It's no more mister nice guy as the Man of Steel drops the kid gloves and
unleashes his wrath on Earth's evil-doers. Injustice is an animated adaptation
of the wildly popular, cross-platform video game fighting series. The plot takes
place in an alternate reality where the heinous Joker (Kevin Pollak) pushes
Superman (Justin Hartley) to an unfathomable extreme. He becomes judge, jury,
and executioner. Splitting the Justice League with his intractable take on guilt
or innocence. Injustice has a passable first act, but unfortunately devolves
into a rushed frenzy of carnage. What begins as a thoughtful exploration of
grief and rage turns into mindless blood sport.
On a beautiful morning, Superman and Lois Lane (Laura Bailey) reach a critical
juncture in their relationship. Their reverie is interrupted by a fracas with a
trusted ally. Batman (Anson Mount) has followed the Joker and Harley Quinn
(Gillian Jacobs) to Metropolis. He quickly realizes that Superman is the target
of a vile plot. The Joker has tired of the usual games with the Dark Knight. The
only way to foil Batman is to give him a truly formidable adversary.
The aftermath of the Joker's actions shatters Superman to the core. Wonder Woman
(Janet Varney) feels his outrage. The time has come to annihilate villainy and
end violence. Superman announces his intentions for peace through crushing
force. Batman, Green Arrow (Reid Scott), and Nightwing (Derek Phillips)
vehemently oppose Superman's tactics. But Wonder Woman, Cyborg (Brandon Michael
Hall), and Robin (Zach Callison) support the stunning change. Former allies
become bitter enemies as an unstoppable god imposes his will.
Injustice has a promising premise. How many innocent people could have been
saved if Batman killed the Joker on day one? The catch and release silliness
with a dangerous psychopath finally reaches a spectacularly horrifying
conclusion. Batman's morality and sense of righteousness hits a Kryptonian brick
wall. Bruce Wayne pretends to embody vengeance, but his unwillingness to kill
invariably lets criminals escape. Superman's emotional breakdown leads to a
clarity of purpose. Nothing can prevent him from pulverizing every baddie into
Injustice loses focus when Superman predictably becomes an unhinged tyrant.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely yadda-yadda-yadda. The film needed to handle
this change better than a superhero free for all. A bizarre series of goofy plot
twists turns the film into a disappointing replica of the game it's based on.
Characters kill each other to gory, exaggerated ends. The story crumbles apart
and limps to a feeble conclusion.
The original Injustice: Gods Among Us "Year One" comic arc clocks in at a hefty
400+ pages, and DC's animated adaptation rolls the credits right around the
75-minute mark. There's simply nowhere near enough time -- during almost any
scene, in fact -- that feels paced appropriately, with huge swaths of detail
missing from critical moments that rob the story of emotional impact. This makes
Injustice a fairly exhausting watch despite the short running time, as it's
pretty well over-packed with action, drama, and black comedy. Some extra
breathing room might have done wonders for its rushed pacing and resulting
issues, such as the partial or complete removal of key characters like the Flash
(who's here, but just barely), Black Canary, and Lex Luthor.
Under the hood, it's a mixed bag as well. The stiff and angular animation is, to
put it gently, an acquired taste and undercuts some of the action, while its
questionable muscle anatomy does some of the static frames no favors either.
Voice acting is similarly spotty, with some main and supporting characters
fitting right in (Anson Mount as Batman, Zach Callison as Damian), and others
sticking out like a sore thumb (Justin Hartley of Smallville fame as Superman,
Kevin Pollak as the Joker). But this also warrants another observation, and a
possible reprieve: since these characters don't look or sound like the versions
we see or hear in the video game (and the ending is quite different than the one
in the original comics), it's obvious that the creative team was purposefully
taking a different route here. From that admittedly narrow perspective, those
who aren't looking for a faithful adaptation of Injustice: Gods Along Us may get
some enjoyment out of this one. But since the fundamental problems are there
(and pretty distracting), your mileage may indeed vary.
The sixteen films of the DC Animated Movie Universe set a pretty high standard.
Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox
League Dark: Apokolips War, they were gritty as hell, well animated, and took
the time to build complex narratives. Injustice is a stand-alone adventure that
had promise, but just doesn't measure up. It needed to advance the source
material and not just emulate its violence. An opportunity was lost here to
really challenge Batman and Superman's unyielding virtue.