Justice League: Gods and Monsters marks the return of beloved animator Bruce Timm to the DC animated universe. While seeing another DC flick with the Justice League title may look like business as usual, Gods and Monsters is anything but. This is a “What if?” or better yet an Elseworlds story like Red Son or Gotham by Gaslight that reinvents the canon we know to bring us something new and, hopefully, just as rewarding.

In this alternate universe, the Justice League is still a force for good, but their origins have gone through a dramatic makeover and our heroes are far more brutal, although not as tyrannical as another Timmverse creation, The Justice Lords. Justice League: Gods and Monsters deals with the same theme we’ve seen in far too many Justice League stories: how to walk the line between justice and absolute power, plus the film hinges on another old trope of heroes trying to clear their name of an obvious frame-up. However, while these are elements we’ve seen time and time again you have to remember that this isn’t the same stage we’ve seen them play out on before and the results are quite compelling. I had a great time watching Gods and Monsters and think it’s one of the best films DC animation has produced to date.

A complaint I’ve had with the bulk of DC animated films is that they just haven’t been very good at adapting their source material. We end up with an abridged version of the comics and the things that are cut for time are often plot and character development while the action is over emphasized and at best we end up with something mindlessly entertaining but forgettable. In Gods and Monsters, not only do you get some downright shocking action, but you get characters that have an arc, and a story that begins as something familiar, but quickly takes surprising twists and turns until you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what could possibly happen next. It’s a nicely plotted film with not a minute of screentime wasted and it’s well balanced between the central story and the flashbacks to the origins of Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman. So while it may not be the “real” Justice League, it’s one of the only Justice League animated films that actually feels like it’s about the group and not one specific hero’s film disguised by the JL label.

It’s also one of the only Justice League movies where Wonder Woman and Superman are more interesting than Batman.

Michael C. Hall does fine as Kirk Langstrom/Batman (basically Langstrom in name and passion for chemistry only), doing what’s essentially the monotone voice we know from Dexter. This Batman is a literal Bat-Man– a vampire, although not of the mythological variety, having gained his abilities and thirst for blood through science-gone-wrong. It explains why he’s creepy, bat-themed, and a bad ass, but it doesn’t answer why he’s such a good detective in this film. Part of me thinks it would have been more exciting to have seen Bruce as Batman again, but have him be bitten by an actual vampire when things went wrong the first night he did the Year One/Travis Bickle thing. Having Batman’s origin changed to a lab experiment that backfires is just…well…like almost every superhero/villain origin Stan Lee ever made. We’ve seen it too many times before.

Hall’s voice is fitting for this vampiric incarnation of Batman and the rest of the voice cast delivers with their performances as well in one of the most well-acted DC Animated films in ages. I didn’t even realize Benjamin Bratt was voicing this more commanding Superman until I looked at the credits (his voice sounded oddly reminiscent of Bryan Cranston in some scenes) and Tamara Taylor stole the show as Wonder Woman, who has some of the best scenes in the movie. Wonder Woman’s origin in particular is something everyone should see, especially those who love Kirby’s New Gods. While Superman’s new origin features a small but dramatic alteration to the character’s original story, Wonder Woman trades in Themiscyra for Apocalypse and a tale so epic in scope that I was left wanting more. And I did walk away from the film wanting another Gods and Monsters movie.

I’m now invested in this world, but I wish to see some consequences from the ending if a sequel ever comes about– much like how many have wanted to see repercussions from Man of Steel in Batman V. Superman.  But even more, I want to see more of Timm’s trademark animation. I didn’t realize how much I missed his unique visual style until Gods & Monster‘s opening scene on Krypton. The animation looks just like it did back in Justice League: Unlimited except when something heavy falls on a bad guy blood goes EVERYWHERE.

Special Features

  • A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie (Batman: Bad Blood)
  • Alternate Realities Infinite Possibilities featurette
  • Calculated Risks: The Making of Gods and Monsters featurette
  • The New Gods vintage featurette (a must-watch for fans of Jack Kirby)
  • From the DC Comics Vault – 2 Bonus Cartoons

Buy, Rent, or Skip?

It’s definitely worth buying, especially if you’re a completionist who wants to own all the movies and shows featuring Timm’s style. I think its as re-watchable as any episode of Justice League: Unlimited. And since it’s an Elseworlds about the entire DC universe, I’m sure many fans will come back for repeat viewings just to catch all the Easter Eggs. This new take on The Metal Men will certainly ignite the imagination of any comic fan.

Ultraviolet Giveaway

I’ll be giving away the Ultraviolet code from my copy of Gods and Monsters via twitter. Just follow @AndrewBatReview and retweet the contest when I announce it on Wednesday (I’m giving away a copy of Batman Unlimited now) to enter the drawing. I’ll give out the code to a random retweeter on Friday night just in time for you to watch the film with friends this weekend.

Overall

I wish that the reinvented Batman had been more interesting (or at least as interesting as Wonder Woman and Superman) and there was too little consequence to the actions of our heroes, but I had an incredibly fun time and would love to see another film from the Gods and Monsters universe. Seeing the classic Bruce Timm animation again was wonderful and the movie had great voice acting, intriguing origin tales, and a surprising, action-packed mystery.

SCORE: 8.5/10