New to digital, DVD and Blu-ray this week is Injustice – the latest movie from the ever-expanding collection of films under the DC Universe Animated Original Movies banner. The film – directed by Matt Peters – features the voices of Justin Hartley, Anson Mount, Gillian Jacobs, Kevin Pollak, and Laura Bailey, and tells the story of a world in which Superman becomes a dictator.
In the movie, the Joker goes on a rampage through Metropolis, kidnapping a pregnant Lois Lane in the process. Desperate to find Lois, Superman manages to track down the Joker, but before he can obtain information about Lois’s whereabouts, he is attacked by Doomsday.
Reacting to the situation rather abruptly, Superman flies Doomsday into space, unaware that he is under the influence of Kryptonite dust, which has been laced with the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. This special brew, concocted by the Joker, is clouding Superman’s mind and has made him believe he is under attack from Doomsday, when in fact, he is not.
As the gas begins to wear off, Superman is horrified to discover he has flown Lois into space. And as she passes away in front of his eyes, Superman learns the situation is much worse, as the Joker has wired Lois’s heart up to a detonator.
As soon as Lois’s heart stops beating, a series of bombs are activated in Metropolis, killing countless citizens across the city. Enraged by the magnitude of destruction, and grief-stricken over the death of Lois, his unborn child, and all those innocent lives, Superman returns to Earth and promptly kills the Joker.
But killing the Joker is only the first step. Superman believes the only way to ensure the safety of humanity moving forward, is to begin policing the world.
Teaming up with Wonder Woman, Superman sets in motion his plan to bring order to the planet. But this plan does not sit well with all of the Justice League, leading to a division between the heroes.
As friend is pitted against friend, and the governments of the world find themselves bowing to the laws set out by the Man of Steel, is the world truly a safer place? And more importantly, at what point does safety tip over into fascism?
For those not familiar with Injustice, the storyline for this movie originated as a computer game. The game was accompanied by a tie-in comic, which in turn was followed by another game, and then more comics.
Those who have played the games or read the comics will know this is a very rich, very immersive storyline. It is a tale told on a grand scale, has many plot threads, and over the course of time it has acquired a legion of fans.
So, adapting Injustice for film was always going to be somewhat problematic. The sheer amount of material to work from means that any adaptation needs to condense down the games and comics into a cohesive story, and the large number of fans attached to this storyline means there are going to be big expectations – which could potentially lead to huge disappointment.
For my money, if you are going to adapt Injustice, then the best thing to do is split the storyline over multiple movies. Allow the tale to be told at length, with room to breathe, and invest in a narrative that reflects the source material as best as possible.
Unfortunately, this is not what has happened with this Injustice movie. This animated adaptation is confined to one entry, which runs just 80-minutes in length, and as a result of its limited run-time it has to throw a lot at the screen very quickly.
There’s no beating around the bush here: If you are a long-time fan of the games or comics, you will not be pleased about what is on offer in this movie. Everything has been streamlined to meet the brisk running-time of the film, the story doesn’t feel as involving as what you can find in the games, and the size, scale, and depth is completely lost.
The basics are here, but the heart is not. This is not the Injustice movie that dedicated fans will champion. However, if you’re not familiar with the original source material, then you will have a different experience with this movie. Newbies will find it more enjoyable, with plenty of action to keep things interesting, so your enjoyment of this film will vary depending on how you approach it.
The first 15 minutes of Injustice move at an incredibly quick pace. The Joker does his thing, Superman gets angry, and bad stuff happens.
From here there are various fight sequences, plenty of cameos from heroes and villains, and an escalating story whereby Superman becomes detached from humanity. This in turn results in yet more action, various scenes of emotional and physical conflict, and then a final showdown between super beings.
If you find yourself connecting with all this material, and you’re a big fan of superhero fight scenes, then you will like what you see. The movie barely lets up, and the whole thing flies by in no time.
Sure, you might think the story gets concluded far too neatly, but on the whole I think you will find some satisfaction. Ignorance is bliss, and if you don’t know what you’re missing from the source material, then for general audiences there is enough action and adventure here to keep you invested.
This doesn’t mean the film is in any way perfect for newcomers, as it still lacks depth. I’m not talking about the depth of the games or comics; I’m just merely talking depth in general.
The desire to constantly throw so much at the screen, does mean that the idea of Superman as a global ‘peacekeeper’ all feels like very surface level stuff. There’s just enough space to show his motivations and actions, but there isn’t enough room to explore how bad Superman’s decisions truly are.
Superman does some terrible things in the movie, and yet the world doesn’t seem all that different to what it normally looks like with this dictator in charge. Where is the global opposition, the nuclear bombs in retaliation, and the uprising of humanity to oppose this oppressor?
Too much time is spent on hero versus hero fight sequences, and not enough time is spent on showing humanity’s reaction to a despot Superman. Once again, the desire to cram this story into just one movie seems to have resulted in some story beats simply not being touched upon, or new ideas being explored.
And this is such a shame, because there have been similar iterations of this Superman storyline on screen before, via cartoon shows such as Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League, and both have managed to pack a more meaningful punch. In both cases, they had even less screen time to play with too, and a smaller budget.
But once again, if you are not familiar with these shows, and this movie is your first entry into this particular story, then you will find this to be decent stuff. Seeing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and various other characters whizzing around the screen and going into some dark places, will grab your attention and you will have fun.
You will also find enjoyment in the voice cast, who do a decent job of bringing their characters to life, and you will like the animation. It’s nothing outstanding, but it looks good and does the job required.
So, where does this leave Injustice, because this all sounds like a film that is neither good nor bad? Well, I can only return to what I said previously.
If you have intimate knowledge of Injustice, and are a super-fan of the original games or comics, then I really don’t believe you will be pleased with this adaptation. You are probably best skipping it, and spending your time reconnecting with the version of the story you like.
If you are totally new to Injustice, you’ve not seen this story play out before and you have no real desire to play the games or read the comics, then you will find this animated movie fine to watch. It will feel a little hollow at times, but with so much going on you will remain invested throughout and it will deliver just the right amount of bang for your buck!
However, regardless of whether this film is a hit or a miss for you, I do think it is now time for studios to step away from the ‘dark Superman’ story trope, they all seem to have focused on as of late. Between the likes of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Superman: Red Son, as well as The Boys, Brightburn, and one or two other Superman-esque stories, this evil Superman thing is getting a little worn out.
A change in direction is needed, please, and let Injustice be the end of it all. More bright and breezy Superman stories from now on would be nice.