You may recall by absolute discontent with Throne of Atlantis a few months back, and you’ll be glad to hear that Justice League: Gods and Monsters isn’t just a step up from that alarmingly unenjoyable drivel, but also a sidestep for the animated DC universe as a whole. We were allowed hints of these new iterations of our beloved characters about a month ago with shorts released introducing them. With Gods and Monsters we get the full deal, and it’s a pretty fun, if not substantial, ride.
In an alternate universe, the Justice League has turned into an oppressive force tasked with maintaining order on Earth. Following suspicious deaths of three scientists, the world’s governments’ eyes are on the Justice League. The three of them must work to clear their names and find out who has been behind the murders.
Few DC animated films as of late have really stood themselves apart, so director Sam Liu makes sure to do just that. His world and its characters (written by Bruce Timm) are harsher creatures. The action is violent and thrilling, with a chase scene involving Ray Palmer being a substantial stand out. Voiced by Michael C. Hall, Batman is arguably the most intriguing character, although Superman possessing the same powers and origins as the Clark Kent we know, but being the son of Zod, is a concept I wish had been explored more.
Wonder Woman, as is the case forever, gets the short end of the stick. While I do love how often she professes that she belongs to no man, I wish her origin story didn’t have be a romantic one and I wish her storyline hadn’t been so involved with people thinking she’s dating Superman or with Steve Trevor feeling jilted. I’ll have to go back and watch by JLU dvds and feel better about her characterization elsewhere.
These aren’t the characters we’re used to, which makes separating them from the larger animated DC universe easier to do. Batman is a vampire, Wonder Woman a vengeful widow of Darkseid’s son Orion, and Superman is a trench coat -wearing grump who’s the son of Zod. They both save the world and secretly wish to rule it, fed up with how humans have been handling the earth. They save lives but also kill anyone (mainly villains) who stand in their way. They are ruthless, they are tired, and humans have become more of a grievance than people worth saving.
Which is what makes them so satisfyingly interesting, because the question of “why” they save these people they seem to have little more than contempt for continuously pushes through our heads. Do they do it because they believe they should, because it’s the right thing to do, or because they believe they’re the only ones who can, seeing themselves as gods amongst humanity?
These are the questions and ideas that make Gods and Monsters such an exciting experience, even as it runs only little over an hour long. Hearkening back to the older, Justice League Unlimited style of animation opposed to the more recent, flat look of the characters, they’re instantly given more depth.
If anything, I wish the film hadn’t lingered so much on the three main characters’ “new” backstories. Their present day selves are interesting enough without shoehorning in origin stories.
Fun, quick and easily separated from the rest of the universe, Gods and Monsters is worth a watch for dedicated DC fans but is unlikely to sway any newcomers.