I’ve been rather unimpressed by the recent direct-to-video animated films DC have been churning out recently. I thought Justice League: Throne of Atlantis was watchable but disappointing and Batman vs. Robin was probably their worst animated film to date. I think a lot of the problem stems from bad production values and lousy writing.
Or, rather, a bad producer and a lousy writer. Leave it to Bruce Timm, the mastermind behind fantastic Batman: The Animated Series as well as the superb Justice League cartoons to remind us how great DC Comic cartoons can be! Because Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a really incredible direct-to-video animated film!
Justice League: Gods and Monsters is essentially an Elseworld story. It takes place in an alternate universe where Superman is the son of General Zod and was raised by Mexican immigrants. Batman is Kirk Langstrom, who, in the “regular’ DC Universe is Man-Bat and this world’s Wonder Woman is Bekka, one of the New Gods of New Genesis. The three of them are the only members of this universe’s Justice League and their form of justice is far more brutal than the Justice League we know. However, a group of scientists wind up murdered and all evidence points to the group. It then becomes a race against time in order to clear their names… or just take over the world and start ruling the world with an iron fist.
And that’s all I’ll say about the plot. This will be a generally SPOILER-FREE review of Justice League: Gods and Monsters. So, read at your hearts content!
The best thing about Justice League I have to say is the characters. I love watching and learning about these different versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. They all have very interesting stories and I had a blast learning about their new origins. Superman’s origin is a fantastic take on the “alien from another world” gimmick he’s been saddled since he double-down by making him an illegal alien! Batman’s origin is fine and is closely tied to your classic “science gone wrong” trope. But the best origin has to be Bekka, this Elseworld’s version of Wonder Woman. I didn’t think I would be that interested in it. But when they showed Apokolypse as well as her origins as to why she left New Genesis, I was hooked on the character.
Actually, I would really love to know more about the universe these characters inhabit as they seem to be the only active superheroes. There are a lot of cameos of other superheroes and villains but as normal people. Some of them are rather obvious, such as Ray Palmer/The Atom. But only fans of DC Comics lore will recognize the other lesser known comic characters like Dr. Sivana and Karen Beecher/Bumblebee. Nice work adding these characters in, Bruce Timm!
The voice acting is, for the most part, good. Benjamin Bratt’s version of Superman is fantastic and, honestly, kind of threatening. His performance gives a lot of weight to a Superman that isn’t really bothered by killing. Bones’ Tamara Taylor does the voice of Bekka/Wonder Woman and it’s actually pretty good. However, it does sound a little too much like Susan Eisenberg (the voice actress that portrayed Wonder Woman from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons). Still, it doesn’t change the fact that it was a great performance.
I would actually say the most disappointing performance comes from Michael C. Hall as Kirk Langstrom/Batman. His delivery was rather flat and just monotone throughout. I guess I can’t blame him since, well, this version of Batman is kind of an undead vampire and he was probably told to deliver his lines that way. However, that doesn’t explain why Kirk Langstrom sound so bored and monotonous even before he became Batman. It’s not a terrible performance; it’s just not as good as Benamin Bratt and Tamara Taylor’s, that’s all.
The animation and character designs are gorgeous! It’s basically a return to the Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe style. This means really clean lines as well as really great character designs. I love Superman’s goatee look as well as Wonder Woman’s New Gods costume (complete with sword and fanciful headgear!). Batman’s alternate costume is a little plain looking but it makes perfect sense for a fairly no-nonsense character, more so than the original version of the character!
As much as I love Justice League: Gods and Monsters, it isn’t a perfect film. Even though the world seems well thought of and they do a great job in introducing these alternate versions of beloved characters, the overall story lacks direction, especially during the final 15-20 minutes of this 108 film. The reveal as to who is behind everything just seemed forced and the villain’s motivation wasn’t all that compelling as well. Also, it was just too darned complicated to make a lick of sense! The film’s ending also feels rushed. I think the story would’ve been better if they added a few more minutes to wrapping up the ending in a much cleaner fashion.
With that being said, I actually would want a sequel to Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Bruce Timm’s re-imagining of DC’s Trinity is a really interesting one and I would love to see them in action again. This is definitely worth a watch.
Have you seen Justice League: Gods and Monsters? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!