Monday, July 13, 2015

SDCC 2015: Justice League: Gods and Monsters Reviewed

In comics, and more specifically, in the DC Universe, we are often allowed glimpses into alternate realities where our favorite heroes and villains' lives have taken a hard left turn, creating stories very different from the normal "battles in tights" fare. Batman fights Dracula and becomes a creature of the night. Superman is the hero of Mother Russia. When a legendary figure like Bruce Timm is behind the alternate reality, you know you are in for something AWESOME!

Gods and Monsters begins by warping the origin stories, and even the identities, of three core Justice League members; Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Superman is now the biological son of Zod, raised by Mexican immigrants with a far different upbringing than the core character we know well, changing his entire perspective on humanity. Wonder Woman calls herself daughter to those we know as the New Gods. Betrayed and heartbroken, she took her rage to Earth, set on never letting another being hurt her again. Batman is Kurt Langstrom (our Earth's Manbat!), a brilliant scientist living on borrowed time. A cure for his fatal illness leads to a vampire-like transformation giving him super human powers, and a taste for blood. Now all three stride the world like gods, exacting terminal justice with a heavy hand while taking the lead from a government enjoying the power these individuals grant them. With a public at once grateful for their heroes and in fear of the death these creatures bring, it is only a matter of time before humanity must decide if they are willing to pay the price of perceived safety. And if they no longer wish to live under the protection of their "heroes", is there really an alternative?

Gods and Monsters doesn't dwell too long on questions of morality, the corruption of power and such, but the themes are right in front of you to ponder as you wish. Instead, the film moves along quickly, giving a bit of time to tell each character's back story while laying out a mystery surrounding the deaths of Earth's most prominent scientists, pinned squarely on our dark heroes. Why is someone going to great lengths to start a war between humanity and this super powered trio? The answer is dark. I mean DARK dark. Rather the reveal is dark, flipping the script on some beloved characters you may not have seen coming...unless you've watched the trailer and clips. It's kind of all right there, sadly. With the enemy revealed, the finale is a little anticlimactic, but the content we get up to that point makes up for any shortcomings the end might posses. Like many of DC's animated features, the content throughout is adult without being risque and shockingly violent at times without spraying blood all over the background. The animation is top notch, with an art style planted firmly in the Timmiverse, which will please more than a few hundred thousand fans!

We are lead to believe this is an animated movie in the Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe tradition featuring our heroes leaning more toward the tropes of vigilantism. Thankfully, it's not all that simple. Gods and Monsters is a thoughtful piece that doesn't get all caught up in it's own weight, remembering that "to entertain" is its primary job. It's a lesson the Warner Bros. feature films could stand to learn. It rolls out scenes that are nastier than the usual cartoon offerings, but it all fits in smoothly with the story. Nothing is done only to shock the audience. Never has such a simple plot premise been stretched so far and still remained highly entertaining, intriguing and engrossing. This all comes down to expert story telling and excellent voice acting across the board. The story doesn't forget long time fans of the core DC Universe either, with references aplenty, revamped character cameos and nods I'm sure I missed! Let's let the Batman stories rest for a bit and give me more of this, please and thank you! It's nice to be pleasantly surprised for a change.

Click HERE to pre-order Justice League: Gods and Monsters and save 25%!

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