Injustice is a decent idea that unfortunately becomes muddled in its attempt to juggle characters, violence, and shock.
Injustice (2021) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on January 28, 2022
Rating 1.5 /5
Injustice may be the first DC Comics animated movie to be based on a video game. Yes, there’s an Injustice comic book but that is primarily based on the video game. A fighting video game, no less. To conceive a plot where superheroes and supervillains would fight one another, the plot for the game was that the world went wrong and an all-out war broke out. In essence, it’s another one of those what-if-Superman-went-bad type stories that served as an excuse for a series of showdowns. The animated movie, thankfully, isn’t quite that simplistic.
The staging is at least compelling for the first act. On Earth-22, Superman learns that Lois is pregnant. The future looks bright for them until The Joker, of all villains, starts going more brutal. Jimmy Olsen is viciously murdered and Lois is kidnapped. Through a series of villain connections, The Joker manages to manipulate Superman into accidentally killing Lois as well as blowing up an entire city. And that’s the last straw for the man of steel. He snaps and murders The Joker, setting about to enact his own brand of justice on the world in hopes that nobody will face such tragedy.
The initial shock is pretty much the revenge fantasy of a lot of blind Batman fans who wish would befall his greatest foe. We get the exceptionally bloody and gory moment of the Kryptonian shoving his entire fist through Joker’s stomach. But when the clown lies dead, a more interesting story emerges. Yes, with Joker dead, he can’t hurt anybody anymore. But what about Superman? Was his killing of Joker really justified? Nobody on Earth could bring Superman to court on this issue considering his immense strength.
Realizing Superman has such power, he sets about trying to enact his own brand of international justice, getting involved in more geopolitical matters that makes him a target of governments. It’s a great clap-back for anybody who likes to divert Superman and argue “why doesn’t he stop oppression in the Middle East.” The answer should be obvious for the ethical issues but, in case you needed it spelled out, here’s why that wouldn’t work.
The film’s second act is by far the strongest part of how the heroes become divided in their assessment of Superman. Batman, of course, deeply opposes Superman’s controversial choice in trying to regulate the entire population with total security control over weapons and surveillance. It’s a great conflict considering that Batman lost his parents to a gun, forcing him to confront his own methods of justice. Probably the best scene on an ethical level is when Superman discusses gun control with Mister Terrific over a game of chess, where the slippery slope quickly forms with each move. And in case it wasn’t obvious Superman is in the wrong here, he finds himself siding with villains like Ra’s Al Ghoul and Amazo to regulate humanity.
It’s only once the film gets to the third act that its narrative falls off a cliff. The juggling of heroes goes into weird territory where a dead Nightwing and a Superman from another Earth become involved to solve the conflict. This was such a nosedive off a finale because it essentially uses the DC Comics wild lore of other worlds to subdue both the greater issue of Superman’s power and the bigger discussion of uncontrolled power. In this instance, the victor over Superman’s violent rule is another Superman. The more difficult question doesn’t arise if there is no other Superman to win the fight and show him a different possibility.
Injustice is a decent idea that unfortunately becomes muddled in its attempt to juggle characters, violence, and shock. The animation looks decent, the voice acting is solid, and the fight scenes are compelling in that no character is saved from biting the dust. But with a chance to say so much about vigilantes and their questioning of justice, the film has little more to offer than a handful of violent showdowns. I guess that’s an apt depiction of the game, for whatever that may be worth.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.