Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a must-see for any DC fan – the launchpad to a rich and fun alternate version of the DC universe.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters transports to an alternate version of the DC Comics Universe, in which we meet very different versions of the ‘DC Trinity.’ Superman is no longer Kal-El but is rather Hernan Guerra, biological son of Lara Lor-Van and General Zod, who crash-landed on Earth and was raised by migrant Mexican farmers. Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne but is rather Kirk Langstrom, a brilliant young scientist whose radical attempt to cure his own cancer transformed him into the vampire crime fighter known as The Batman. Finally, Wonder Woman is no longer Princess Diana of Themyscira but is rather Bekka, a family member of the New Gods exiled on Earth after a tragic event in her past.
Together, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman police the globe – often unleashing ruthless tactics against terrorists and evildoers, all in the name of Justice, of course. The twist comes when mysterious assassins begin murdering some of the world’s top scientific minds – people connected to a mysterious event in the past that involves the Justice League. With the evidence mounting against them, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman try to uncover the mastermind trying to defame the world’s most powerful guardians – without The League being viewed as the fascistic threat many fear them as. But as their unseen nemesis begins to make more and more brazen chess moves, the Justice League quickly find themselves two steps behind a plot that leads to their eradication.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters has the distinction of bringing back some of DC Animation’s greatest storytellers (Batman: The Animated Series creative team members Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett), and mixing them with modern-day DC animation director, Sam Liu (Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths), resulting in one of the best DCAU movies to come along in years. With a truly fresh (but competent) vision of well-established heroes, a storyline that has complexity, mystery, emotion, as well as depth of character, and compelling action sequences that come with weighted stakes (thanks to strong narrative context), Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a must-see for any DC fan – the launchpad to a rich and fun alternate version of the DC universe.
On a directorial level, Liu thankfully pays homage to the heyday of his esteemed collaborators, going with the retro Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animation style from the ’90s and early 00’s DC animated TV series – as opposed to the anime-influenced look that DCU features have sporting in their “New 52” shared universe. While honoring the throwback style of the ’90s, Gods and Monsters nonetheless has a crisp and sleek modern polish to it, which looks particularly good in Blu-ray. Liu’s direction is better than ever, and the PG-13 film is also not afraid to get into some brutal and violent action (with a lot of slasher movie-style deaths), making it particularly thrilling since real life-and-death stakes are at play, with the outcomes thoroughly rooted in the emotional story of the film.
Speaking of story: Timm and Burnett prove why they are viewed as gurus amongst the DC fandom, cranking out their richest feature-film story since Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Gods and Monsters at once introduces an entirely new version of the DCU; weaves together entire backstories and mythos for this new world and its three central characters; introduces a murder mystery plotline that has nice twists and turns; stitches in strong thematic and emotional arcs for all three “DC Trinity” characters; and still manages to pull all those elements together in a way that results in a resonant superhero story, with three great character arcs for Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, in particular. In short: these new versions created by Timm and Burnett are just as exciting and interesting as the established heroes, and the voicework by Benajmin Bratt (24: Live Another Day), Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Tamara Taylor (Bones) is impeccable, providing strong foundation for these new characters.
By the end, fans (the ones with open minds) will walk away feeling intimated with, and intrigued by, these new versions of DC’s “big three,” while still getting to enjoy the familiarity of the original characters, since Timm and Burnett never lose the core essences that make them enduring icons. Hardcore fans will also get a kick out of dissecting the many DC Comics Easter eggs in the film – from the comic book inspirations of these new versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, to the many other DC characters who get “remixed” into new roles and contexts in this alternate dimension. Being masters of this universe, Timm and Burnett find smart ways to reposition familiar faces, and even pull a few DC characters out of obscurity, giving them successful turns in the spotlight.
For those fans stuck on the idea that this alternate version of things is too far removed from the heroes they know and love, Justice League: Gods and Monsters is going to be a complete disappointment. For those who love the tradition of DC “Elseworlds” tales, Justice League: Gods and Monsters will be a thrilling and refreshing experience, blessed by the talents of DC’s best animated storytellers.
The only real downside is that seeing this film is an immediate wake up call to the void in animated storytelling that’s left behind whenever talents like Timm and Burnett aren’t on hand. It’ll be hard to accept less after this – meaning DC’s “New 52” animated features will have to seriously up their game, going forward.
Gods & Monsters Preview Shorts
Justice League: Gods and Monsters is now available for Digital Download HERE. It will be out on Blu-ray/DVD on July 28th.