The world of Injustice has become one of the most popular Elseworlds of the past decade, if not the most popular alternate Earth within DC Comics’ multiverse. Created by the makers of the Mortal Kombat games to act as the setting of a DC Comics themed fighting game, it was expanded upon by a comic book tie-in series by writer Tom Taylor, which went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. It was, perhaps, inevitable that an animated movie based on this setting be made. Unfortunately, Injustice is a far cry from the books and games that inspired it.
Injustice is set in an alternate Earth where The Joker, testing his thesis that one bad day can corrupt even the best of men, set about giving Superman the worst day of his life and making the Man of Steel responsible for the deaths of millions, including Lois Lane. The Joker died with his last laugh on his lips as Superman punched a hole through his chest and proceeded to build a better world where nobody would suffer at the hands of a supervillain ever again, The game picked up five years later, with Batman traveling to another Earth to recruit the Justice League of another world to help him fight Superman’s regime. The comic focused on the five years in between and showing that Superman’s descent into fascism was a gradual thing.
Apart from the actual incident leading to Joker’s death, Injustice largely ignores the events of the game. The script by Ernie Altbacker is largely devoted to recreating some of the best moments from Tom Taylor’s comics. It is, however, strangely selective in what moments it chooses to adapt and which characters it utilizes. The now infamous scene between Harley Quinn and Green Arrow discussing the name of his lair is included, but characters like The Flash and Shazam are barely in the movie long enough to make cameos.
Black Canary is cut from the narrative completely, but Huntress is included (unvoiced) as a part of Batman’s team, only to vanish without explanation after the raid on the Fortress of Solitude. The movie also gives an extensive role to Mister Terrific, who was not part of the games apart from a cameo in one of the battle screens, presumably so that Batman isn’t doing everything that requires a genius. Unfortunately, none of these changes work as well as it should and some of the story choices just seem odd.
For instance, the story includes Jonathan “Pa” Kent but not Martha “Ma” Kent. This could have been an interesting change of pace given that most Superman adaptations make Pa Kent the first of Superman’s adoptive parents to die, but nothing is done with the choice. And while I’m a big fan of Mister Terrific and welcome any chance to put him in the spotlight, his inclusion here also seems odd when it would be more thematically appropriate for his role to be taken by the heroic version of Lex Luthor from the original Injustice games and comics. (Lex Luthor, for the record, does not appear in the movie)
The animation is similarly erratic, with Green Arrow throwing arrows with the force of a bow in one scene and Green Lantern (upon having his ring taken away by Superman) hovering in mid-air like Wile E. Coyote so that he can do a double-take before falling. The voice acting is competent, but even the best of the celebrity cast seem to be trying to impersonate the actors from the original games. Why not just get Tara Strong if you’re just going to have Gillian Jacobs do a squeaky Harley voice?
The end result is oddly empty. While several classic moments from the comics are reproduced flawlessly, the story feels rushed and fragmented, building to an ending that seems to occur because the story needed to end somewhere. All in all, the movie makes a good case for the claims of many fans that Injustice needed to be reproduced as an animated series rather than a movie to do justice (pardon the pun) to the source material.