Superman is beyond devastated when everything he cares about is ripped away by the Joker—his wife, his unborn child, and, indeed, most of the city he protects. Driven mad by grief, he crosses the line he swore he would never cross, starting him on a downward spiral towards evil.
Whereas in the past, Superman has always upheld the law, he now decides to use his godlike powers to become the law, and force the entire world into submission. Some of the Justice League go along with his crusade, most notably Wonder Woman. Batman, however, sees the path that the Man of Steel is on and knows that he must be stopped. Of course, it won’t be easy, and the stakes continue to mount as these former friends become sworn enemies, Superman goes further and further down the path of destruction, and more and more heroes get killed in the crossfire.
That’s the most important thing to understand about this movie: A lot of people die. A lot of them die in rather grizzly and violent ways. Most of them are characters you know and love. And many of them are murdered by Superman. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of point to a lot of these deaths beyond shock value. The deep, moral, and philosophical questions that could have been explored about good vs. evil, might vs. right, the destructive power of grief, etc. all sort of get lost in the blood and violence.
It’s also really hard to like any of the characters in this movie. Since Superman has gone rogue, ostensibly the hero of the story is Batman, who’s leading the charge to stop him; however, the movie makes it very clear that Batman isn’t actually much better. The methods he uses to stop Superman aren’t that far removed from what Superman himself is doing in an effort to set up an authoritarian state with himself as the law.
There are a few bright spots in the movie. Harley Quinn (voiced by Gillian Jacobs) provides some much-needed levity in what’s otherwise a very heavy, very dark film. A few other characters have fun moments as well. Sometimes, the humor is a bit jarring in the midst of all the tragedy and carnage, but it’s still welcome nonetheless.
As with many of the Blu-rays for DC animated films, the special features include a couple of episodes of the Justice League cartoon from the early 2000s. This time it’s “Injustice for All,” parts 1 and 2. Personally, though, I would have included the episodes “A Better World” parts 1 and 2 instead. The premise and overall themes are very similar.
In fact, if you’re interested in the moral and psychological implications of Superman going bad, the “A Better World,” episodes of the 2001 Justice League series explore them in a more interesting way than Injustice does. If you want to go deeper into the more mature themes, Batman: Under the Red Hood, which came out a few years ago, is another great dive into the line between good and evil. You can also read comics like Irredeemable and The Mighty for a look at the implications of a superhero with godlike powers turning bad.
For all its faults, Injustice is still a decent movie. It’s got a great voice cast and great animation; however, for me, the story ultimately fell flat.
Creative Team: Matt Peters (director), Ernie Altbacker (writer), Justin Hartley (Superman), Anson Mount (Batman), Janet Varney (Wonder Woman), Gillian Jacobs (Harley Quinn), Yuri Lowenthal (Mirror Master/Flash/Shazam), Kevin Pollak (Joker/Jonathan Kent)
Production Companies: Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment
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