THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS"
Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo, DVD & Digital HD 7/28
Justice League: Gods and Monsters sure is different from all the other animated DC Universe features. It sports a well-earned PG-13 rating, has familiar superheroes who don't resemble themselves, and is an all-around darker, grittier affair. That proves to be both a good and a bad thing. The movie is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air, although it ultimately takes on too much all at once.
Set in an alternate universe, some popular DC heroes are not who or what you expect them to be. Superman (Benjamin Bratt) is Hernan Guerra, and was raised by Mexican immigrants after being shuttled to Earth by his father, Zod. Batman (Michael C. Hall) is Kirk Langstrom, a scientist who injects himself with a serum he hopes will help cure cancer; it instead gives him vampiric features. Wonder Woman (Tamara Taylor) is Bekka, the child of Ares, God of War. When several well-regarded scientists are murdered, the members of the Justice League are framed for it. An attempt to clear their names – and to find out why someone is targeting them – leads to a villain who will be familiar to anyone well-versed in DC lore.
There's no doubt that the reinvention of beloved superheroes in Justice League: Gods and Monsters is intriguing. Freed from the restraints of comic book canon, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are able to possess qualities and characteristics they never could before. That includes generally being more violent. The new costumes are cool too (although it's typically sexist that Batman and Superman are fully clothed, while Wonder Woman is half-naked). Gods and Monsters also boasts dynamic animation that creates a sleek alternate universe for them to inhabit. The action scenes are particularly well-done, with stylish design and a sense of imagination.
While there's plenty here that works, a few things detract from the entertainment value. The plot stops three different times to give us the new origin stories for the Justice League members. It would have been a far better choice to front-load them, because spreading them out halts dramatic momentum. Every time the central conflict starts to pick up juice, Gods and Monsters hits the brakes to fill in some character background gaps. The movie also tries to shove in far too many other peripheral DC characters and show how they fit into this new take on the Justice League. It's a little too self-referential, and unless you're a walking encyclopedia of all things DC, this has the effect of becoming occasionally difficult to follow.
In the end, Justice League: Gods and Monsters isn't very newbie-friendly, and will probably be best enjoyed by hardcore DC fans who want to see the comics universe turned on its ear.
( 1/2 out of four)
Justice League: Gods and Monsters hits DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital HD on July 28. The Blu-Ray comes with a substantial amount of bonus material.
“Alternate Realities: Infinite Possibilities” is a 20-minute piece featuring several DC executives discussing the “Elseworlds” stories that inspired Gods and Monsters, and also offering thoughts on how this movie shakes things up a bit. “Calculated Risk” is a 24-minute making-of segment in which the filmmakers talk about their approach to writing, directing, and animating such a wildly different take on the Justice League. “The New Gods” runs 22 minutes, and looks at famed illustrator Jack Kirby's New Gods characters, who figure prominently into the movie. Kirby was a legend, so anything devoted to examining his work is always a plus. All of this material was clearly designed not for promotion, but to compliment the main feature. It's a solid trio of extras.
Also on the disc are two TV episodes from the DC Comics Vault: one is from Legion of Super Heroes and the other from Superman: The Animated Series. Finally, there's a sneak peek at the next DCU original animated movie, Batman: Bad Blood.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are first-rate.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters is rated PG-13 for violence throughout and suggestive content including nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 16 minutes.
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