Friday, August 12, 2016

Justice League: Gods and Monsters

   This is, for all intents and purposes, the ultimate Elseworlds animated movie. Sure, it's about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman... but these aren't the characters you know. Hell, it's not even Clark, Bruce and Diana. In this world it's Hernan, Kirk, and Bekka- respectively. Superman was not raised by Ma and Pa Kent, but instead by two Mexican migrant workers. In point of fact, Jor El isn't even his father. I won't spoil who is, or how, but it's fascinating. And all that is just Superman. Wonder Woman and Batman have completely original origin tales as well. But what's really cool about this movie, beyond all that, is that it tells a story that doesn't hinge on these differences. Let me explain...

   In The Flashpoint Paradox, the story revolved around a world alien to us because it's different and by it's very definition, a mistake. The plot was about correcting that mistake. Gods and Monsters simply presents this world as is, there's no alternate dimension framework or anything. It simply... is. Subsequently, the story is a story that could've been told with the regular Justice League, but of course it would've been different in the way it unfolded because these characters are different, and the way the world reacts to them are different. It would've been all too easy to paint this trinity as villains, overlords or tyrants. It also would've been a mistake.

   The Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman we know all have shiny bright morals that reflect the best of humanity. Even Batman has morals, standards, ethics. This trinity is different. Hernan wasn't raised like Clark was. He points this out in one scene, "I've seen the harshness of life. If I deliver justice with a heavy hand, it's because I've been on the receiving end." He's a brutal character, and none of the three hesitate to kill their enemies, but they still believe they're doing good. They strive for it. Saving the world, or ruling it. It's a recurring theme in the movie, and it's handled incredibly well. These feel like characters with genuine history behind them, ones who've fought battles before, have loved before, et cetera. This story is just one story from their universe.

   Of course this isn't to say that this world is entirely original, it is an alternate dimension to the one we're familiar with. The plot of the movie involves strange beings hunting down and systematically murdering prominent scientists. The names are immediately familiar. Victor Fries, Ray Palmer, John Henry Irons, Lex Luthor, and plenty others. Lois Lane is still a famous reporter, there's a Jimmy Olsen and a Pete Ross, and even President Amanda Waller. The more you know of the DC universe and all it's supporting or peripheral characters, the more you'll get out of this movie. It's fun to see how different things are in this universe, because in some instances things aren't really that dissimilar at all.

   Nevertheless, hearing Superman call Lois Lane a bitch behind her back was wild. But, it's not Clark, and the Superman and Lois of this universe aren't an item. They kinda hate each other. Superman doesn't wear bright primary colors, and while it'd be easy to cite a lot of these changes as cliche, it's also very dismissive. There was a lot of thought put into this tale and these characters. Things are more intricate than a first glance judgment could reveal. The animation is fantastic as well, looking like this whole thing came right out of a Dini/Timm show, just adding to the surreal familiarity of the whole movie. Not to mention the entire voice cast was stellar. Some are veterans of these little projects, others are new to it, but they're all great.

   Surprisingly, t's not particularly an action-oriented movie, but that's not really an issue in my opinion. The movie focused a lot on the origins of these characters, but it all was relevant to the ongoing story, which itself dealt with themes of honor, justice, friendship, trust, and betrayal. Common themes for comic book material, but the way they were explored and utilized here was interesting to say the least. The most disappointing thing I can think of is that these versions of these characters won't be utilized again, and if so, probably not in this medium. Apparently, this universe is going to be revisited, and in a series no less. I'm stoked and I seriously recommend giving it a shot if you're interested in unique animated movies. It was a lot of fun. Not perfect, but fascinating, fun, and even compelling.

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