This review was originally posted on Punch Drunk Critics
I’ve been pretty unimpressed and leery of new Warnes Animation direct to video DC universe efforts of late; mostly because I’m not a fan of the stories they have been adapting. While their efforts were good they haven’t been able to take uninteresting Justice League reboot tales and make gold out of them or really cut a piece of a large Batman story and make it its own story. Now when it was announced that Bruce Timm would be returning to the fold to make a new project of an alternate world Justice League I got very interested. This project Justice League: Gods and Monsters came to fruition in the form of short films on web network Machinima and this movie I’ll be reviewing here. After what I feel is a lot of misses in my opinion, they finally got some of their groove back here.
Gods and Monsters takes place in a world where a whole lot of things are different, particularly the trinity of superheroes Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In this world, Superman is the son of Lara and General Zod (using the birthing matrix from John Byrne’s Man of Steel reboot from the ’80s). With this last son on Krypton not being found by the Kents but by migrant (possibly illegal) immigrant workers, it makes for a very different Superman in terms of his outlook and how he handles situations. The Batman here isn’t a young rich Bruce Wayne who lost his family to a random act of crime. This time it’s scientist Kirk Langstrom; usually known as Man-Bat but in this ends up becoming a vampire-like man because of an attempt to cure his cancer. Finally, Wonder Woman isn’t Diana of Themyscara but Becca, daughter of High Father of the New Gods and wife of Orion, son of Darkseid. A great tragedy occurs and she escapes the Fourth World in exile on earth.
What transpires in the movie is a story of someone trying to frame the Justice League for the murder of scientists to make it look like they are trying to take over the world. The team must figure out who is doing so while also protecting themselves from the US government who they work with to keep peace in the world. Writers Bruce Timm and frequent collaborator Alan Burnett craft a really good story doing what the DC Universe does best; flipping their standard characters around on their heads a bit with an alternate earth. Amanda Waller as POTUS? Word. The Pact didn’t happen in the Fourth World? Word let’s go. Lex Luthor has a huge team of super scientists that would usually be superheroes and villains? I can rock with that. Sam Liu directed this and did a good job. The action is well choreographed and easy to follow while keeping a decent level of tension and danger. Some of the action is a bit brutal, especially in a design style many are very used to never showing people catching bodies and blood all over the place.
The really cool thing about this movie is that it’s great but it also opens up so much in the story that you want more of it instantly. I’m usually not really into “mature” superhero cartoons but this has my interests so piqued that I hope it does well enough to make them consider it. Things like a Superman based off the immigrant experience, currently a hot topic in the news, A Wonder Woman born out of conflict and tragedy and a Batman that actually preys on criminals are all great starting points to see some dope stories. I hope many people check this out. It’s one totally worth adding to the collection.