Thursday, July 30, 2015

Justice League: Adults and Teenagers

So, I picked up Justice League: Gods and Monsters. For awhile, I was buying all the DC Direct-to-DVD films, and that new Batman Unlimited joint was the first one I sat out on. I was going to bow out on this one too, but the concept seemed interesting and I liked the prospect of seeing Timm's animation style again.

It is a very mixed bag. Spoilers ahead.

The thing to really like about it is that it's an "evil alternate universe Justice League" story without the "evil." The universe here is built to defy easy moral dichotomies, like a more morally gray version of the Justice Lords story. The Justice League still fights for a sense of justice, but more brutally. The ultimate demonstration of this is in the origin of this world's Wonder Woman, whose origin is steeped in a much less Manichean Apokolips/New Genesis conflict.

The character hooks are pretty standard Elseworlds concepts—what if Superman were General Zod('s kid), what if Batman were a vampire, etc.—mostly stuff we've seen before in other stories. Wonder Woman is both the biggest departure from the original and the one that's hardest to identify as a spin on the basic character concept. Consequently, though, I think she's the most interesting of the main cast, because her story's the most different from what's come before.

The bad is that it all feels like that style of "edgy" that a thirteen-year-old boy comes up with. There's a lot of curse words that feel really forced, some surprisingly graphic violence, and somebody drew really crude nipples on Platinum of the Metal Men. In every frame she's in. And all along the way they throw in references to recognizable characters with a kind of "look! look! recognize that guy? Eh? Eh?" There's a lovingly lingering shot of an ID card reading "VICTOR FRIES" in an early scene, and it's only there because he's a scientist working in the arctic.

It's not a bad movie, even if the moral at the end is mega-dumb. But it's also not what I imagine anybody wanted from a return to Bruce Timm's animation style. If I'd watched it first, I probably would not have purchased it, but it's an interesting little Elseworlds story that has some neat ideas and moments. And, like any Timm project, it looks great. I just wish it were more actually-mature and less what-a-teenager-thinks-mature-is. Because weirdly that makes it considerably less mature than most of what has already been done in the DCAU.