Thursday, August 27, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters

I was ecstatic when I heard Bruce Timm was returning to DC for a new animated feature. One of the creators behind Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, the animated DCU just hasn't been the same since his departure. When I heard the premise of the movie, however, I was more skeptical. It turns out I need not have feared that Bruce Timm might be corrupted by the grit of the New 52 that's turned so much of DC's comic and video output to shit. Timm certainly delivers a darker and more adult story than expected but it's still grounded in a profound understanding and love for these characters that is far too often lacking in much of DC's current output.

Although the word Elseworlds doesn't appear in its title that's exactly what Justice League: Gods and Monsters is: a story set in an alternate version of the DCU vastly different from the any we know. The result is as unexpected as it is enjoyable. It may not be classic Timm, but the man certainly hasn't lost his knack for characters, design, or storytelling.

In this world Superman (Benjamin Bratt) is the son of Zod and raised on Earth not by the God-fearing Kents but a migrant couple with a stronger distrust of the system. Batman is Kirk Langstrom (Michael C. Hall) less hairy than Man-Bat but no less stuck in limbo after exposure to his serum leaves him a vampire. And Wonder Woman (Tamara Taylor) is a New God whose wedding was meant to unite New Genesis and Apokolips but leads only to heartbreak and death. It's her character I found the most fascinating, even if the movie struggles a bit to shoehorn her more complex backstory into the plot.

The powerful trio are respected and feared as the Federal Government's big guns, but when scientists (a collection of both lesser and better known DC scientists turned heroes and/or villains in other versions of the DCU) begin turning up dead with evidence linking back to the Justice League it doesn't take long for the nation's distrust of the group to turn into accusation. Part action, part mystery, part intriguing look at far different versions of the characters fans have grown to know and love, screenwriter Alan Burnett, Timm, and director Sam Liu deliver an unique vision I want to see more of (And, if you're listening DC, you can certainly stop producing those New 52 movies to make room.)

Available on both Blu-ray and DVD extras include a short featurette on Batman: Bad Blood. The Blu-ray also contains a digital copy of the movie, a pair of episodes (including a similarly-themed episode from Superman: The Animated Series - "Brave New Metropolis"), a look at the history of DC Elseworld stories, and a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film.

[Warner Home Video, Blu-ray $14.99 / DVD $19.98]

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