Starring: Benjamin Bratt, Michael C. Hall, Tamara Taylor, Paget Brewster, C. Thomas Howell, Jason Isaacs and Dee Bradley Baker
Written By: Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm
Directed By: Sam Liu
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
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In another world and in another time, Superman’s father isn’t Jor-El but rather General Zod, Wonder Woman is a child of the New Gods and Bruce Wayne’s parents stayed home on that fateful night leaving Kirk Langstrom (Man-Bat) to become a vampire Batman. Together the original trinity forms a Justice League of another kind.
“Gods and Monsters” is the long awaited return to DC animation for Bruce Timm who is responsible for an entire animated universe that started with “Batman: The Animated Series” and continued on through “Superman: The Animated Series”, “Batman Beyond” and “Justice League/Justice League Unlimited”. This time around he was tasked with creating an Elseworlds universe of some sort.
Wanted to do something completely new and unique to the various incarnations of the Justice League and the big three (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman), Bruce Timm decided to completely reinvent the mantles of those three superheroes from scratch.
General Zod implanted his DNA code into the DNA of the unborn child that would become Superman. This child also wasn’t found by Ma and Pa Kent, but rather migrant Mexican workers leaving him to live a much harsher life then he would have had on the Kent farm.
Wonder Woman is not Diana Prince, but Bekka the daughter of the Highfather, ruler of New Genesis. She was set to wed Orion, the son of Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips in order to reach peace between the two worlds but was betrayed by the New Gods of Genesis and Orion was killed. She escaped to Earth and donned the mantle of Wonder Woman.
Batman is actually Kirk Langstrom, who in regular DC continuity is a scientist whose experiments with bats turned him into the Man-Bat. This time around, his experiments turned him into a vampire and thus caused his name to be switched around.
“Justice League: Gods and Monsters” is much darker and way more violent than anything that Bruce Timm has done before. One of the opening sequences featuring the Justice League follows them as they storm a terrorist compound and completely obliterate everyone within. Superman blows holes in people’s heads, Wonder Woman slices people in half with her sword and Batman snaps necks and punches holes in people’s chests. They also kick a large metal door down upon a handful of terrorists turning them into smear marks. These actions cause the world to fear and resent the team, but they know that they need them just as well.
While it was good to see the legendary Bruce Timm back in the driver’s seat, there were quite a few things that didn’t completely sell me on “Gods and Monsters”. Now, I’m all for alternate takes on the big three, but it felt like the writers were trying to make something drastically different just for the shock value of being different. Whatever happened to make Superman so overly violent isn’t fleshed out well enough. The viewer is supposed to assume that, because Superman has Zod DNA and wasn’t raised on a farm by the Kents, he is automatically going to be evil. There is no specific event that caused this dramatic turn in personality other than, it’s just Zod. There are some animated shorts that were released before the movie, but there is no mention of those at all and they’re not included as a special feature in the extras.
The same can be said of both Wonder Woman and Batman. Yes, Wonder Woman/Bekka had a traumatic event that caused her not to trust people and forced her to escape to Earth, but I see no reason whatsoever that would turn her into a psychotic murderer. One is also supposed to assume that Batman has violent rages and tendencies to murder people because he’s a vampire. Very little more is given in regards to why this team has such disregard for life.
With the lack of detail regarding murderous tendencies out of the way, overall I did enjoy the movie. It was slow at first, but once things started to pick up with the idea of the Justice League being framed for murders that they (possibly) didn’t do, it really began to feel like a murder mystery movie. The writers did a good job with the surprise reveals towards the end as well as with the whole “conspiracy theory” plotline that was laid out fairly early on. I also quite enjoyed this universe’s version of Lex Luthor and was totally surprised and disappointed with Darkseid.
I wouldn’t consider “Justice League: Gods and Monsters” to be at the top of the list of DC animated movies, but it was by no means a terrible watch. Plot holes and character assumptions aside, I enjoyed following the main characters twists and turns over the course of the movie. I was most definitely a fan of this version of a vampire Batman although he felt like more of a Spider-Man villain at times and it’s always a good time when the New Gods make an appearance (all hail the King!). The animation was on another level from Timm’s earlier stuff but was still instantly recognizable for fans of the 90s DC animated universe and the voice actors did a great job of creating new identities for the cast of characters. I can see more adventures occurring in this particular universe in the future, and I’m excited to see where they can go with this version of the Justice League.
A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie
Exclusively on Blu-Ray:
Alternate Realities: Infinite Possibilities Featurette
Calculated Risks: The Making of Gods and Monsters Featurette
The New Gods Vintage Featurette
From the DC Comics Vault – 2 Bonus Cartoons
1080p High Definition 16×9 1.78:1
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
English, French and Spanish Subtitles
Bottom Line: An alternate take on DC’s big guns with a much darker version of the Justice League taking center stage. The writers leave the viewers making assumptions for characters, which is never a good thing, but after the origin parts are dealt with the murder mystery plot unfolds and redeems the earlier missteps.
Running Time: 76 Mins