When you think of the DC Cinematic universe, a few things come to mind. There are the disjointed and messy films, the ambitious ideas of building a working universe like that of Marvel Comics but rushing to do so, without taking the time to let it happen organically through the origin stories, and of course the constant need to reshoot films to take out jokes or put a few in, or go in completely different directions from the original artistic view of its creators.
But another thing that comes to mind is the amount of controversies on the violence of its heroes, on the level of destruction and death they leave in their wake. A point that often comes up is the killing of Zod in Man of Steel and how that goes against all the character stands for.
For the record, I never had issues with this last bit.
I’ve been watching the DC Animated films this week, particularly the following:
- Justice League vs Teen Titans
- Justice League: War
- Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
- Justice League Dark
And you know what I’ve noticed? The heroes in the films have very little qualms about maiming and killing their foes, yet no matter how much I look into it, I can’t find a single review or comment about the films complaining about the level of violence and mayhem committed by the heroes.
You can say the lack of reaction stems from this being direct-to-video material and thus it doesn’t matter as much, but the DC Animated Universe and the animated films have a large following and these films are readily available using various streaming platforms. Hell, you can buy and view them on YouTube.
To explain what I mean on the level of violence, let’s go over Justice League: War, which tells the New 52 story of how the Justice League first met, fighting Darkseid.
Every story involving Darkseid will include his shock troopers, the Parademons. In this narrative, they’re repurposed people, their organs harvested and the remaining organic material fused with machines to create Darkseid’s soldiers. But they’re still alive, they’re even sentient, just programmed to serve the lord of Apokolips.
And yet, the Justice league members, Batman and Superman included, kill them in their dozens. You can understand Wonder Woman doing it, she’s a warrior and she even has a sword. She’s not a hero with a strict moral code, so she’s freer than the rest to hack and slash to her heart’s content, and she sure does love doing it.
But it’s shocking to see the big boy scout, Superman, use his heat vision to cut the parademons to bits, while Batman blows them up with timed charges.
Based on my earlier explanations on what the Parademons are, you could conclude they’re some form of Undead, just meat mixed with machines. But the thing here is that only Cyborg knows that and he only learns of it midway through the film. The rest of them are fighting enemy combatants and tearing them to shreds.
Moving to the sequel, Throne of Atlantis, there is a scene with Trenchers, mutated creatures from the Depths, and another form of disposable mook for the villains. Guess what happens to them?
And still, no one gives a damn about it. So why the hypocrisy? The DC Animated universe is much better established than the cinematic one. The rules are clearer in it, even if these two films are part of a new origin story.
Is it because they’re monstrous and evil? That never seemed to be a factor before. Batman doesn’t kill, they refer to Superman as a Boy Scout for a reason, and everyone keeps to their No Killing rule, yet in these films that doesn’t seem to apply to the disposable mooks, the inhuman creatures, which seems dodgy at best…and extremely hypocritical from the fan base.
It’s made even clearer when you consider that in Throne of Atlantis the only enemies they don’t rip apart are the Atlantean soldiers, because they’re human and just misguided, believing their cause is righteous because of Prince Orm’s lies. The only one who dies is Black Manta—at least I think he dies—when Aquaman summons a Megalodon to eat him alive.
Justice League vs Teen Titans has another and clearer example. Trigon’s children get blasted to bits before anyone asks if they’re undead or can regenerate, which they are, according to Raven. And when they’re in the Demon Realm, holy crap do they go crazy on the locals.
Isn’t it weird? “We do not kill…except if they’re not human” sounds so dodgy. Yet, as I’ve mentioned, no one gives a damn.
So, if it’s ok in the Animated universe, which as I’ve said, has a longer history and is much better established, not only in its own internal narrative but also in terms of its fan base, why the outrage when it happens in the cinematic universe?
What do you think? What is the difference? Why are the expectations and assumptions so different when the source material is the same? Also, why do the trailers often omit these super violent scenes?