Justice League Dark
Blu-ray | DVD
Directed by Jay Oliva
Story by J.M. DeMatteis and Ernie Altbacker
Starring Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Nicholas Turturro, Ray Chase, Roger Cross, Jason O’Mara
Distributed by Warner Bros. Animation
Rated R | 75 minutes
Release Date: February 7, 2017
When someone asks if you would like to watch and review a new DC animated film, you say yes almost without exception. When it’s something as spectacular as Justice League Dark, you probably jump up and down with glee. Or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, getting to see this a week early was a treat that I’m happy to be able to discuss with you today. Read on for more details!
Where the regular Justice League is all about superpowers and capes, this particular group of powered folks deal with abilities of a more spirited nature; magic, to be more specific. And while we do get to see members of the original League at various times during the movie, only Batman is there for the whole film. Jason O’Mara gives Batman his trademark wit and wisdom. To be quite fair, I think he was only included as a protagonist to help draw in viewers and give them a familiar face with which to connect. For you see, most folks won’t recognize the others that actually take the lead roles in the story.
John Constantine, voiced by Matt Ryan, is the primary hero of this story, if hero is even the right word for that sneaky, magic-wielding, self-proclaimed bastard. His outlook is such that only the end results matter, casualties are a part of the work he does keeping our world safe from the underworld. He makes deals and breaks them as he sees fit. He may be underhanded at times but he gets the job done.
More likeable is Zatanna Zatara, another mage but one with a far bigger heart. Her powers are such that she often fears using them anywhere but on stage, where she wows crowds with her amazing feats. Held in check by force of will, her abilities are far beyond even her most powerful peers. Her character is brought to life with Camilla Luddington‘s voice and is done to perfection. This hero has long been one of my favorites.
As with most groups of this ilk, someone has to bring the humor. In this case it is the character Boston Brand, a former carnival performer with an ego the size of New York. His escapades extended even further than the big top, often including other people’s wives. Eventually he was called to task for his adventures but was given a second chance at redemption as the ghostly Deadman. His ability to possess others enables him to interact with the physical world and in this movie he also uses Nicholas Turturro‘s voice.
Rounding out the primary group is Jason Blood and Etrigan, a two-in-one character that Ray Chase helms for this film. Once a noble knight, Jason Blood was combined with the demon Etrigan by the wizard Merlin to save his life and to retain the powers of the demon and his immortality. Though hellborn, the demon most often manifests itself to fight on the side of good against its brethren. When in human form as Jason Blood, he quests to find a way to banish the entity he is bonded with as he considers it more curse than blessing.
More of a recurring cameo than regular addition, I was pleased to see Swamp Thing was included in Justice League Dark. He’s not in it much but I’ve always loved the concept and the character. Roger Cross does an exceptional job here and I hope one day to see a full length film with just Swamp Thing as the focus. There have been several versions of this character but this one is stronger than most of the others, a truly formidable hero.
The plot as presented is that unnatural powers are possessing people and causing them to harm others and heroes are not immune to these dark forces either. As our magical heroes gather together, Batman assists in finding clues that will lead them to the true mastermind behind it all but that’s about the extent of his involvement. Finding that several of them has been involved for far longer than anyone realizes, the team finds they must formulate a plan to keep the world from being overrun with demonic entities.
A solid story, presented straightforward but with a myriad of small twists, lends itself to an amazing animated film that I hope will spawn more with these characters. Zatanna herself is underappreciated in comics, whereas John Constantine has a bit of recent popularity and notoriety, in equal amounts. Deadman has far more potential than is utilized here so I would love to see that expanded upon in the future. Jason Blood/Etrigan can really hold their own, so maybe a prequel story of their travels throughout the centuries would make a unique film. And Swamp Thing is a must-have for a properly rounded out animated universe.
You can’t go wrong with this movie, it’s got it all from heroes to anti-heroes, diabolical antagonists to creatures that betray their own kind. In fact, this might well be my favorite DC animated film of all time. Once you watch it, you might just feel the same. It’s a smart twist on a solid group of individuals. Where the original Justice League would fail, the Justice League Dark must prevail!
Enjoy the show, folks.