Saturday, August 8, 2015

'Justice League: Gods & Monsters' review

Long time, no see Cary's Comics Craze readers! 

You probably thought I completely abandoned you and this blog. Not to worry. A word of explanation before I get into my very late review of the new DC Universe Original Movie, "Justice League: Gods and Monsters."

My apologies for being so tardy in posting anything here, but I have been on a week of vacation. Now with playing catch-up coming back to work, it's been tough finding the time, much less the motivation, to write a review of the new DC animated film, "Justice League: Gods and Monsters," which I got before my vacation last week. So without further ado … 

The Bruce Timm animated universe is usually a welcome place to be. I know I'm going to get good storytelling and thought-out characterization.

Such is the case with "Gods and Monsters." Here, the so-called Justice League is really DC Comics' Big Three: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Yet this isn't the Big Three DC fans are used to seeing in the comic books.

Superman indeed comes from Krypton just before the doomed planet blows up, ... but his biological father is General Zod, who encodes his genetic material into the yet unborn Kal-El, who is ensconsed in the spaceship created by his Kryptonian father of the comics, Jor-El.

On Earth, a Mexican migrant family raises Kal-El and names him Hernan Guerra, which gives credibility to Benjamin Bratt (Detective Rey Curtis on "Law & Order") voicing him. Bratt gives Superman the proper gravitas and and certain bit of menace. I was surprised I didn't recognize Bratt's distinctive voice or hear his Hispanic accent. The migrant family story is something I wish had been explored more.
Batman, Superman and Bekka (aka Wonder Woman) are about to take care of business.

Batman isn't Bruce Wayne; he's Kirk Langstrom, better known as Man-Bat. This is a gruesome Batman, a vampire bat who thirsts for blood and has a complicated relationship with his best friend Will Magnus (better known as the creator of the Metal Men) and his wife. This is the only character who vaguely resembles its comics counterpart, with the ears on Batman's cowl.

"Dexter" actor Michael C. Hall gives Langstrom an even-keeled voice. It's a flat performance actually, but I guess that's appropriate for a man whose skin is pasty white, avoids sunlight and resembles a zombie or even Solomon Grundy.

This take on Wonder Woman is the farthest from her comic book roots. Bekka, in fact, is an obscure New God character created by the great Jack Kirby. She is the widow of Darkseid's son Orion, who flees Apokolips for Earth using a mother box-sword after Orion is murdered.

Besides the New Gods, look our for Ray Palmer (The Atom), Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Amanda Waller.
These are Bruce Timm's character designs for Superman, Bekka/Wonder Woman
and Batman in "Justice League: Gods and Monsters."

Like the Big Three, aside from Lane being a reporter, the resemblance to the characters' printed origins is passing at best.

Judging from what was being said online about "Gods and Monsters" before it was released July 28, I expected a full-on dark and evil take on DC's Big Three. In reality, the characters are still protagonists, but this is an edgier and more brutal take on them; they are true vigilantes despised and mistrusted for taking justice into their own hands. The New Gods are even more extreme, but since I don't have a big connection to that part of the DC Universe, their depiction wasn't as startling.

Timm himself nailed it during the making-of featurette: this version of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman isn't unlike cops, who when faced with armed opponents aren't afraid to use deadly force.

I'd recommend you watch the aforementioned featurette before watching "Gods and Monsters" -- something I usually try to avoid as the interview footage usually has a fair amount of mild spoilers -- but it helped me tremendously in getting my fanboy head around this concept I was about to watch. Also helpful to watch is the featurette about the history of telling stories in alternate realities of the DC Universe. This helped me know "Gods and Monsters" is very much an "Elseworlds"-type of story. Grade: B-

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