By Will Barber – Taylor
In an alternate universe, the Justice League is a brutal force that maintains order on Earth. Superman is named Hernan Guerra and is the son of General Zod, who was rocketed to Earth as a child and raised by a family of Mexican immigrants. Batman is Kirk Langstrom, a scientist who has inadvertently transformed himself into a vampire in an attempt to cure his cancer, feeding on criminals to satisfy his hunger. Wonder Woman is Bekka, who was the wife of the New God Orion. The Justice League’s unaccountability is ultimately challenged by the world’s governments following the suspicious deaths of renowned scientists.
As the synopsis states, this film is set in an alternative universe to the regular version of the Justice League. The alternative universe is clearly one that resembles that of the traditional DC heroes in name only. The synopsis also states that this Justice League is “brutal”. That is an understatement. Alan Burnett, normally a competent writer seems to have completely missed what makes the Justice League interesting; their ability to care and to put themselves before others. That is what makes the characters fascinating and defines them as heroes. By no stretch of the imagination are the heroes of Gods and Monsters heroes, even in the slightest way.
To start with, the violence in the film is simply staggering. I’m open to changing characters and making them edgier and violent, as long as there is reason for it and it serves the narrative. This is not the case for the “Justice League” which features in this film. Aside from being graphic it is almost always present. Violence is to be expected in a super hero cartoon but when almost every scene features such cruel acts perpetrated by our central characters and their antagonists it becomes monotonous and feels deeply troubling. There is a difference between throwing the odd punch and crushing people beneath a door and brutally stabbing them through the centre of their chests. None of this violence is needed. It makes Burnett and Bruce Timm come across as having a bloodlust rather than attempting to display some form of legitimate alternative to the main characters.
Aside from the brutal killing the idea of the trio being the “Justice League” is undermined by the fact that, until the conclusion of the film, we don’t see any of them saving a single person. We are told through bored exposition that the “League are needed” and useful but this is never shown. They either don’t know about the deaths of the people they are meant to be protecting, or turn up late and end up not saving anyone. Aside from standing around trying to pout (this, in animated format, must be difficult) they are ineffective.
To add to the constant violence perpetrated by the “heroes” and villains of the film, the villain’s motive and his plan is laughable. It transpires that Kirk Langstrom’s old friend Dr Will Magnus is the one responsible for killing his colleagues. Why? So he could get inside the Justice League’s secret lair! Which he could have probably done anyway seeing as he was meant to be best friends with this world’s Batman. The reason for his evil plan is supposedly to fuse the minds together of everyone in the world? Because he accidentally killed his wife years earlier and decided that, if someone as brilliant as him could do something so accidentally evil then…. everyone should have their minds joined together? The leap in logic that Magnus expects us, the audience, to take in is so ridiculous it could have come from one of the 60s Batman episodes. Actually, that is being unfair to the Adam West TV series; they’d never come up with a villain’s plot as stupid as that.
Another problem with the film is the backstories to each of the main characters which are slotted into the film at slightly random intervals. Well, not all the film’s main characters as Superman’s origin is not shown as fully as Batman and Wonder Woman’s. The irony is that Superman’s, that of General Zod’s son crashing to Earth and being adopted by Mexican immigrants and thus facing the prejudice that Mexican migrants face in America, sounds the most interesting. The film might have actually been more exciting if it had simply shown that story instead of the tale that we got. Wonder Woman’s backstory seems to only be there to serve as padding, as Batman’s backstory is the only one that has any relevance on the rest of the plot.
To give the film some credit the design of Superman and Batman is acceptable. Superman’s design is particularly original and stands out as being the most attention-grabbing. The voice acting is of a reasonable standard, Tamara Taylor’s portrayal of Wonder Woman being the best.
The central problem of Justice League: Gods and Monsters is it puts style over substance. It attempts to show off a gritty, cool looking alternative to the regular Justice League and fails completely. It has no soul; merely a penchant for displaying violence in the most graphic and almost sexualised way possible. It combines the worst of Zack Synder’s overly image conscious style with the substance of the worst Guy Ritchie “lad” films. In other words, it is anything but a Justice League film; it is drivel and I hope that Burnett and Timm remember their roots and do not attempt something like this again.
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