Friday, 7 August 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters

I can't say I'm a huge fan of comic books. Though I've read my fair share of them over the years, I'm not someone who knows every character in DC and Marvel universes, and the different universes within those universes. I'm mostly a newbie to all of this, and while this has previously put me off reviewing past DC animated movies, this latest one is a completely new story set in a brand new universe. So, with that in mind, I jumped in.

Directed by Sam Liu and written by Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Justice League: Gods and Monsters, a decent animated DV feature film that, while flawed, is well worth watching. Unlike the past few DC animated movies, Gods and Monsters isn't based upon any particular comic book. Instead it' a completely original creation and a do-over of the DC superheroes you already know and love. The story revolves around a world in which the Justice League are something the people of Earth fear, despite them still being a force for good. They rule will an iron fist and exact punishments that go to lengths that the typical Justice League would never dream of doing. After a number of scientists are found dead and all the evidence points towards Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman being the killers, governments from across the globe begin to criticize the power the Justice League have, and if they're simply too powerful.

Right from the start of the film, it's pretty evident that everything you know about the DC superhero universe needs to be thrown out. This isn't the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman you already know. Superman is not Kal-El, son of Jor-El. He's Hernan Guerra, son of Zod. After being sent to Earth and raised by migrant farmers, he's not the same man we've seen time and time again. He's still a good guy, but he's cruel, unrelenting and viscous when it comes to dealing with criminals. Batman on the other hand isn't Bruce Wayne, but instead this version of Batman is Kirk Langstrom, a vampire-like creature who was known as Man-Bat in previous incarnations. Then you have Wonder Woman who, like the rest of the main cast, isn't her original self. She's not Diana Prince, she's Bekka, widow of Orion, who was Darkseid's son. Because of the changes these characters are unlike anything you've seen from the Justice League before. It's a fascinating concept and at the very least, Gods and Monsters successfully presents us with a really cool, interesting and fresh DC universe.

The film looks great too. While I'm sure all DC animated films follow a similar visual atheistic, this one reminded me of the classic animated series, Batman: The Animated Series. Though the new character designs for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are a bit lame, animation is smooth, backgrounds are nicely detailed, and the many action scenes littered throughout the film really do look awesome. However, one thing that irked me throughout the film is that for all the talk about how humanity fears the Justice League, Gods and monsters never quite does a good job at exploring that side of things. I wanted to see scenes of people on the streets and during their daily lives, and actually see how they live in a world in which an all powerful and potentially dangerous group of superheroes could snuff out their very existence in a heartbeat. We don't get that. We get Lex Luthor talking smack about the Justice League on TV, and random scenes of people debating whether they're truly a force for good in the world. For all the interesting questions and points raised by the film, it never does a great job at exploring them within its time.

Gods and Monsters offers us an incredible concept, and in doing so reinvents characters we've become far too accustomed to in recent years. This reinvention is bold, opens up some great possibilities for future feature films, but doesn't quite tackle the big questions it poses to the viewer. Also, though some of the voice talent here is pretty stellar but there are some glaring issues in terms of some of the performances, with Michael C. Hall's monotone and dreary take on Batman being nothing short off boring and bland. That said, while Gods and Monsters isn't some revolution of the DC universe, it's a nice new take on the old characters we've most likely all grown up with.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters isn't a classic, but it is fun. 3/5.


Denis Murphy

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