Justice League: Gods and Monsters, 2015.
Directed by Sam Liu.
Featuring the voice talents of Michael C. Hall, Benjamin Bratt, Tamara Taylor, Jason Isaacs, Paget Brewster and C. Thomas Howell.
In an alternate universe, very different versions of DC’s Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman), who operate outside of the law, are framed for murders of prominent scientist and the government decides to take them out.
Anyone familiar with superhero comics knows full well the existence of the multiverse, a collection of thousands of parallel universes with an altered history than what is common in the main universe. DC’s latest Original Animated Movie, Justice League: Gods and Monsters, deals with an Earth where DC’s three main heroes, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, are very different from their traditional selves.
In this film, Superman is the son of General Zod, Wonder Woman a goddess from New Genesis and Batman a vampire after an experiment gone awry. What further separates these heroes from the traditional counterparts is the fact they have no problem getting blood on their hands. With their methods growing increasingly more violent, the world worries just how long it will be until they decide to take full control over Earth.
Gods and Monsters works very well as an Elseworlds tale. With an entirely clean slate, this film is unafraid to make drastic changes to the mythology of the DC Universe for its own ends. The new dynamic between the big three is fresh, yet at the same time somewhat familiar as Superman and Batman’s relationship still retains its friendly competitiveness and respect. It was also a pleasant surprise to see so many lesser-known DC characters, such as Doc Magnus and the Metal Men, have such a prominent role in this film. The film is steeped in DC lore despite being completely separate from the main universe.
As with the majority of DC’s animated films, the voice cast is top-notch. Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order), Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Tamara Taylor (Bones) voice Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman respectively. Each actor did an excellent job voicing their characters, particularly Michael C. Hall as Kirk Langstrom pre-transformation and afterward. The real standout, however, was Tamara Taylor’s emotional depiction of Wonder Woman. She has quite a stunning origin, creating a very strong character arc for her throughout the film. In fact, no one feels shortchanged; the big three have equal screentime and receive proper closure to their character arcs.
The animation is another selling point for Gods and Monsters. Having grownup with Batman: The Animated Series and the rest of the DC Animated Universe, Bruce Timm’s signature animation design holds a special place in the hearts of an entire generation of fans, mine included. The legendary animator makes his triumphant return to DC with this film and gives some of his best work yet. Though Timm is known for an overt cartoony style, his character models and the world they inhabit are very detailed and a breath of fresh air after some of the animation in the last few DC animated films.
Timm even had a hand in writing this original story, alongside Alan Burnett, and the strength of their collaboration shows. The plot, characterization and dialogue are all well done. The only criticism is the characters swear just a little too much, almost just to appeal to an older audience rather than having the swear words used naturally.
The film is also very violent and bloody. Parents be warned: Gods and Monsters is not like most superhero animated movies and is not suitable for young children. People get stabbed, decapitated, blown up, ripped apart and more, most of it being shown onscreen as well rather than shown offscreen or simply hinted at. One scene in particular recalls Game of Thrones’ infamous Red Wedding, something I never thought I’d see in any DC animation. Some the violence can take you out of the movie simply because of its sheer brutality. On an animation level, its well choreographed and animated, but just a little too bloody. Perhaps it’s just to emphasize the difference between this universe and the main DC universe, but sometimes it can come off more for shock value than anything else.
Overall, Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a very worthy addition to DC’s animated movie lineup. Any fan of alternate universe stories would do well to pick this film up. The characters may be different, yet they’re also familiar and well depicted. It is very gratifying to see Bruce Timm return to the DC universe and his animation is worth the price alone. The only drawback is the excessive violence throughout the film, limiting the number of viewers this excellent movie can reach. Despite that, Gods and Monsters is one of the best animated films DC has released, especially in recent years. Do yourself a favour and get it now.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★