Justice League: Gods and Monsters offers us an alternate universe where things are somewhat familiar to the DC Universe that we’ve grown accustomed to over the past three quarters of a century, but nothing is similar.
In order to mentally prepare the audience for the strange type of experience in store for them, some weeks before launch, Warner Brothers released 3 minisodes on the Internet called Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles. Each episode dealt with one of the main protagonists and gave as an idea of what to expect from the following feature.
Batman is an actual vampire
Batman isn’t Bruce Wayne, he’s a scientist called Kirk Langstrom – better known as Man-Bat to those familiar with the DC Universe – and he’s not the Batman we’re used to either. This universe’s version of Batman is an actual vampire with superhuman speed, strength and the power of flight. Why he got that way is much more interesting than how, and I don’t want to get into that but suffice to say is a very believable, very real-world type of reason.
Superman is Mexican
Superman looks nothing like the Clark Ken/Man of Steel combo that we’ve know, in this universe he’s not the son of Jor-El, he’s the son of General Zod. Not only that, but the Kents sure as shit don’t find him either, he is instead raised by a family of Mexican migrant workers and as such has a completely different experience growing up than all-American Clark Kent had.
Wonder Woman has a tragic past
As tragic as those backgrounds may sound, I don’t want to spoil very much since finding out their origins is a big part of the appeal of the movie, one has to keep in mind that the original versions had tragic backgrounds anyway: Bruce’s parents get killed in front of him, Kal-El’s planet explodes as he is sent to Earth, except for the original Wonder Woman, her origin stories are usually not tragic. But holy hell, she gets the most tragic of backgrounds in Gods and Monsters.
And since things are so lopsided in this universe, this Justice League’s methods are considerably less…let’s say life-conserving, than those of the canon JL.
The origin stories and overall universe aren’t the only things that set Justice League: Gods and Monsters aside from the rest of the DC Animated Universe offerings.
Animation style and story
The Bruce Timm style of animation is a rather sharp detour, and something of a flashback, from the current style of DC’s animated titles, and it works fairly well from several points of view.
First of all is the obvious nostalgia factor. Those of us who grew up with Batman: The Animated Series have a very strong link to this particular approach to animating DC characters.
The other benefit of using this animation style is the fact that it also sets the movie aside visually from the other DC Animated Universe titles on tap, thus further differentiating it from the main universe titles.
My hat is off to both Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett for crafting a very well put together story and script, with some great twists and turns and most of all, a story that delivers a real sense of suspense.
The suspense is due, in large, to the fact that we don’t know these characters, we have very little idea of their histories so we don’t know how much punishment they can take, we don’t know what sort of decisions they’re most likely to make, in short, we don’t know how this is going to end and that’s always a great source of suspense, as well as a sign of good writing.
This isn’t the Justice League that you’re used to
Besides all of the things that I’ve been mentioning up until now, things that differentiate Justice League: Gods and Monsters from the main DC canon, there’s also the unadulterated violence present in this movie, that definitely sets it aside from the other DC animations. The thing is, it’s not gratuitous and it is there to drive the point home: this isn’t the Justice League that you’re used to.
The movie also seems to relish in this sort of freedom from the norm by having a kid say “shit”, giant metal doors squishing a bunch of people on camera and there’s one scene in which a puma has a tiny horse in its mouth. I know the latter sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch but trust me, it makes total sense in the context of the movie.
The main protagonists notwithstanding, Gods and Monsters also features a few other DC characters such as Victor Fries, Ray Palmer and Victor Stone, respectively Mr. Freeze, The Atom – we’ll see much more of him in the future TV series Legends of Tomorrow – and Cyborg in the standard DC universe.
As of the time of writing this article, a series of one-shot comics linked to Justice League: Gods and Monsters are being released – three of them focusing more on the origin stories of the protagonists while three other being a prequel story to the movie. (the digital versions of said comics are already available)
To wrap up, Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a definite must-watch for any and all DC Animated Universe fan, it is fresh, different and expertly made to warrant both your time and money.
Let me know in the comments what you thought about this different vision of some very classic characters!
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