DVD Review - Justice League: Gods and Monsters

This is perhaps the best reboot or re-imagining of the DC Comics characters that has come along. Many versions of these animated adaptations have tweaked the back story or dramatically changed the present details, but what happens here represents a radical shift to the core characters of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The other members of the Justice League, including Green Lantern, the Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman are ignored or left out, but it allows for better focus on the core three. More so than anything itself, it makes the core-three darker and more tragic than perhaps they've ever been.

Superman has always represented the ultimate immigrant. An alien who comes to Earth, specifically the United States and adopts American values and totally assimilates. Right now, immigration has been a hot-button issue, and immigration from Latin America in particular has been controversial. As a result, the filmmakers here make Superman a Latino. Instead of being raised by lily-white parents and named Clark Kent, Superman is found by Mexican farmers and is named Hernan Guerra. It adds an extra layer to him and a new world-view.

It all appears to be an alternate universe, which DC Comics has had for a while. Typically, those alternate universes intersect with the original universe, or back story that's more familiar. In the CW series The Flash, the titular character has met the version of himself from an alternate universe. Here, that isn't the case. This alternate universe is the only universe and we're firmly planted on this ground.

Batman isn't Bruce Wayne. His name is Kirk Langstrom and instead of being a billionaire playboy-turned-martial artist and detective, Kirk is a scientist-turned-vampire, a literal man genetically-spliced with a bat. He's like a mutant or monster. He has fangs and an actual thirst for blood.

Wonder Woman isn't Diana Prince. She's Bekka, and instead of being an Amazonian warrior endowed with Athenian power, Bekka is the daughter of Ares, a god of another dimension or world who got her powers from her father as well as from her late husband Orion, the son of Darkseid, the alien lord of the planet Apokolips. Instead of a lasso, Orion gave Bekka a magical sword that can cut through anything and teleport her anywhere.

Other iconic characters from the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman comics are also altered, but not by much. Steve Trevor from the Wonder Woman stories is here. Lex Luthor and Lois Lane from the Superman stories are also here.

Because Batman is a completely different person, there is no Alfred or Robin or Joker. Writer Alan Burnett introduces fellow scientists that Kirk knew from his past, including Will Magnus, a robotics inventor. He and his wife Tina integrate crucially into the movie's plot, which is very exciting and brutal. It feels more brutal and more gritty than even Christopher Nolan's films. It has greater and deadlier stakes.

The vocal talents, particularly from Michael C. Hall (Dexter and Six Feet Under), are all especially great and very moving. The animation isn't outstanding, but the world or worlds created are very believable. The characters and story are what's most outstanding. It's thrilling and a definite improvement.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG - 13 for violence throughout and suggestive content including nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 12 mins.


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