Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Emo Superman and he’s taking over the world. So it goes in Injustice, the latest DC animated movie to grace home media and it’s wide-open for review.
Now, I’ve never read the comic on which this film is based, but I’m aware it’s held in high regard. “This first year of the Injustice series completely blew me away. So many philosophical questions were raised here”, a user on Goodreads excitedly claims. Well, I can confirm that not many philosophical questions are raised in Injustice, the film. One question did continuously come to mind, however: ‘WTF’?
The Plot’s A Bit Crazy
It’s a shame that the Injustice animated movie had me asking this question so often since it should have been making me ask the philosophical questions that the aforementioned Goodreads review enthused about. The story revolves around a heartbroken Superman, who grows radical after the Joker offs his beautiful girlfriend and mother-to-be Lois Lane. Ol’ Supes hastily discards ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ from his Superhero Bible and starts ganking dictators while also confiscating nuclear weapons and making the world bow to his rules. This splits the Justice League in half and has the former allies lock horns.
On paper, the premise is fascinating grounds for intriguing and thought-provoking storytelling. What would happen if the most powerful man in the world stopped obeying human laws and instead had the world live by his own? The problem lies in a film that feels too jam-packed for its own good. Superman’s dictatorial trajectory is hampered by out-of-left-field twists, some useless characters, and a terrible resolution.
Doing an Injustice to Context
Perhaps what hurts Injustice the most is that it’s trying to tell a good multi-comic story in a one-hour and eighteen-minute movie. There are a few deaths in this film, but we are unable to process them properly because the film is moving along at a rapid pace. The fact we spend little time connecting with these characters beforehand (due to the movie’s over-stuffing of superheroes) doesn’t help this.
The rapid pace also means Injustice leaves much unexplained. For example, we are led to believe a notable hero dies during the movie only for him to go to some heavenly afterlife, meet a goddess who gives him a new moniker and the ability to possess bodies. In his very limited screen-time, he uses this power to help his pals, but I still have no clue who that goddess was and why she gave him those powers. Or indeed, why she has such poor taste in superhero alias names. One can only assume it’s explained in the comic books.
Taking a Page Out of Marvel’s Book
Sometimes, when watching Injustice, you’re unsure whether you’re watching an adult film or a children’s film. I say this because of the film’s humor. The writers obviously consulted the Marvel Handbook of Mood Whiplash, because it employs a few ‘jokes’ to cut the tension in some scenes.
I point to an early Superman and Batman scene as an example. After taking out a group of armed thugs, the pair engage in some classic banter. Bats states that Lois is pregnant and Supes asks how he knows. The Dark Knight replies that he’s shaking, something he never did while fighting Doomsday. Cue scene cut to Superman’s hands shaking (and the silly grin). Maybe I’m just Scrooge, but this kind of humor is childish and groan-inducing at best.
Another example of this lies in Harley Quinn. Again, the film attempts to break some scene tension with jokes, but this character just gets in the way. There’s an attempt to make her and Green Arrow some sort of comic duo (Ollie being the straight man, Quinn being the crazy one) in a manner not unlike the mediocre Batman & Harley Quinn. It’s a shame because Gillian Jacobs is great in Community and the underappreciated comedy film I Used to Go Here. However, the script and voice direction is designed to make her as pointlessly loud and annoying as possible. It’s even worse since her character offers little to the actual plot.
Out of the Phantom Zone
As touched on before, so many plot twists come out of left-field with no set-up. I hope I’m not spoiling too much by saying that a ‘multiverse’ element plays into the story. However, this element is established as a throwaway conversation between Mr. Terrific and Superman halfway through before making itself known again near the film’s ending. Not the best example of ‘Chekhov’s Gun’.
But while Injustice is a chaotic mess from the Phantom Zone, there are some good things about it. Some of the animation utilized in the fight sequences is impressive, with characters moving gracefully like dancers throughout. It’s a valiant reminder that 2D animation still has much to offer, recreating the comic book feel in a way that 3D can’t.
Also, speaking of animation, kudos can at least be given for the visual style. The off-putting thick lines of the characters in Man of Tomorrow and The Long Halloween have been scrapped in favor of lighter lines and more character detail. I’ve always thought that the visual styles of the aforementioned DC movies made their respective stories seem too Archer-y. Hopefully, they stay on this road for good.
It’s an Injustice
To end this review, there is certainly a lot of Injustice here in this animated movie, but it isn’t entirely within the story. Rather, its presence is more evident in the film’s rushed execution, packing in too much for its own good. The end result is a movie that appears as though it’s trying to win the Guinness World Record for the biggest amount of DC Characters in one movie as opposed to telling a consistent and engaging story. You’re better off leaving this one alone and getting your superhero animation fixings elsewhere.
Are you a fan of the Injustice comic book and videogame? What is your opinion of the movie? We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below!
- Slick animation in the fight sequences
- Satisfying visual style
- Some decent voice acting here and there
- Seems too rushed and over-packed
- Too many plot holes
- Too many characters left undeveloped
- Jokes rarely land