Thursday, January 14, 2016

recent viewing; Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Justice League: Gods and Monsters was the latest release in the DC Universe Animated Original movies. It has brought Bruce Timm back into the fold after he took some time off from the franchise.

This is not your father's Justice League. It is Bruce Timm's League. One of the things that pulled him back was the opportunity to do something different. Very different. This goes beyond the usual "Elseworlds" or alternate universe ideas that have come before. We don't get skewed Bruce Waynes or alternate Clark Kents here. We get a clean slate.

Superman is the son of Zod, not the son of Jor El. He is raised in a harsh life of Mexican migrant workers, and he is Hernan Guerra, not Clark Kent. Batman is Kirk Langstrom - known in main DC continuity as the Man-Bat. Here, he is a biologically created vampire. Wonder Woman is Bekka, a lesser known New Gods character, who has exiled herself to Earth.

The Justice League operate outside of the law, with compliance from the US government. But as a mystery unfolds and the League are framed for multiple murders, the government and League alliance breaks down. The League races to find the true villain, before the violence escalates out of control.

Timm did the right thing here. As many variations as there have been (and will be) on the core trinity of DC superheroes, the facets always survive. Superman is almost always Clark Kent and his heart is in the right place. Wayne does the right thing, gruffly and violently but not lethally. Wonder Woman vies for peace.

If any of those cores are taken too far, it just doesn't ring true. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Man of Steel movie.) I couldn't believe Bruce Wayne as a vampire. I wouldn't go with Clark Kent using lethal force near the top of his options list.

But freeing himself from the standard alter egos, Timm is free to go wherever he needs to with these heroes. These (anti?)heroes have no issues using lethal force on criminals and terrorists. The story opens with quite the bloodbath. Batman bites and tears throats. Superman blasts bloody holes in terrorists. Wonder Woman slices and dices with a black sword (that looks a lot like Stormbringer.)

And I was okay with these people behaving as such, because they weren't Kent or Wayne or Diana Prince.

While it is not a requirement to know DC characters and/or history, such knowledge does heighten the experience. There are plenty of names and characters mixed here that are references to the DC universe. Such is usually the case with alt-universe stories, and it's fun to spot things and make the connections.

On the negative side, I felt both the Batman and Wonder Woman origin flashbacks went on a bit too long and too slow. The Batman origin turns out integral to the plot, though. They were needed - I just thought their presentation could have been tighter.

I also had a point of confusion about Lex Luthor. He is shown with a full head of hair when baby Superman arrives from Krypton. Next we see him with a balding horseshoe, speaking to Congress at the start of the movie's inciting incident. But later in the story he is much older and feeble, and everyone mentions that he has disappeared. I guess the Congress footage was supposed to be stock footage from a time before the plotline started. But, that wasn't immediately obvious to me.

Also, Luthor lives in a satellite in exile. Whether self-imposed or put there by the Justice League isn't said. Superman knows exactly where to find him. But none of this was explained. There was a prequel comic, and I am wondering if that addresses what happened to Luthor.

Quibbles aside, Justice League: Gods and Monsters was a interesting skew on the superheroes we know. The bonus features on the disc (one about DC alternate universes and one about making Justice League: Gods and Monsters) were worth watching, too. If there are sequels (online episodes and/or direct-to-discs,) I'll be checking them out.


  1. The Justice League has always been one of my favorite super groups. I'll put this one on the list.

  2. BTW, you can see three preview stories. One for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. (sorry I can't narrow the list down to just the three, but you can figure them out.)

    YouTube links

  3. I haven't even kept up with the mainstream characters here so I don't know if I'd recognize all the differences. Certainly with Batman and Superman I would