Every so often there is a story within comics that comes along and blows people’s minds, leaving a lasting impression on the reader that makes us beg for more. In 2013, writer Tom Taylor gave us just such a story with DC’s Injustice: Gods Among Us, which was a prequel comic series to the video game of the same name. Since its release there have been 6 volumes in total for the comic series (Year One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Zero) as well as a sequel to the video game (Injustice 2), which was released four years later in 2017. There was even a comic mini-series called Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe which was released in 2017 and followed on from the alternative ending of the Injustice 2 video game where Superman wins.
Now, DC and Warner Brothers Animation have decided to take Injustice and bring it to us again, this time in the form of one of DC’s popular animated feature films, which more often than not, are a huge hit with fans, give or take a few changes to plot here and there.
The Joker has always caused trouble for Batman and the citizens of Gotham City, but when he finally decides to take his maniacal mayhem to Metropolis, things get really dark, really fast. Along with his sidekick Harley Quinn, Joker manages to kidnap Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, who he knows is close to the Man of Steel, in an attempt to make him mad, and push him over the edge, which the Clown Prince of Crime has attempted to do with Batman for so many years.
Mixing Scarecrow’s fear toxin with Kryptonite enables Joker to mess with Superman’s mind, causing him to attack what he thinks is Doomsday but is in fact his wife Lois Lane, who also happens to be pregnant. Not only that but Joker and Harley attached a device to Lois’ heart which triggers when her heart stops beating after Superman drags her into space, thinking it was Doomsday. The device triggers a nuclear explosion that destroys Superman’s home city of Metropolis killing millions of innocent people in the process.
In his grief, Superman finally crosses the line. Despite the pleas of his closest friend and ally, Batman, Superman murders the Joker during interrogation and thus begins a story of power over the laws of man.
One thing DC animated movies always seem to get right is casting for the voices. Injustice, like many of the DCAU (DC Animated Universe) films, has an excellent voice cast that bring the characters to life and give us strong performances throughout the film.
Justin Hartley, who you may recognize as Green Arrow from the Superman origins series, Smallville (2001), is the film’s standout as the voice of Kal-El, giving us a weary version of Superman, who does what he believes is right though often seems unsure of himself. Hartley’s portrayal gives us the confidence of Kal-El when needed, but also manages to give us a more broken Superman, that can change at the flip of a switch, or rather a flip of his mind as the events shown in the film often bring us back and forth between the tyrannical leader and the man who’s lost everything.
The film starts off strongly with a great opening sequence that brings the shock factor and story to life as we watch Joker’s plan unfold. There are some truly impactful scenes throughout, with a standout being a nightclub scene (which I won’t spoil), but just seeing the darker side to Superman and the impact it has on other characters was brilliantly portrayed in the animation department, as well as through the voice acting. There are scenes that feel like they’ve been pulled straight from the comics. Some have you laughing and some leave you in show with how bloody and brutal they are.
The plot of the film is a condensed mixture of the entire Injustice series, which was always going to be hard to properly pull off in one feature film without it feeling rushed – which the film really suffers from. There are too many major plot points for one film to handle, so the film lacks any real time to let the audience process the impact of those events. It’s a little too jumpy with its timeline, going from one tragedy to the next, without giving us the same setups and character growth that the comics gave us.
In the comics Superman doesn’t just snap and take over the world, there is a growing pain within him that consumes his mind and clouds his judgement, but with this film, it seems that his grief snaps him instantly into becoming a tyrant. They don’t handle his character development well, and it draws the viewer away from having any real sympathy for him. Not only that but they seem too eager to go through all the tragedies that do turn him tyrannical, without giving us time to see how each one clouds his judgement further and further so that by the end, we at least somewhat understand agreeable reasoning behind his decision to take over, even if we don’t agree with his methods. This film just delivers tragedy after tragedy. The DCAU is known for making creative changes in order to adapt these stories into animated features, but this Injustice adaptation really suffers from poorly made decisions.
This story would have greatly benefitted being split up over a number of films, similar to the DCAU’s recent Batman: The Long Halloween, which was released in two parts, or even a mini-series that would give us time to process each major turning point in the story. There’s a lot of material available for the Injustice story
This is a storyline that many fans have wanted an animated adaptation of for a while, but sadly it falls short of any expectations I had for it. I knew that Injustice was too big for a film, but I had hoped that this was just the beginning, like an adaptation of Year One, but instead it merges plot points from multiple volumes and fails to even set up any hope of a future installment.
The latest entry to the DC Animated Universe falls short on too many levels to be enjoyable and, put simply, this disappointing adaptation is the real injustice.