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 simply called 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 in 2021, 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 the plot here and there. The film, simply titled Injustice was released digitally on October 12th, 2021, and physically on DVD & Blu Ray on October 19th, 2021.
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 companion 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’s 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 and it all starts with Joker. 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 brings the characters to life and gives us strong performances throughout the film.
Justin Hartley, who you may recognize as Green Arrow from the Superman origins series, Smallville (2001), is the voice of Kal-El himself this time around, 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.
Along with Hartley are the voices of Ansom Mount as Batman, Laura Bailey as Lois, Gillian Jacobs as Harley Quinn, Reid Scott as Green Arrow, Janet Varney as Wonder Woman, Brandon Michael Hall as Cyborg, Brian T. Delaney as Green Lantern, Zach Callison as Damian Wayne, Kevin Pollak as Joker, Anika Noni Rose as Catwoman, Oliver Hudson as Plastic Man, Derek Phillips as Nightwing and Edwin Hodge as Mr. Terrific…just to name a few.
What I liked
The film starts off really well, but gradually things seem off, but more on that later. The opening sequence is great, giving us the shock factor and bringing the story to life as we watch Joker’s plan unfold.
There are some truly impactful scenes throughout, with a standout for me being the nightclub scene which I won’t go into detail about, 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 certain scenes that feel like they’re adapted straight from the comics such as Green Arrow and Harley Quinn’s discussion about the name ‘Arrow Cave’, which had me laughing, and not to mention the amount of blood in this film which is kind of what we want to see in an Injustice film. Sure DC superheroes shouldn’t be shedding lots of blood, but in Injustice, there is a lot of bloodshed because your usual rules for heroes are off the table.
The animation is fantastic with some awesome designs for the characters that vary from the comics and games in places. The colours and tones add to the scenes and really give it that gritty feeling in places, whilst also reminding us that this is a DC Animated film with its beautifully drawn settings that each have their own personality when on screen, be it Metropolis, Gotham, Smallville or the Justice League Watchtower.
What I didn’t like
Oh boy, this is tough, not because I can’t think of things to pick out, but because there’s too much wrong with this film from my point of view. Let’s talk plot first because the plot of the film is a condensed mixture of the entire series, which is hard to properly put into one singular feature film without it feeling rushed, which this film suffers from. There are too many major plot points for one film to handle, so because of this, the film lacks any real time to let the audience process the impact of those events. It’s just a little too jumpy with its timing, 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 judgment, 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 judgment further and further so that by the end, we at least somewhat understand some agreeable reasoning behind his decision to take over, even if we don’t agree with his methods. This film just gives us tragedy after tragedy and Superman seems to be the only one affected by the events, except for the scene regarding Damian and Dick which obviously affects Batman but that is soon washed over which again, is super frustrating to watch.
The DCAU is known for making changes in order to adapt these stories into animated features, but they don’t always make the right choices when doing so. Injustice suffers from these decisions and instead should have been a series of films, or even an animated television series, that would give us time to process each major turning point in the story. Especially when certain events are made less impactful because of this rushed format to tell an entire story in a short time, so scenes such as the fate of Green Arrow, make his death almost forgettable whereas in the comics, his death is a heroic gesture and a turning point for Batman’s team. In this film, it’s nothing more than a silly mistake that Supes took personally and ended quickly.
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. 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.
To put it simply, the film adaptation falls short on too many levels to be as enjoyable as I’d hoped, and whilst there are enjoyable moments within, the truth is that from my experience, this disappointing adaptation is the real injustice.