Directed by Matt Peters.
Featuring the voice talents of Anson Mount, Justin Hartley, Janet Varney, Brandon Michael Hall, Kevin Pollak, Anika Noni Rose, Reid Scott, Gillian Jacobs, Derek Phillips, Faran Tahir, Zach Callison, Edwin Hodge, Oliver Hudson, Laura Bailey, Yuri Lowenthal, Brian T. Delaney, Fred Tatasciore, Andrew Morgado.
On an alternate Earth, the Joker tricks Superman into murdering Lois Lane and detonates a nuclear weapon that destroys all of Metropolis, leading him down a darker path…
Superman has always been known as the paragon of heroism in the DC Universe. Always the one heroes aspire to be like, always the one leading the charge for truth and justice. DC has had several of its own ‘what if’ stories imagining Superman as an evil tyrant with this decade alone being quite plentiful of that divergent path and none may be more popular right now than the Injustice franchise. Based off the hit video game, Injustice is the latest DC story to be adapted into an animated film in what is both a faithful telling of the Injustice comics and its own spin on the characters and lore of this alternate universe. With the release of the Blu-ray today, Injustice is a pretty good take on the story with an excellent ensemble cast, though doesn’t always land with some of the new story choices or pacing.
The story follows Superman who suffers a devastating tragedy after The Joker tricks him into killing his wife Lois Lane, pregnant with their child, which also has the effect of triggering a nuclear bomb in Metropolis, killing tens of millions. After taking a step Batman would never take, Superman decides he needs to take a bigger role in stopping conflicts across the whole world, flying into other countries and ending them with a threat of force. It breaks the Justice League apart as some agree with Superman while others like Batman don’t agree with his new methods, recognizing the slippery slope they are on. As Superman’s regime grows stronger, it’s up to Batman and a few other heroes to resist the new order.
What sets Injustice apart from other Evil Superman stories is how this Superman isn’t necessarily evil, but believes he has to take a firmer grasp on the world to prevent a tragedy like Lois’ death and the destruction of Metropolis from happening again. On its face it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, but the more Superman goes down this path the more he loses the humanity Lois, his parents and others granted him. This is Us‘ Justin Hartley, who also played Green Arrow in Smallville, provides the voice of Superman and does a pretty good job as the Man of Steel. He captures Superman’s lighter and heroic characteristics in the film’s opening minutes and doesn’t go dark with his voice straight away, letting it be a gradual change. There does come a point where Superman crosses the point of no return and Hartley nicely portrays his rage and shift in behaviour, making it more believable Superman would take this route.
Star Trek: Discovery‘s Anson Mount is Batman and likewise gives a good performance, delivering Batman’s stoicism and vulnerability at seeing Superman’s change among other losses. Mount and Hartley compliment each other really well and it’s to their credit that even before their split they still act friendly (or at least civil) toward each other. It’s interesting to see Batman and Superman’s usual roles flipped as Superman is now the dark, cynical one and Batman the one upholding a moral highground and trying to be hopeful. Anika Noni Rose’s Catwoman is a standout of the ensemble, giving a different side to the thief than the seductive and sultry personality Catwoman is usually portrayed with. One scene in particular is a great emotive scene as Catwoman comforts Batman after a sudden loss with a level of compassion mostly unseen from her. Reid Scott’s Green Arrow is also good and he shares nice chemistry with Gillian Jacbos’ Harley Quinn in what is one of the story’s most fun and unusual pairings.
Injustice is notable for following the events of the prequel comic Injustice: Year One from Tom Taylor pretty closely. Several scenes and lines are lifted straight off the page, but screenwriter Ernie Altbacker and director Matt Peters find plenty of room to deviate from the source material and add in their own story choices. This is especially the case in the second half of the film as it becomes more of a re-telling than straight adaptation and most of the changes land better than others. One death toward the start of the film has proved somewhat controversial among fans for the way it is executed (no pun intended) and is hardly mentioned again. In the disc’s special features the creative team explains the choice more thoroughly, but it still happens in a bit of a rushed manner. Other points in the film also rush through some of the events, going from point A to B rather quickly without giving the scene room to breath.
This isn’t always the case, such as with the aforementioned scene between Batman and Catwoman or a nice discussion between Superman and Mr. Terrific on where to draw the line with Superman’s new rules. On that note, characters like Terrific, Plastic Man and Ra’s al Ghul are welcome additions with their expanded roles as they bring a new sense of levity and perspective to the story. The animation is well done with nicely choreographed fight scenes. Fans of the Injustice video games will be pleased to see some of the game’s special character moves and knockouts adapted into the animation. The colours are vibrant and many of the character designs are lifted from the game, though some (like Batman’s) look a bit too bulky at times.
Adventures in Storytelling – Injustice: Crisis and Conflict – A half-hour roundtable discussion between Peters, Altbacker, producer Rick Morales and producer Jim Krieg. It’s an in-depth discussion between the four on the appeal of Injustice and the changes they made into the story, like that controversial death in the opening minutes as well as how to adapt Superman’s downfall into an almost 80-minute movie as opposed to a long-running comic. It’s a pretty insightful talk and they make some interesting and fair points in their changes and the parallels between Batman and Superman in the story.
From the DC Vault: ‘Injustice For All’ – Two episodes of the Justice League animated series which doesn’t have anything to do with the themes of Injustice. You’d think they’d include the two-parter ‘A Better World’ which sees alternate versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League become the Justice Lords and instituting a tyrannical regime over the world. Instead, it is the ‘Injustice For All’ two-parter which sees the Justice League battling Lex Luthor’s newly formed Injustice League. As great as these two episodes are with the Injustice League and Lex and Joker’s reluctant team-up, they were clearly chosen because ‘injustice’ is in the title. It would have been far more fitting to see the League battle their evil counterparts in what would become a pivotal story point for Justice League and the DC Animated Universe going forward.
Injustice is a pretty good adaptation of the prequel series that still finds room to deviate from the source material and give fans something new to experience. The ensemble cast is great with Hartley, Mount and Rose being the standouts and the action scenes well animated and entertaining. The themes of the story with Superman’s forceful role across the globe are explored well in some parts, though others feel rushed just to get to the next story point or fight scene. It should still be a movie Injustice fans will enjoy and enough for those unfamiliar with either the prequel comics or the video games themselves to check out.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.