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JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno

Doomed planet.

Desperate scientists.

Last hope.

Kindly couple.

Superman.

— Grant Morrison, All-Star Superman

Grant Morrison is most certainly capable of distilling Superman down into a few words, especially when introducing what has since become considered one of the greatest stories of all time of the iconic character.

Another master of the DC Universe  is Bruce Timm, the mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Batman Beyond (to name a few).

Timm is back in with his latest project,  an alternate reality version of Justice League with Justice League: Gods and Monsters, which debuted on Machinima last month with three shorts and has been released this week as a feature length animated movie.

These new interpretations include Superman / Hernan Guerra (Benjamin Bratt, 24, Modern Family), the spawn of General Zod and Lara Lor Van’s DNA (in vitro, you pervs) raised by a Mexican farming family.

Batman is the creature of the night we know in our world as Man-Bat, Kurt Langstrom (Michael C. Hall, Dexter).

Rounding out the un-holy trinity is Bekka, granddaughter of Highfather from New Genesis aka Wonder Woman (Tamara Taylor, Bones, Lost).

With a reimagined DC Universe including dozens of Easter Eggs and a President Amanda Waller calling the shots, Alan Burnett (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman Beyond) and Timm’s PG-13 alternate reality gets a little racier than The Animated Series ever could. A member of the new guard for DCAU Sam Liu (Batman: Year One, All-Star Superman) directs.

With all of the history just a bit off from regular continuity, this still won’t scare new fans from watching this. I was excited of course to see the new Timm designs when this project was announced back in September of 2014.

If someone, a new fan understands the concept of Batman Beyond or is familiar with Superman: Red Son, then alternate comic book timelines are easily understood for the modern timey-wimey set.

It doesn’t seem to be bothering Warner Animation all that much, that’s for sure, releasing this just two weeks after SDCC Batman V. Superman trailers and reveals, their three most valuable assets are close enough to their original essence that they can still work as a team.

The key differences about each character balances out in different ways. Our Mexico-raised farm boy is very different from one that grew up on Kent Farm. One reporter’s opinion, that is to say the Lois Lane of this universe is convinced that the Justice League is a terrorist organization, and she is not alone. Professor Lex Luthor is also leading a crusade against the Kryptonian ‘invader’.

Wonder Woman has the powers of a New God and Kirby-esque adornments to her sword to prove it, and her Earth male sparring partner Steve Trevor (Tahmoh Penikett) is 100% G.I.Joe, down to the M-16 and bazooka.

It’s also great to see Kurt Langstrom, in our world Man-Bat, and a key character in Batman: The Animated Series shine and put in the cowl. No Crime Alley tragedies here but instead, Langstrom is working on a cure for cancer with nanites. Short story — Kurt becomes a blood thirsty vampire!

Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are set up for a crime they didn’t commit and the public perception is against them. So is Luthor, Trevor and the U.S. Army. An old friend and colleague did the set-up and only by fighting back will this Justice League survive!

Epic battle scenes and good old fashioned Bruce Timm storytelling create high-drama for our players with exciting twists in the third act. Each of the three Justice Leaguers reveal their past lives and troubles before becoming this team.

The option for a sequel is wide open of course, but the movie closes out quite nicely.

I thoroughly enjoyed this world and all it had to offer. With allusions to Poison Ivy’s ‘homegrown’ at the college parties, heavy petting and double entendre and a Superman that is part Zod. The PG-13 rating serves the modern audience that grew up in the Timmverse. One can presume Bruce had a lot of fun with this.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a welcome break from the post New52 DCAU while carrying on the darker tone. It is as if Bruce Timm looked at what was happening — didn’t like what he saw — and invented a whole new universe for these guys and gals to live in. Timm created his next generation of the DCAU to show the kids how it is done.

No one can animate the DC Universe like Bruce Timm. The response from the shorts, already resulted in a full season order, so we’ll be seeing more of the Gods and Monsters again.  Timm’s commentary on these icons is consistently handled with class, reverence and respect.

Extras include the featurettes Alernate Realities: Infinite Possibilities, Calculated Risks: The Making of Gods and Monsters, 2010’s The New Gods documentary, First look at Batman: Bad Blood and bonus episodes of Legion of Super Heroes and Superman: The Animated Series.

I wish I had negative things to say about this movie but it was all I wanted and more. Sorry for the boring review, guys. This is as close to perfection as you could ask for.

As long as Timm’s with DC Animation, I’ll be hoping he’ll tackle a Jack Kirby’s New Gods movie.

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