Injustice is an animated adaptation of the popular fighting game series from Netherrealm Studios, the same company that is responsible for the Mortal Kombat series. Coincidentally, the movie was also created by some of the same people that created the two Mortal Kombat Legends films. Injustice delves into an alternate DC universe where a tragic incident caused Superman to try to take over the world to stop all criminals. Batman attempts to stop Superman and his former friends as they go too far in their methods. The comics served as a prequel to the video games where they show Superman‘s descent into tyranny after suffering a great loss.
Story: A Mixed Bag
The film serves as an adaptation of the prequel comics, going into the first of five years before the start of the first Injustice. Joker’s attack on Metropolis causes the death of Superman’s wife, Lois Lane, and their unborn child. It’s the inciting event that forces Superman to murder the Joker and change the ways he handles crime. This causes a split in the Justice League where Batman and his followers fight against Superman and his new policies. The beginning is generally solid, but it’s after the incident where the story begins to fall apart.
Some characters who were important to the plot of the comics and games were killed off or pushed away from the plotline. While it’s not a bad thing to deviate from the original story, it didn’t necessarily do much with it. It could have added more depth into the conflict with Superman and Batman but it was just a watered-down version of the comics. It had the potential to become a unique take on the universe that we haven’t seen before.
The biggest problem with the film was how it tried to fit so much into it. The story would have been much better if it had more runtime or made into a mini-series. There were some good moments and characterization, so it wasn’t a complete disappointment. If they had run with a more unique plot, it would be leagues better than what we got. That or at least attempt to stay faithful adaptation of the first year to set up for sequels.
Characters & Performance: Justice League Limited
Injustice has a voice cast that is different from video games. While it’s a shame that we don’t have legendary voice actors that voiced the characters in many animated films and shows, the current roster is fairly decent. Smallville actor, Justin Hartley, made a solid Superman and managed to convey his hurt and anguish effectively. Unfortunately, it couldn’t help in making Superman’s descent into tyranny much more believable. He turned evil way too fast and it didn’t help in making him a morally gray character that the story wants us to believe that he is.
Aside from Batman and Superman, the rest of the Justice League didn’t add much to the story, if at all. Wonder Woman and Robin were the few only side characters that mattered to the story. Harley Quinn’s redemption was rushed and her addition to the plot added nothing. Fan favorites such as Flash and Green Lantern were forgotten by the story almost instantly. Subplots adapted from the comics could have been taken out entirely and nothing will change.
While some characters managed to have some good characterization, it was clear that the film couldn’t make use of the full cast from the comics and games. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but it could have been for the best that the film focused on solely Batman and Superman with some of their respective allies and friends.
Pacing and Editing: Too Much in Too Little Time
The pacing was solid enough during the first half of the film. It set up the incident and how it affected all of the characters in a timely matter. However, the problem lies in the film attempting to cramp in all of the comics into a short runtime. It truly needed another film or a mini-series structure to cram all of the plots and ideas they had in mind. Superman’s character development was way too fast and it made him feel inconsistent along with others in the story. Batman and other heroes were quick to give up on him but at the same time help whenever there’s a common enemy.
Without going too much into spoilers, the ending felt the most forced. How they’ve resolved the conflict was far different from the source material and it wasn’t for the best. It was very dissatisfying and it was difficult to care for the emotional moments when they had little to no lead up for it. Of course, it could lead to a different retelling of the Injustice 2 game for the sequel. The writers can have the chance to tell a better-paced story if they have more freedom and aren’t tied down by the source material.
Cinematography and Sound: Heroic Brutality
Injustice manages to capture the style of the video games while adding a few tweaks to keep it vibrant like the other animated WB films. Each character closely resembles their in-game counterpart with nods to the comic and video game with its fast-paced fighting scenes and still shots resembling certain moments. The scenes were decently animated, despite some minor hiccups. The animators worked well with whatever limited resources and budget they had to make a solid action piece.
The film is rated R but at times it didn’t feel like it. There are some blood and violence in the movie but compared to films such as MK: Legends, it felt like watered-down violence. Aside from the Joker, many of the important deaths get either a tame version or an off-screen kill. Of course, I wouldn’t ask for an overly gory film but it would benefit them more to take advantage of the rating to show the impact of the violence.