Following on from DC’s impressive recent spate of animated movies, Justice League: Gods & Monsters sees them take things in a new direction.
The turning point is that in this reality, General Zod is Superman’s father rather than Jor-El, which in turn leads to a nightmarish modern day envisioning the Justice League as a group of amoral arseholes: Batman is a vampire who feeds on criminals, and Wonder Woman is a hyper-violent anti-heroine.
This is very far from the DC universe we know (best hammered home in a scene where Superman describes something or other as “orgasmic”, and it just sounds utterly wrong). As such, it’s all the better for it.
Aside from familiar faces that pop up from time to time (usually to be brutally murdered), this is a dark new direction for DC, and new surprises are around every corner. With everyone’s very fragile mortality established from the beginning, no one is safe, and the sense of urgency and danger is more pronounced.
However, this isn’t just a run-of-the-mill ‘What if the Justice League was evil?’ story. Producer Bruce Timm was involved with some of DC’s best animated output (Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited, to name a few), and their quality shines through.
The writing and quality is of an excellent standard, and while the animated style hasn’t exactly evolved so much as it’s been slightly tweaked since those classic early days, it’s more than fit for purpose here.
In fact, it’s difficult to see much that has been done wrong here. The voice acting is mostly superb (Dexter actor Michael C Hall in particular lends gravitas to his even-more-tortured-than-usual Batman), and the adjustments to DC’s existing continuity are subtle enough to be believable (whatever the reality, Lex Luthor and Amanda Waller will always be power-hungry and trigger-happy).
If there’s one criticism it’s that the final twist is a bit sign-posted, but that’s a minor quibble.
In addition to finally taking the fight to Marvel on the big screen, DC are also winning the animated war with quality, original productions like Gods & Monsters.