When I first heard the title Justice League: Gods And Monsters I became intrigued. That’s a great title, but when I heard Bruce Timm was co-writing it I became excited, but then just the opposite happened when I first saw the trailer, which was a first, and that’s because it seemed to be a tale about an evil Justice League and we already got one of those flicks, Crisis On Two Earths (2010). Why are we getting a repeat of something that’s already been done before? And so I stayed on the fence for a long while as to whether I really wanted to review this. That’s never happened to me before, but at the last minute I decided I wanted to, mostly because Timm was directly attached to it and generally the hero toons he’s created don’t disappoint.
You know what?
This one didn’t either.
The trailer is deceptive in that you think you’re getting something like Crisis On Two Earths and in the beginning it feels like that’s where it’s going but then the plot takes a different turn and so do the characters and before you know it you watching something not like any of the other DC animated movies, in fact it’s the one movie they’ve made that’s the most risky and the most different, and in the end that was a good thing.
Gods & Monsters is a parallel universe where Kal-El, Bruce Wayne and Diana of Themyscira never became the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman we’re all familiar with. The new origins of these particular heroes are interwoven throughout the movie and it starts right off with Superman’s. As Krypton is nearing it’s end we see Jor-El is not destined to be Kal-El’s father, it’s General Zod, and Kal-El’s ship doesn’t crash in Kansas, but in the desert where migrant workers find the baby and raise him.
Batman’s origin is depicted later on in the movie and he’s Kirk Langstrom. The Langstrom from the “normal” DC Universe became a villain named, Man-Bat. Here Kirk has cancer and while in college he and his friend, Will Magnus, devise a cure, but one that turns Langstrom into a vampire.
The last origin shown is Wonder Woman. Her real name is Bekka and she comes from New Genesis. She’s a New God and was destined to marry Orion when Highfather betrays the wedding and peace between them and Darkseid and kills everyone present, including Orion. Betrayed, Bekka boomtube’s out of there and finds a new role as Wonder Woman on Earth.
Even in this reality there’s a Lex Luthor and he warns the government of how dangerous this Justice League is and that someday they’re going to want to take over the Earth. Yes, this Justice League is indeed dangerous. They kill the criminals they hunt and after Superman’s origin they find a terrorist cell’s hideout and pretty much annihilate everyone there, with Batman feeding on anyone he can get his hands on. The title, Gods & Monsters, is apropos; Superman is who the government is really worried about, the only one of the three that fits the “God” definition, but only on a superficial level does Batman meet the Monsters criteria of the title. He only feeds on criminals and the real monster of this movie is the culprit that’s setting them up.
You see the public doesn’t care for these “heroes” because of their killing methods and things are reaching a breaking point. Superman even floats the idea they may have to one day take over the planet for true peace to ever have a chance. This is when three top scientists connected to the government meet grisly ends: Victor Fries, Ray Palmer and Silas Stone and his son are all killed in a manner similar to how Supes, Bats and Wonder Woman would kill, and done by these hulking robots. Batman quickly catches on to the frame-up.
Batman has a dog in this fight since his two friends, Will and Tina, the girl who had an unrequited crush on him in college but ended up marrying Will instead, are eventually killed in a massacre where all the remaining scientists were secretly gathering. Who’s setting them up I won’t reveal, but I will say it’s connected to Batman. And in the final act even in this parallel universe it seems there always has to be a tragedy in the Bat’s life. The twist with Kirk’s is that his occurred many years before and he never knew anything about it.
Another nice twist is when that final confrontation happens between Superman and the military, once they decide these heroes are too dangerous to live, the military had a contingency plan in the works for just such a moment, and they created weapons that could actually hurt and kill him. I wasn’t expecting that at all.
No Justice League movie would be complete without the requisite God-like smackdown that has to happen between Superman and whatever equally God-like force opposes him and/or mankind. In this case it’s those damn murderous droids created to frame them and the ensuing battle, as always, upends a lot of real estate. The fight even goes straight to the Earth’s core, where lava is used as the final method to destroy these robots. That was a fun scene to watch as Supes pummels the bot into the lava.
I am, however, going to spoil the fact that despite all the tragedy, personal and general, there’s an upbeat ending that has Superman considering different methods, that maybe they don’t have to kill every criminal they encounter.
As always the animation was a beauty to behold. Bruce Timm’s style generally is. Violence-wise, yeah, it’s up there, with people losing limbs, being heat-visioned to death, burning to death, having necks broken, necks sucked on by fangs, and in a DC animated first one poor scientist is literally ripped in half by one of the murderous droids, but you only see it in shadow.
Character designs for each hero is a hundred and eight degrees from their “normal” counterparts but that was just fine with me. In fact I liked this parallel Batman’s design the best as well as his vampiric origin. Incidentally, Michael C. Hall of Six Feet Under (’01-‘05) and Dexter (’06-‘13) fame voices Kirk. He makes a great parallel Batman. Benjamin Bratt voiced Superman, whom I didn’t readily recognize but that could be because I haven’t seen him in a movie since Red Planet (2000). Tamara Taylor voiced Wonder Woman. I’m not familiar with her at all.
Back on July 28th Warner Brothers released Justice League: Gods And Monsters in three different versions: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy and a limited edition with a Wonder Woman figure.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio/5.1 German Dolby Digital/5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital/5,1 French Dolby Digital—English SDH/German/French/Spanish
- Sneak Peak At DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie: Batman: Bad Blood (11:45)
- Alternate Realities, Infinite Possibilities (19:24)
- Calculated Risks: The Making Of Gods & Monsters (23:37)
- The New Gods (22:13)
- From The DC Comic’s Vault: (Legion Of Super Heroes “Phantoms” and Batman: The Animated Series “Brave New Metropolis”)
- Trailers (Teen Titans Go!, Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Batman Vs Robin)
In the Making Of doc, Calculated Risks, Timm reveals that Gods & Monsters was initially going to be a TV series, until they came to the decision it would make a better direct-to-DVD movie. He also felt the inherent violence would be better represented in PG-13 form.
The sneak peak into next year’s Batman: Bad Blood looks damn good!
The New Gods and the Alternate Realities extras are both crash courses into Jack Kirby’s creation of New Genesis and Apokolips and the “Gods” that rule those two planets and DC’s love and hate of Elseworld tales.
I hope this movie sells because I would love to see more adventures in this Elseworld.