I, like many other comic and animation fans, love Bruce Timm. It’s hard not to love him considering he and Paul Dini shaped what many of us consider the pinnacle Batman of our childhood. It’s brought me great displeasure to see that Timm continues to lessen his role with WB Animation as the division of Warner Brothers continues to change and adapt to the times. So when an original movie by Bruce Timm was announced… well I paid attention. In fact, I waited anxiously to see what it was. The premise is great; I won’t deny that. Timm looked to the comics for inspiration and attempted to do something that hadn’t been done since Green Lantern and Flash in which the characters were completely changed, but kept the same names. Timm basically did the same and if you know anything about the project then you know he created a new Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The holy trinity of the DC Universe. And you know what? They’re interesting characters. They have rich backstories and they’re not just different characters in the same role. His Batman is very different, not a detective, but rather a vampire scientist and so on.
The world is very similar. There’s a few characters that remain the same, but don’t evolve like they do in the comics. For instance, Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi make an appearance and Palmer has only just discovered his shrinking technology, but is using it to make horses small. He’s a far cry away from ever becoming the Atom (and thank God for that). Again, the world isn’t just a “what if” version of the DC Universe. It’s takes names and roles and very cleverly shifts them. Lex Luthor isn’t the man you’d think and his past is very different from what you’d imagine.
Now here’s the “but.” The film suffers from its own premise, from its own world building because that’s kind of all it does. Sure there’s a story, but it manages to tie in loosely to everything else that’s going on. But it’s not interesting. The payoff for all the buildup isn’t there. At least not a payoff that feels rewarding.
Going forward, I would be very interested in this world and these characters. You get to know them in this film and I will totally admit that Timm and company make the transition to their past seamless and relevant to that point in the story. I just didn’t feel like the story was trying to go anywhere. The ending was too anticlimactic to be worth the wait, but again… I would revisit this world.
The character designs are very Bruce Timm. They’re done in his trademark style, but he’s grown as an artist and animator. This film doesn’t look out-of-place with the DC/WB Animation universe and that says a lot. If anything it just goes to show that Timm’s style could really be embraced more both in the animation and comics.
Even though I was very ho-hum about this film, it doesn’t take anything away from Timm’s legacy. He’s still one of the very few animators with an iconic style. You know Timm’s animation when you see it and frankly I doubt you can name one other animator in the last twenty years that you could say the same for. As for the director and screenwriter… well let’s just say that I could do without their collaboration with Timm next time.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters Director: Sam Liu Story: Alan Burnett/Bruce Timm Screenplay: Alan Burnett Distributor: WB/WB Animation Price: $24.98 Release Date: 7/28/15