Justice League: Gods and Monsters review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Be it a parallel timeline or parallel dimension, it’s always interesting to see the heroes go bad. The DC Comics direct-to-video animated movies certainly seem to favor these alternate takes with such Justice League movies as Crisis on Two Earths and The Flashpoint Paradox. But the Justice League: Gods and Monsters entertains a darker and more compelling depiction of not-so-heroic heroes. In this alternate universe, the mantles of familiar heroes have been taken on by much different characters. Superman is a short-tempered son of General Zod, Batman is a science experiment gone awry and Wonder Woman hails from another planet. Together, they have formed a more brutal and rogue Justice League more likely to slaughter a villain than haul him off to jail. Unlike the other DC Comics movies that focus on alternate timelines, the classic Justice League we know never comes to save the day.
This grim Justice League has bred a considerable amount of distrust from world governments that deem their utilitarian methods as terrifying. So it becomes a bit hard to belief that they’re not responsible for the death of multiple scientists with their names written all over the murders. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have very little time to solve this mystery as more scientists are slaughtered by unknown robots and governments are fully prepared to battle the Justice League to the death. And there’s a bit of a surprise to who is behind it all, despite most of those who are familiar with the DC Comics characters will be able to piece it together early from the clues.
I’ve seen many of these DC Comics animated movies that all carry a PG-13 rating and this particular picture really pushes that rating to its full extent. There is an absurd amount of death in this picture that seeks to rewrite the origins and motives of heroes. Batman sinks his vampire teeth into the necks of his enemies, draining them of blood until they succumb. Dark robots descend on a manor where they stab, incinerate and bifurcate innocent victims. The Warner Brothers animation studio has certainly presented more visually grotesque depictions in their previous pictures - the chilling scene of Joker snapping his own neck and burning to a crisp comes to mind from The Dark Knight Returns. But the volume and brutality of violence in this picture is what truly makes it stand out as the darkest of DC’s animated movies to date. In case it wasn’t obvious by now, these animated movies are clearly not for kids.
But this is what makes Gods and Monsters such a unique superhero movie. It flips the script by creating a world where original characters emerge and the more recognizable ones bite the dust. There’s a tension in that there are heavy stakes at play where people are savaged to the point of this picture being a horror at times. The what-if premise had me locked from the first frame. So expansive was this newly created world that there were some additional mini-episodes created for this production. Batman battles a deranged Harley Quinn that has taken to chopping up body parts and assembling corpses into a makeshift family. Superman confronts a child version of Brainiac and makes the tough call of putting the weeping and dangerous lad out of his misery. Wonder Woman is presented as a more forward and determined warrior in how she orders around her boyfriend Steve Trevor. These sequences are so well done that I’d love to see either a sequel or series for this world.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters take a new and welcomed route for a DC Comics animated movie. It’s challenging with its own unique world building of flawed characters, thrilling with its creative fight scenes that rarely bore and a genuine thrill for all the twists and surprises it presents. The risks of presenting a migrant-raised Superman and a Batman that actually has a little bat in his blood were well worth it. There’s just something rather daring about a bitter Superman who bickers with Lois Lane and later mutters “What a bitch.” This is not your daddy’s Justice League nor is it the new age of Justice League. It is not a reboot, remake or sequel. What it happens to be is another solid piece of entertainment from the robust pantheon of DC Comic’s stellar animated productions.