You may well have missed out on this version of DC’s Justice League, and if you have, you need to get yourself acquainted with them. No… you NEED to get acquainted with them!
I know this has been out for a while, but since Google Play were offering it for a fiver, I thought I’d chance my arm with a bit of alternate universe stuff from the mind of Bruce Timm (creator of Batman: The Animated Series). It’s also on Amazon Prime, by the way.
Without trying to give too much away, what’s this about?
For anyone who’s read DC since Crisis On Infinite Earths, the concept of “Elseworlds” is a familiar one. Same as Marvel’s What If…? stories: change some things and let the story unfold. In the more famous examples, Batman became a vampire (Red Rain, Crimson Mist and Bloodstorm), a childless Thomas and Martha Wayne found a crashed spaceship in Kansas (Speeding Bullets) and Jack The Ripper crossed the Atlantic to Gotham (Gotham By Gaslight). Justice League: Gods and Monsters is playing with a similar deck of cards, using the animation styles of the likes of the aforementioned BTAS, Justice League Unlimited and Superman – pretty much the in-house DC style.
In this universe, Superman is the genetic son of General Zod, rather than Jor-El, and he was adopted by illegal Mexican immigrants who were the first ones to find his ship. Batman is Kirk Langstrom (who in the regular DC Universe is Man-Bat), who became a vampire trying to cure a type of cancer he was suffering (isn’t that Michael Morbius, Marvel’s “Living Vampire”?), and Wonder Woman isn’t an Amazon. She’s one of the New Gods who left New Genesis and Apokalips following the death of her husband, Orion.
So that’s the three main characters. It’s also worth knowing that Amanda Waller is the US President.
Following an opening sequence that shows that this isn’t the Justice League we’re used to – they’re more ruthless and brutal. They also don’t have the same aversion to killing their enemies – the main plot starts to kick in with the murders of Drs Victor Fries and Ray Palmer. Silas Stone and his son, Victor, are also attacked and killed using weapons that look suspiciously like fang marks, heat vision, sword cuts and the imprint of a small, high-heeled boot. These are all names that purveyors of the regular DC Universes will be familiar with.
Someone is trying to frame the Justice League for the murders of “Luthor’s boys” – a group of DC Universe superbrains, who were all at University together under the guidance of a Lex Luthor who sticks with science, rather than business. This group also includes Thaddeus Sivana, Michael Holt, John Henry Irons and Will Magnus. These are also all names familiar to anyone who knows their DC.
Since it’s a Bruce Timm effort, the animation style used harks back to Batman: The Animated Series. Benjamin Bratt as Superman, Michael C Hall as Batman and Tamara Taylor as Wonder Woman are well cast and fill the roles as well as you would expect from the alumni of such TV shows as Law & Order, Dexter, Bones and various others from the better end of live action stuff. Then again, you can always rely on the voice cast for these things to be good. These same people cast Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan and Bruce Greenwood as Batman (although many of us would love Kevin Conroy to make a permanent comeback).
The upshot of all this is that it looks good, sounds good and the story fairly rips along. It’s definitely worth a look, especially for a fiver. In fact, the only negatives are that it’s too short at just 75 minutes and it leaves questions like: What about Bruce Wayne, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan and J’Onn J’Onzz? Where are the Amazons?
These are questions that will probably never be answered, since DC Animated Movies don’t tend to get sequels. Which is a shame, since this world is so well set up, and there are enough plot threads left hanging at the end that a sequel could work very easily.
So… yeah… well worth a watch, and infinitely preferable to Zak Snyder’s take, since Bruce Timm understands the characters he’s basing his new ones on. Which is a positive advantage in this sort of thing.
VERDICT: 9/10 – Very, very good