Journey to a divergent reality where the Justice League protects the planet — but answers to no one but themselves. Employing methods of intimidation and fear, this Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman deal brute force in the name of justice. In this alternate universe, Superman was not raised by the Kents in Smallville, the Caped Crusader is not Bruce Wayne, and Wonder Woman is not an Amazon warrior of Themyscira. When a group of famed scientists experience untimely “accidents,” a government task force follows the trail of clues to the Justice League -- but is there a more powerful player operating from the shadows? It’s a high stakes game of intrigue, mystery and action that asks the question: How do you serve justice to those above the law?
Despite the fact that DC rebooted their entire comic book universe with 'The New 52' back in 2011, let's be honest – there hasn't been a whole lot of change in the superheroes we know and love. The last two animated Justice League movies featured the upgraded heroes, but the reaction to those two titles were lukewarm at best. This time around, DC has lured Bruce Timm (co-creator of both the Batman and Superman animated TV series, as well as the co-director of Superman: Doomsday) back into the fold for a brand-new take on the Justice League – one that takes place in an alternate universe and timeline.
In this universe, the Justice League is just made up of three superheroes: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – although they're different from 'our' version of the trio. Superman (voice of Benjamin Bratt) is the closest to our universe's Kal-El, although (as detailed in a flashback that begins the movie) while Lara is still his Kryptonian mother, it turns out that Zod – not Jor-El – is actually this Superman's father. Furthermore, this Superman doesn't land in Kansas when his rocketship hurdles towards Earth. Instead, it lands much closer to the Mexican border, and Superman is raised by Mexican immigrants instead of the Kents.
The Batman (voice of Michael C. Hall) of this world isn't Bruce Wayne at all, whose parents apparently were not shot and killed in this universe. Here, Batman turns out to be Kirk Langstrom. Comic book fans will know that name since, in 'our' universe, Langstrom winds up being the super villain Man-Bat. Here, however, his experiments give him vampire-like symptoms, so if you've ever wondered what a blood-sucking Batman would be like, you'll get your wish in this movie. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Batman proves to be the most interesting superhero in this story, not unlike the appeal of the canonical version.
The weak link as far as origin stories go is this reality's version of Wonder Woman (voice of Tamara Taylor), although fans who enjoyed Jack Kirby's 'The New Gods' comics at DC during the 1970s may be excited to hear that those characters play a significant role in this world's Wonder Woman. Here, Wonder Woman isn't Diana Prince, but instead Bekka, a character that Kirby created during his DC years. While she has a different background and a different look, however, she's still quite similar to the Wonder Woman we know and love, despite even being a completely different person. For that reason, I found her to be the least interesting of the trio.
The Justice League in this timeline play much more of a vigilante role and are really more 'hired guns' (by the government, primarily) than they are legitimate 'heroes'. That, of course, makes their characters so much more interesting to watch, as all three of them are walking the fine line between becoming truly heroic or serving their own self-interests (hence, the title of the movie…will they become 'Gods' or 'Monsters'?). In the main plot of this first movie (I say 'first' because I'm really hoping for sequels), the trio is being framed by a mysterious source who is sending killer robots out to wreak havoc and then make it look like the Justice League is responsible for it. Superman and the others learn about a secret project developed by Lex Luthor (voice of Jason Isaacs) called 'Project Fair Play', which was created in case the Justice League ever needed to be taken out, but – as you can probably guess – the Luthor in this universe has very different motivations than the one we're used to seeing.
I've always been a fan of these types of 'What If?' stories, primarily because they're not afraid to take risks and change characters in a way that could never happen in the established canonical universe. While Superman is still pretty much Superman here – although a bit less noble and clean-cut – and Wonder Woman hasn't changed all that much, either – I do think Bruce Timm (and co-writer Alan Burnett) have created a new Batman so fascinating that he could very well spin off into his own solo comics, movies, and other stories. Maybe a future release will even allow him to run into 'our' Batman, which would make for one heck of an interesting encounter. For now, though, 'Justice League: Gods and Monsters' is definitely something worth checking out. Even though it's not about 'our' Justice League, it's the Justice League movie we've all been waiting for.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Justice League: Gods and Monsters' arrives on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which houses both the DVD (inside left) and 50GB Blu-ray (inside right), along with an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of the film. An embossed slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with trailers for Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem, Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery, and the video game LEGO Dimensions. The Blu-ray also features a front-loaded trailer of Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.
In addition to the combo pack reviewed here, there is also a Deluxe Edition available that includes an action figure of Wonder Woman. Target is supposed to have another exclusive steelbook available for this release, but one's mileage may vary on finding one, as I could not find it listed (as of this writing) on Target's website. Best Buy is offering a special version of the Deluxe Edition that includes a code for a digital copy of a Wonder Woman comic.
The Blu-ray in this combo pack is region-free.
Although it's probably more a result of their animation style than with the way they produce their Blu-ray releases, once again we have a DC Animation release with both banding and macroblocking issues. The banding here is actually more obvious than in some of the other DC releases I own and even the most untrained of eyes should be able to see it here. The marcoblocking is a little less obvious, but one can see it on solid color areas of many of the characters in this movie.
Color-wise though, the presentation is pretty solid. There's no bleeding of colors and, even better, there's less use of DC/Warner's habit of 'blurring' the image during action sequences to give the illusion of motion. There's a little bit of that here, but not nearly as much as I've seen on other titles…it's something that I've always thought diminished the picture quality, and we'll have to see if future DC Animated releases trend away from that effect or if this is a special case.
Frequent buyers of these animated releases should be quite satisfied with what they get here, as – other than the banding issues – I think this is one of the more aesthetically appealing animated titles from DC.
It's not quite reference-quality, but Warner Bros. has a lot of fun with the featured English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, with plenty of use of the rear speakers for ambient noises, use of directionality throughout the movie, and a sense of immersiveness that certainly adds to one's enjoyment of watching the story. There's also some LFE use that will do a good job of showcasing your home theater sound system's capabilities. Dialogue is quite clear and distinct, and there are no noticeable problems or glitches with the track. The mix is also well done, with none of the various ambient sounds or the musical soundtrack ever drowning out the spoken word.
In addition to the English lossless audio, the Blu-ray also contains 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in Spanish, German, and French. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), German, and French.
After a pair of so-so 'Justice League' animated releases featuring 'The New 52' version of the heroes, give DC Animation credit for going outside the box with this new alternate reality version, which turns out to be one of the best DC Animation Blu-ray movies to date. It's a lot of fun visiting this 'What If?' universe with a different take on DC's 'Holy Trinity' of superheroes, and I hope we see them in action again soon. Highly Recommended.