Ah, the idea of an evil Superman or evil Supermen is garnering a lot of attention these days. Look at Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys TV series and Invincible animated series. After more than a decade of superhero movies and the MCU, viewers want something different. Something that cleverly subverts or deconstructs comic book tropes. NetherRealm Studios gave us that with 2013’s Injustice Gods Among Us and 2016’s Injustice 2 fighting games, as well as the prequel comics by DC Comics.
The premise of Injustice is simple; what if Superman breaks bad and finally lets loose? What if he realizes that he can bring world peace through sheer force and power alone? What if he no longer believes in Truth, Justice and the American Way? It’s DC Comics’ turn for a civil war. Now, Warner Bros Animation has adapted Injustice into a standalone animated feature film, which is more inspired by the comics as it serves as a prequel to the events of the game.
Or is it?
Short answer: This is not simply a direct adaptation of the original games or the prequel comics. It doesn’t just rehash the events of the source materials. It would be more apt to describe the Injustice animated movie as an alternate version of what happens in the games and comics. I was pleasantly surprised when the movie suddenly veered off the trajectory of what I expected to happen based on the source materials.
The beginning and catalyst for why Superman becomes a ruthless dictator are essentially the same as the games and comics. That’s not a spoiler because the trailers have already confirmed it as such. However, after the tragic event that causes Superman to turn evil takes place, things turn to unfamiliar and new territory, in a very good way. Even if you’re familiar with the games and comics, chances are that you still won’t see what’s coming.
Different characters live and die (obviously, I won’t spoil who). There are several twists, but what I love most about the Injustice animated movie is how it puts the spotlight and gives screentime to unexpected characters. One of those characters is Patrick “Eel” O’Brian AKA Plastic Man, of all people. Yes, I’m not kidding. If you’re a fan of the comics, you’d know that Plastic Man is not only an underrated and hilarious character when written well, he’s also one of the most powerful heroes in the DC universe. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Injustice definitely does Plastic Man justice with his portrayal in this movie (voiced by Oliver Hudson of Rules Of Engagement fame).
I won’t spoil anything else, but what I can say is that the ending and climax of the Injustice animated movie is likely one of the most fan-pleasing and unexpected I’ve ever seen in all my years of being a comic book fan (and I’ve probably watched almost every DC Comics animated and live-action adaptation out there). I’m sure it will satisfy fans.
The Injustice movie is rated R, but it uses its R-rating sparingly enough. It can be plenty gory and bloody when it has to be but don’t expect Mortal Kombat level of gore and violence, let alone the outrageous levels as seen in The Boys and Invincible. What the Injustice lacks in blood and gore, it makes up for it with surprises as well as packing an emotional punch. There are some scenes here that will most assuredly tug the heartstrings of even the most ardent DC Comics fan.
I also appreciate the change of the usual voice actors. For instance, Gillian Jacobs of Community fame does a decent performance as Harley Quinn, while Laura Bailey of The Last Of Us Part 2‘s Abby fame (and a long list of video game voice acting credits) voices Lois Lane. What surprised me most is how good Anson Mount is as Batman (you may know the actor as Captain Pike from Star Trek Discovery and the upcoming Star Trek Strange New Worlds), and Justin Hartley as Superman (he played Green Arrow in Smallville). Unfortunately, Kevin Pollak is an atrocious Joker. Please just bring back Mark Hamill or Troy Baker, Warner Bros.
If anything, I wish the movie had featured a longer runtime and had more time to breathe, as well as to allow for more character development. As of now, it doesn’t seem like Warner Bros Animation is planning to turn this into a franchise with sequels (there’s no post-credits stinger or any indication of setting up a sequel). Plus, that also means that some characters (even fan-favourite ones) do tend to get the short straw with a lot less dedicated screen time. As a result, the movie feels rushed and perhaps it would’ve been ultimately better for it to be adapted into an animated series in the first place.
If you love DC Comics and the subversion of superhero stories, I recommend checking out the Injustice animated series. Sure, last year’s Superman Red Son animated movie gave us an evil Superman. Fortunately, this has more superheroes in it and features a more familiar present-day setting, albeit with tons of surprises even for fans of the Injustice games and comics. Surely we’re not tired of evil Supermen just yet.
Injustice continues the currently ongoing slate of great animated movies from Warner Bros Animation. If this keeps up, it’s further proof of how animation is the perfect medium to adapt more subversive and complex storylines like Superman Red Son (check out my review of that here) and Injustice. Maybe now we can finally get a decent Kingdom Come animated movie.
It’s ultimately up to preference whether you’d like the original games and comics better than the Injustice animated movie, but at least it’s doing things differently enough to stand out as its own version.
Changing stuff doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worse, which is a lesson that fans need to understand when it comes to adaptations. They’re called adaptations for a reason.
Final Score: 80/100
Injustice is slated to release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack (US$39.99), Blu-ray (US$29.98) and Digital on 19 October 2021.