Showing posts with label Bruce Timm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bruce Timm. Show all posts

Justice League: Gods and Monsters review

You've seen Batman: The Animated SeriesJustice League, Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series, or Justice League Unlimited, right? Assuming the answer is yes (and it really should be), that means you're familiar with Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett's work. Now the two have teamed-up to deliver a character-driven mystery that's sprinkled with creative fan service, loaded with exciting action, and packing a legitimately interesting approach to DC's trinity.
There's been a wide variety of alternate universes over the years; we've seen everything from Batman in a different era to Superman being raised by a different family. At this point, bringing something 100% original to these characters would be a herculean feat, but Timm, Burnett, director Sam Liu, and Geoff Johns (a bonus feature explains how he helped build the story) have managed to present an alternate universe that leaves me wanting to see so much more of it. Where will the remaining characters go from here? What changes have been made to other heroes and villains? Can these characters slowly begin to resemble their iconic counter-parts more and more, or will they never be able to reach that heroic level? This is a world where things aren't completely upside down, but they're just different enough to breathe so much more life into this place. Morals have shifted, the cosmic mythos is altered, and things aren't going to go so well for many familiar faces. The Justice League's three members are Gods compared to regular humans, but does killing their enemies also make them monsters? Or is a lack of transparency and trust what truly puts them at odds with humanity? I love the way the conflict between the Justice League and the U.S. Government is explored - there isn't a lot of blunt exposition and it escalates naturally - and I'm left seriously hoping we get a sequel at some point. There's still so much potential on their version of Earth.

Overall, Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment's direct-to-video projects have solid voice acting. There's some films where certain characters fall flat, but there's been far more hits than misses, thankfully. In Justice League: Gods and Monsters, the performances are definitely solid and that's hugely important because this is a movie that relies on character development and making sure these individuals are compelling instead of just being colder and more violent versions of characters you already know so well.

Tamara Taylor's voice manages to capture Wonder Woman's strength and vulnerability equally well. Whether it's yelling in combat or temporarily letting her guard down, it just wasn't jarring when Wonder Woman switched from a fearsome warrior to someone far more relatable. Benjamin Bratt's voice further solidifies the fact that we're dealing with a totally different version of Superman. The Man of Steel still sounds confident, but instead of speaking in a way that give listeners a feeling of hope, there's more mystery in his dialogue - there's something especially scary about a man who can talk calmly after killing his enemies, after all. You can really tell this is a guy who thinks he knows what he wants (he's tempted to rule humanity with an iron fist, yet never choose to do so), but he's still torn over whether or not he's doing the right thing. He wants you to believe he's firm in his beliefs, but deep down, it's obvious he's far more torn than he lets on. Bratt's lines absolutely did this character *ahem* justice. And Michael C. Hall as this darker version of Batman? I mean, we're talking about the voice of Dexter as an emotionally distant killer. Come on, it really doesn't get more fitting than that, does it?
Everyone may be familiar with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but Justice League: Gods and Monsters' take on these heroes are quite different - it isn't even the same people wearing the costumes. Because of that, this movie has the difficult task of revealing three new origin stories while also building an overall story. Luckily for us, these origin stories don't interrupt the flow of the bigger picture. Instead of feeling like jarring flashbacks, they unfold in a more natural way and the handling of Batman and Wonder Woman's earlier tales are a nice reminder of just how much this narrative relies on character instead of big events and spectacle. On the surface, these characters are colder and darker than their famous counter-parts. However, this story is able to humanize all three of them in different and equally effective ways.

The new designs are also a satisfying way to make it crystal clear we're leaping into a whole new world. Batman may still be swift and skilled, but aside from the signature ears and wings during flight, plenty of changes - like the goggles that aid his eyes - help this character stand apart from the Dark Knight. The same holds true for Wonder Woman's armor. I won't go into where it stems from (spoilers, obviously), but it's a clear reflection of someone who isn't from the same place as Diana Prince. Meanwhile, Superman no longer has his signature chest emblem (something Batman doesn't have, either!) or flowing cape. The way his coat waves is a nod to Big Blue's design, but overall, this Superman feels like a more grounded and practical approach to this individual. He isn't here to inspire; here's here to crush the opposition. There's no need for bright colors with him.

There's a lot of cameos and familiar items floating around, so viewers with a good amount of DC Universe knowledge are going to be pretty pleased with just how many people and recognizable things were sprinkled into this story. Some are nothing more than "Hey, I know that person!" kind of appearances, but it's still cool they packed so much in here. It's especially interesting how they handled one popular villain, but I won't get into that because, you know, spoilers.

Liu makes sure all of the action leaves an impact. From immense, super-powered strikes to jaw-droppingly harsh acts of violence, every encounter finds its own way to make an impression. Each "hero" fights differently - Superman's a blunt tank; Batman's agile and precise; Wonder Woman's frighteningly good with her blade - and the director's able to present all three kinds of action scenes in equally enjoyable ways. A slugfest between titans is every bit as jaw-dropping as Batman leaping around or Wonder Woman deflecting a barrage of projectiles. It's all thrilling and there's plenty of it. There's some especially over-the-top stuff in here as well and man, it's a blast.
My biggest criticism of this movie is one that also applies to many other superhero stories: it doesn't seem likely at all that the villain's elaborate plan will succeed. The buildup is excellent and there's a fair amount of surprises in the mystery, but once everything is revealed, it begins play out in a pretty standard - albeit enjoyable - manner. While it does remain focused on character - that, along with morals, is easily the most important part of the story - I would have loved to see some more creative twists once the villain's plan is put in the spotlight.

The Blu-ray's special features are definitely worth your time. There's an extensive look - 11 minutes and 45 seconds long - at next year's Batman: Bad Blood. This movie already had my interest, but after watching this feature, I'm legitimately excited for it. Going into the feature, all I knew about Bad Blood is who's directing (Jay Olivia) and who's voicing Batwoman (Yvonne Strahovski) and Batwing (Gaius Charles). This feature reveals so much more of the story - something I won't spoil in here - and goes into great detail about who's involved and what kind of roles they'll play. I will drop one incredibly minor and vague spoiler, though: Nightwing fans, it looks like you're going to be happy.

There's also a 20 minute feature about the various alternate realities DC has created. If you're looking for must-read alternate tales or simply want to hear some of DC's talent explain what makes stories like Kingdom Come special, it's most certainly worthy of your attention. Additionally, there's a feature which explores how Gods and Monsters was created. It's a very insightful look into where the idea came from, how the characters were designed, and what makes this universe worth exploring. As if nearly an hour of extra content wasn't enough, there's also an older feature about the history of Darkseid and the New Gods - there's a big emphasis on Jack Kirby's work, of course - and two relevant episodes of Superman: The Animated Series and Legion of Superheroes.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a must-watch for both new and old fans of DC's animated projects. Thanks to great designs, a sharp script which focuses heavily on character, and a variety of intense action sequences, Gods and Monsters is a movie that deserves a spot in your collection.

4.5/5

Justice League: Gods and Monsters is currently on sale digitally and the Blu-ray/DVD will be available July 28. It's rated PG-13 and, thanks to some graphic kills and language, it certainly earns that rating.