Some of us who like Zack Snyder’s take on the DC movies see it as an alternate universe in which godlike superheroes occasionally make mistakes, but try to do better, and strive to make human connections. Others just think it’s cool that he has more killing and swearing than Marvel. It is for this latter group that the animated Injustice is presumably intended.
Based on a fighting game tasked with merely coming up with enough plot to justify Mortal Kombat-style one-on-ones, and the subsequent spinoff comics, it’s like the DCU as written by Beavis and Butt-head. If it was meant to be a campy parody of the Snyderverse’s grimdark reputation, it succeeds. Unfortunately, most available evidence suggests the creators had loftier intentions.
“Uhhh, what if, like Superman punched the Joker, and his fist went through his chest?” “Yeah, yeah! And then he killed a bunch of dudes for pissing him off!” “That would be cool! And then, uhh, Batman could cry because he’s a wuss.” That’s a minor exaggeration, but the one and only new extra on the Blu-ray, a roundtable with the filmmakers, isn’t much more engaged than that. Writer Ernie Altbacker literally talks about how he hopes the scene of Batman crying becomes a meme. Well, maybe if it actually had the emotional impact he thought it did. And here’s a suggestion: maybe worry about the story first?
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Authoritarian murder-Superman is being done better as a concept almost everywhere else. The Boys, Invincible, even the flash-forwards in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. In and of itself, it’s not a novelty. The fact that Injustice takes it less seriously than the aforementioned may be its strength, but again, that’s probably a bug rather than a feature.
For Injustice clearly has moments intended to make audiences feel. When key characters die — and they do — or reach a moral crossroads, for example. The problem is it’s hard to take any of this with the weight intended. It’s not enough for [SPOILER] to die. The death also has to involve a nuclear bomb that implicitly takes out many other key characters. And yet the heroes in the scenes mostly shrug off those deaths. Also, if that one character could so casually, easily use a nuke, how come he never did before? Where did he even get it?
The filmmakers clearly want to put Superman on a slippery slope by striking him with tragedy until he becomes an authoritarian. However, the leap from reasonable crisis prevention to ego maniacal murder doesn’t feel slippery at all, just sudden. And perhaps too satirical, as it seems to riff on Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker movie and its anticipated reception.
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That could be coincidental. It probably is, considering the thought processes articulated in the featurette mainly seem along the lines of, “Let’s do the stuff they wont let us do in the other movies.” It’s perhaps fitting that some aspects of the plot seem drawn from Axel Braun’s Batman v Superman porn parody.
Not that this isn’t entertaining. Injustice seldom slows down enough to bore anybody. But it’s in no way a decent adaptation of the heroes and villains many people love. The animation itself is great, eschewing the more recent Archer-lite style while also featuring more, sharper detail than the previous New 52 movies. It’s one of a very few DC DTV animated features where 4K actually does make a difference. But without spoiling who — Twitter already has — a couple of major characters go out like utter fools. Fans of those characters are not taking their deaths kindly.
Ranking this thing on a traditional scale of good and bad, it merits at most two out of five, mainly for the visuals. For fans of so-bad-it’s-accidental-camp DC misfires like Steel or Catwoman, however, it’s a must-watch. Proceed accordingly.
Injustice debuts on Blu-ray, 4K and digital starting Tuesday, Oct 19.
Recommended Reading: Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One: The Complete Collection
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