t unveiled until the climactic end.
Following a traditional three part narrative; we have an introduction with short flashbacks interspersed, the reveal of the story’s primary baddies, then the climax featuring the mastermind behind the Justice League’s struggles. While the premise is interesting and very original, where the story falls is in the execution. There were some arguably amazing sequences, but much of the story and the eventual reveal of who the true villain is fell flat for me.
As I said before, I like how they took the Justice League we were all used to and gave them a spin in an interesting direction. With writing from Batman: The Animated Series showrunners Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, I think that the Gods and Monsters universe could be something big, spanning subsequent films and even more tie-in comics. Much like how Batman: The Animated Series gave the modern DC universe Harley Quinn, I’d love to see what they could do with an even more expanded Justice League, perhaps Eobard Thawne as the Flash, Sinestro as Green Lantern, or Merlyn as the Green Arrow. The possibilities, if treated right, could give rise to a whole new universe in the greater DCU.
It was an entertaining watch, though the short runtime of these pictures does leave much to be desired. I was hoping for more, more about Bekka’s life before she became Wonder Woman or what Kirk Langstrom was like before he met Superman. Speaking of Supes, though it was shown that he was raised by Mexican immigrants, there wasn’t much detailing his life between being stranded on Earth and becoming Superman.
I suppose I could follow the tie-in comics, but for anyone just watching the movie it feels like its over all too quickly. Machinima released three tie-in shorts in the months leading to the release, and these in my opinion were far more interesting than the whole of the movie… watching these shorts in conjunction with the film does add to the experience though, so if this is on your list.. make sure to check out the Gods and Monsters Chronicles on Machinima.