***3/4. One of the better DCAU DTV movies I've seen.
The film borrowed a great deal from Watchmen, in structure if not in depth and thematic resonance. Both feature funhouse mirror versions of familiar characters who are, in some way, broken or damaged. Each feature a main mystery plot where heroes and friends are being eliminated and the heroes are investigating. And each feature flashbacks to how the heroes became broken, and reveal that their supergenius friend is behind it all.
That's where the similarities end though. It's a good structure for a superhero story, and I don't mind 'Gods and Monsters' borrowing it. I appreciated writer Alan Burnett's take on the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman mythos. It was familiar enough to where it carried the weight of the past, but new and different enough that it didn't feel like a rehash or mere fanservice. That was true for most of the world the film established, and it's quite an accomplishment given how much baggage the D.C. Universe has. The three iconic heroes were both familiar and foreign, which is about the right balance for this. Burnett managed to establish them as distinct characters with believable points of divergence from the usual stories, no small feat.
I have to admit, I got a kick out of Michael C. Hall as Batman given his prior role as the title character in Dexter. Dexter himself was often accused by fans of having been essentially turned into Batman by the show's writers in later season. And like Dexter, this version of Batman had trouble connecting to other human beings, had a need to kill but only did so to criminals, and even did some forensics and blood investigation at one point in the film. It's a novel take on the character, and one that I feel worked.
One thing that shined in the film was the animation. Wonder Woman and Orion's ride though Apokalips had a cute homage to Disney's Aladdin, but met its forebearer in the creativity of movement and the colorful backgrounds the pair traveled through. Superman's fight with the Metal Man wrung some creativity out of the old "two flying superbeings collide" routine. And there was some wonderful iconography even in parts of the movie that were much more still: ships in front of planets, friends standing together, and more.
The dialogue wasn't always as inventive or well-executed. One-liners like "get out of my house" and "I bet you taste like crap" feel pulled from the kind of camp of the Joel Schumacher movies, even if they're delivered with more grit. And a lot of the would-be subtext of the film is spoken outright by the principal characters. I suppose it has as much depth as it needs to, but a lot of the writing is very out-in-the-open about what the characters are feeling or what it's trying to say.
And the reveal of Dr. Magnus as the bad guy doesn't help. He's a bit predictable given the economy of characters rule for guessing who the villain is. And his explanation that he killed Tina in a fit of rage over her caring for Batman felt too cliche, as did his grand scheme to "help" mankind with his nanobots.
Still, it's an original story about how the biggest heroes of the D.C. Universe could have been darker, rougher, and almost unrecognizable from the living icons fans know, and how they could also be motivated to be more like their main-Universe counterparts. I liked but didn't love the film, but there's a lot of creative stuff in there that makes it worth watching.