I’ve never been a fan of Elseworld stories where they make Superman the bad guy. I’m talking specifically when DC’s Man of Steel goes over the edge and starts doing evil deeds, not the ones where a Superman analogue like Homelander or Omni-Man is a bad guy. Stories like Kingdom Come where Superman’s ideals may have exacerbated the problems or where Kal-El’s rocket lands on Apokolips and The Last Son of Krypton is adopted by Darkseid. There’s just something that always feels forced and doesn’t come out natural. Honestly, the best tale following this line is the original Injustice video game just because you can see Superman doing things that are truly evil but you can still understand his motivations for the most part.
Unfortunately, the DC Universe Animated Original Movie version of Injustice doesn’t work out quite as well.
Injustice generally follows the premise of the video game. The Joker manages to trick Superman into killing Lois Lane, their unborn child and the entire city of Metropolis. In a fit of rage, Superman kills the Harlequin of Hate and decides that enough is enough. The Man of Steel decides to take a more active role in curbing all the evil in the world. While this is initially seen as a good thing as wars and atrocities are stopped, Superman essentially creates a worldwide police state where some freedoms are curbed. This splintered the Justice League into two factions. One following Superman’s ideals and another, more underground group, following Batman’s hopes for more individualism and freedom.
Let’s go start with the things I liked about Injustice. I actually liked the voice cast for the most part. They weren’t able to get the actors who did the voices for the video games, which is a shame. But I do like some of the actors they did get for the animated version. Justin Hartlet’s Superman is more than adequate and he’s generally able to carry the transition of hopeful hero to delusional despot pretty well. Derek Philips does a fine job of giving life to the more playful and sarcastic Nightwing. I also liked Reid Scott’s version of Green Arrow because it just suits the character.
The most surprising revelation here is Gillian Jacobs as Harley Quinn. I didn’t know she had it in her! She does manage to get the inflections Arleen Sorkin gave the character way back in Batman: The Animated Series. But she also does manage to add a little bit of her own personality in the delivery. The result is a really neat iteration of Harley Quinn but sounding just different enough so it doesn’t feel like a pale imitation.
That’s not to say all the vocal performances are a home run. Some of them just flat out sucks. Kevin Pollack is a great actor but having him voice the Joker is a serious instance of miscasting. I also never really bought into Anson Mount’s version of Batman. It sounds like someone trying to be The Dark Knight rather than someone who embodies the character. It’s just too monotone and unfeeling. These missteps don’t really hurt the movie all that much. There are lots more other stuff that does.
But before we get to that, I do have to have to talk about another thing I liked and that’s how some of the lesser known characters, like Mister Terrific and, at long last, Plastic Man, got time to strut their stuff! We’ve seen Mister Terrific used well before but you never really get to see how smart he is most of the time. In Injustice, they did show how important he was in finding a solution to the Superman problem. But the biggest surprise is Plastic Man. Now, I love Plastic Man because I watched the cartoon series (which was incredibly unfaithful to the DC comics character) and because of how humorous the character was. So it was really nice to see how great he can actually be.
Unfortunately, I just know a lot of fans will hate how a lot of their favorite Justice League members are treated in this iteration of Injustice. A lot of them are written off without much fanfare. I guessing some fans are really going to be upset with the way some characters are also treated here. I also have to comment that there’s a severe lack of supervillains here. There’s a quick bit with Mirror Master but that’s quickly resolved, making his appearance totally unnecessary.
So, I’ve already discussed the mixed bags that are the vocal performances and how some of the lesser known DC heroes are handled. We, sadly, have to talk about the stuff I found no redeeming value in. The first would be the art style. It just looks so cheaply produced! I guess you can say it helped that everything looks really simple and plain to better animate the action scenes, which do come off as passable. But as a result, everything looks incredibly dull and flat. While I did say the action scenes are passable, a lot of the scenes that involves the characters just talking with each other look stilted and unnatural. They just move so unnaturally during the calmer moments, which made me think they were really saving on the budget by cutting out a lot of animation frames.
The absolutely worst thing about the animated adaptation of Injustice is the story. The story just feels like it’s all over the place! I never read the comic this is ultimately based on but I’m guessing a lot of the scenes and events here are actually from there. However, if that’s true, the writers tried to cram a whole lot of stuff from the 60 issue series into a 80-minute film! It just feels incredibly disjointed, with things just happening from out of nowhere or things being resolved immediately without any gravitas.
Adding to this jumbled mess of a story is a really horrendous final act. Or should I say, final acts? Injustice just doesn’t quit as it looks like they’re already closing out the film but it actually doesn’t stop there and they had to add another thing. But even when that’s over, they still had to add another bit to really close everything out. The weird thing is that, even with it not really knowing how to end the movie, it’s still oh so predictable!
I find it hard to recommend the animated Injustice to most viewers. I guess comic book fans who do like those Elseworld tales where Superman falls off the deep end might like it. Plastic Man fans will get a kick out of seeing their favorite hero finally getting his dues. But everyone else can safely skip this.
Have you seen the animated Injustice film? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!