Ernie Altbacker’s Dissects The DC Animated Movies:
Ernie Altbacker has written some of the most ambitious DC animated features in recent years, including last year’s critically praised Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. Injustice, Altbacker’s latest Warner Bros. Animation feature, is an adaptation of the hugely successful video game and comic series of the same name. Injustice presents a universe in which Superman establishes a totalitarian rule after being tricked into murdering his wife, Lois Lane, by the Joker. Altbacker faced the difficult problem of condensing the tale into a single picture, while having a large amount of material to work with. Altbacker explained the events he wanted to highlight in the adaption and how he created one of the most diabolical portrayals of the Joker to date in Injustice in an exclusive conversation with CBR. He also bemoaned Nightwing’s tragic fate in Injustice.
To adapt Injustice, you have over five years of comic books and two video games to draw from. How difficult was it to condense all of that into a single feature film? Was that the most difficult creative challenge?
It was. I’m sure we won’t please everyone. I’d done some high-profile adaptations, such as Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush, and I figured it couldn’t be much worse than Hush with its twelve issues. So when I requested the material [to adapt Injustice], they sent me a foot and a half of trade paperbacks to read, and even one of them is too much for an eighty-minute picture. It was difficult to narrow down the material in order to convey a coherent tale, especially since [the producers] wanted it to end with the good people winning.
While the essential relationship between Batman and Superman remains, you now have this entire ensemble. Who were you most pleased to focus on in this story?
I read all of this, and there was one moment when Plastic Man was a badass, and I always felt [previous tales] gave Plastic Man too much comedy relief. I wanted to include the fact that Plastic Man is a badass into this narrative in some way, so I did! Another thing that struck me as amusing is how similar Superman and Harley Quinn’s experiences are. They go through the same life-changing experience of losing the love of their lives, but they respond in completely different ways. Superman fails, and Harley Quinn decides she must become a hero right away. We had a lot of fun coming up with it.
How do you balance all those voices while keeping the emotion of the tale in mind while creating these large ensemble pieces?
The quiet sequences, when you might just have a minute or 45 seconds of a couple of characters chatting to one other, it’s what they say that will determine whether or not an audience is on their side. There are so many opportunities to make the audience care if you use them appropriately. If you don’t get that right, it just becomes combat porno, where there’s fighting and you don’t care if someone dies. I attempted to include it into the screenplay, and while [producer Rick Morales] and [director Matt Peters] didn’t give Hawkman a line, the way they animated him made me care about him. I usually don’t feel that when I write anything since I know it so well, but after viewing this, I didn’t want to see what happened to Nightwing. I feel like a jerk for bringing this up on the screen. I could have saved Nightwing.
You’ve previously collaborated with Rick and Matt on a number of projects. What’s your creative shorthand with them like right now?
We’re just in the room a few times at first, and they kind of break it down themselves with their animation crew. All of them are excellent. I’m not sure about the schedule of who receives what. I’ve had the good fortune to work with them numerous times, and the projects have always turned out beautifully. I’m always excited to hear that they’ll be working on anything since they truly understand the plot and come up with ideas after the draught that make me wonder why I didn’t think of it. They’re fantastic!
You’ve always had a murderers’ row of voice actors for each of these projects. Who are the specific standouts in this cast to whom you’d want to offer a shout-out?
Everyone did an outstanding job! Gillian Jacobs’ Harley, Anson Mount’s Batman, and Oliver Hudson’s Plastic Man are all fantastic. Everyone was fantastic, especially Edwin Hodge as Mister Terrific and Zach Callison as Damian Wayne. This is there in the games and comics, and it is especially apparent in this film, but you get an extremely terrible portrayal of the Joker in this film. Kevin Pollak is fantastic as the menacing Joker. It’s as surprising as Heath Ledger’s Joker. With his performance, he managed to improve on every line. This one is a nasty piece of work who will kill ten million people in order to retaliate against Batman; he’s insane!
As someone who grew up as a fan of the DC Universe, this is the second time you’ve had the opportunity to deconstruct a version of it. How does it tackle these kinds of stories?
I consider it an honor to be able to kill off a high-profile character, but… people will return. I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of the Joker. I believe he’ll return in some way. Kevin Pollak’s Joker appears to have the ability to smash the globe. When I saw it for the first time, my stomach churned because Rick and Matt performed so wonderfully.
What do you think shines out in the film compared to the games and comic books?
Green Arrow’s friendship with Harley Quinn and her makeover. That was a result of not having enough area to include the Black Canary/Green Arrow romance. Harley was intriguing to me and might serve as a direct comparison to Superman: just as Superman loses the love of his life, she loses the love of her life, but they react in the opposite ways you’d imagine they’d react. Injustice, directed by Matt Peters, is now available on digital HD, Blu-ray/4K UHD, and DVD.
So there you have it: Injustice Screenwriter Dissects The DC Animated Film’s Vision And The Devious Joker. To be honest with you guys, Ernie Altbackerd is an amazing writer and has really written good movie scripts, especially Injustice: Gods Among Us. So, have you guys seen the movie yet? Moreover, have you played the two-part video game? Do let us know in the comments down below. Until then, we’ll see you in the next post, guys, but don’t forget to keep reading Animated Times, your one-stop destination for learning more about the entertainment industry, new movies and TV series, celebrity gossip, and so much more. We’ve got your back on all fronts. Continue reading Animated Times for more.