DC’s Injustice: Gods Amonf Us fighting game has become one of the most popular fighting games of the modern era, being favorably compared to even Mortal Kombat, the best-known fighting game in history. And while we saw two installments of the game, with fans hopeful of seeing a third one soon, on October 19, 2021, we also got to see an animated adaptation of the game titled simply Injustice. The animated movie was released under the DC Universe Animated Original Movies label and it was officially released on home media and online on October 19, 2021.
The DC Universe Animated Original Movies are usually very good. The whole animated world has, so far, had two larger animated universes (the DCAU and the DC Animated Movie Universe), with a lot of other movies that aren’t actually related to any major fictional universe. Most of these were standalone adaptations of famous comic book storylines, while some were original works that just didn’t fit in. Injustice is an adaptation, but of a famous video game series that is set on the Injustice: Earth One.
The game had the Joker manipulate and trick Superman into killing Lois Lane and millions of other people when a bomb detonated in Metropolis. Losing his mind and his moral compass, Superman kills the Joker and enslaves the whole planet, establishing the so-called Regime. Superman claimed to have established world peace, but what he, in fact, established was a tyrannical rule that motivated the Injustice heroes to summon their actual, good counterparts from an alternative Earth to stop Superman. They seemingly do, but Superman survives, which is used as a setup for Injustice 2.
Now, the Injustice movie follows the same initial premise, but it doesn’t develop the story in the same way; we won’t of course, be going into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but you have to know that if you’re expecting a direct adaptation of the video game’s storyline, you’ll be disappointed; the movie actually takes a lot more from the Injustice comic book than the game itself, but even in that aspect, it is not a direct adaptation. It’s not that DC is afraid to use such a dark plot – firstly, Injustice has a sort of happy ending, and secondly, DC has dwelled into the even darker territory before – it’s just that they rarely adapt the source material from cover to cover.
This has happened with the recent adaptations of Hush and Superman: Red Son, where the animated movies followed mostly the same premise, but with some surprises, which, in our honest opinion, didn’t work well with these two movies; on the other hand, when they released the two-part adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which was a direct adaptation, they released a masterpiece.
Sadly, the Injustice movie fits more into the former category than the latter. The film starts off very strongly, showing you moments and scenes that you just wouldn’t expect from the characters we all know so well. Superman kills the Joker and becomes a tyrant, other heroes die under different circumstances and the Justice League we know is decimated and divided into Teams Batman and Superman. All of this, of course, happens because Superman lost it and wanted to impose world peace, no matter the price.
Sure, his plan worked – wars ended in Afghanistan, the military government in Myanmar fled, North Korea was completely without nuclear weapons, and even the United States were completely neutralized – but what was the cost? The United Nations applauded his peace initiative, but as it turned out, and it quite often does when such great power is at play, what began as a pacifist crusade turned into a rule of fear.
Now, this was expected – even if you didn’t know the plot of the video game – since it was quite obvious that Superman had lost it after Lois’ death, but even if you didn’t get that yourself, Batman and some other characters made sure you were aware of it in several scenes; a couple of them might have been redundant and repetitive, but that wasn’t really a major issue with the film.
The best part of the movie is the culmination of Superman’s break after he accidentally kills his father, Jonathan Kent. This is where the movie becomes really, really dark and dwells into territory explored earlier in the Apokolips War animated movie, which is certainly one of the best DC animated movies ever made. The sense of dread became real for the first time and actually palpable, as Superman began taking revenge on the world, completely losing his ideals and his touch with humanity.
The movie felt like Brightburn and the eerie feeling of helplessness in the face of such a powerful ruler was absolutely amazing. Sure, tragedy was knitted into this movie from the very beginning and it was horrible to see our favorite heroes perish, but this is where things became serious, culminating in Superman becoming a mass murderer of unarmed civilians just because they annoyed him. This is where even Wonder Woman, his strongest supporter up to that point, started doubting him.
And this is also where the movie takes a turn for the worse. What was a near-perfect movie up to that point became a standard superhero flick that transformed from a tragic work worthy of the Ancient Greeks into an average story of redemption; it seems that the writers suddenly felt cowardice and decided to abandon the darkness of the movie in favor of Batman saving the day again, and by mimicking Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie with the Lois trick.
Sure, we all love Batman and we love when the guy saves the day, but this wasn’t a movie about Batman. And yet it became one. Which isn’t bad, but it was inconsistent and it seemed like the producers ultimately made two movies – one dark Injustice movie, which comprises the first half of the movie, and one classic redemption story we’ve seen so many times, which comprised the second half.
Injustice desperately tried to mimic Apokolips War, but in the end – it did not even come close. Apokolips War was a true masterpiece, a tragedy worthy of DC’s superheroes and the sacrifices they had to make over the years to preserve the world they lived in. Injustice was promising in that aspect, but the ending ruined everything, and that is why it will not go down in history like Apokolips War, whose darkness was completely unique among other DC movies.
As far as the characters are concerned, this is also where the movie was somewhat bipolar. Sure, they made a hell of a job with Batman, who, despite the repetitive tragedies that hit him, kept firm in his ideals, showing that being a superhero is much more than just saving the day – it is actually avoiding becoming the monster that the heroes are dealing with on a daily basis. He fought for the humans and for liberty, aware that it would return both crime and conflict, but also aware that their job was to fight the evils of human nature, not eradicate them and enslave the humans.
This is a lesson that Superman never learned and while he was, for the most part, great in this movie, the redemption arc in the end ruined the overall impression we had, as it just didn’t fit. Just imagine Hitler ultimately surrendering to the Soviets and standing trial for the Holocaust of his own will? Yeah, the guy killed himself to avoid any responsibility because that’s what tyrants do. The movie sacrificed the authenticity of Superman’s psychotic break to make him the ”redeemed” hero once more, which wasn’t that good.
Dick Grayson, although his role was confusing and not as important in the end as the producers intended it to be, was good, as was Plastic Man. Who really did get on my nerves was Wonder Woman, who actually played a major role in Superman’s turn, manipulating him in the beginning, and then acted as if she had nothing to do with it. Ra’s al Ghul’s inclusion was a complete miss, especially because of his role in the movie, which also further destroyed Damian’s role in the movie, as was the lack of Lex Luthor, or even any mention of the guy. This is a thing that Apokolips War also did right, but Injustice failed to do right.
In the end, we cannot say that Injustice is a bad movie. It has its ups and downs, but overall, it is a perfectly entertaining movie in most aspects. The problem arises when you start to analyze it and especially when you begin to compare it with the source material and some similar works. This is where Injustice is severely lacking and where it becomes clear that the producers just didn’t have enough guts to make a great and original movie, but a pale imitation of Apokolips War that wasn’t even original. And this is why we gave it the score we did.