DC has really been struggling lately. For some reason I couldn’t find anything of theirs that I enjoyed in 2016. The big films like Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were disappointments, but that wasn’t the biggest problem. Even when I turned to their animated movies, which have been their bread and butter, they were disappointing too. Both Batman: The Killing Joke and Justice League vs. Teen Titans were among my least favorite movies of 2016. I was hoping that 2017 could start off on the right foot for them.
Justice League Dark is a movie that doesn’t waste any time to get started. When the movie starts we are immediately thrown in the situation that needs to be solved. People are beginning to see other people as demons so they start lashing out and killing others. We see a woman who runs over people, a father who ties up his family and hangs his neighbors, and a mother who throws her baby off of a rooftop, all because they see these people as demons. It creates an extremely dark tone and some really disturbing imagery that caught me off guard. Once the Justice League identifies that what is going on might be magic based, Batman sets off to find Zatanna for help. This leads to the addition of characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Deadman, and Etrigan the Demon showing up to help.
I think the most intriguing aspect of this movie is that the characters involved are characters that I’m not really familiar with. Some of the usual Justice League members show up, but only have a few lines and VERY limited screen time in the film. The only Justice League regular that has a big role in the movie is Batman. If you didn’t know this already, Justice League Dark was a team created back in 2011, and includes some of the more supernatural based heroes in the DC universe. They’re formed to handled situations that the typical Justice League members aren’t equipped to handle. This is why I don’t really understand why Batman is here. He’s pretty much useless in most situations and serves mostly as comedic relief. I know it’s odd to think of Batman as a negative in a movie, but it’s clear he’s only there because DC is not confident that this movie would sell without him. It’s a shame because the other characters are compelling enough to easily carry this movie without him.
When it comes to the characters, John Constantine stole the show. He’s not your average hero at all. He’s kind of a prick and has a very unorthodox way of getting things done. He snaps back at people with his sarcastic humor and he’s an absolute joy the watch in every scene. What made me happy was that he was voiced by Matt Ryan, who played him in the NBC Constantine series. Despite its cancellation after just one season, I thought he was fantastic in the role, and his interpretation of the character carries over beautifully in his voice acting. This gives me a lot of hope for the upcoming Constantine animated series. This portrayal put all of my doubts to rest as to whether he could carry an animated show on his own.
Along with Constantine we do get Batman (portray by Jason O’Mara). As I said before, his character mostly for comedic purposes, but O’Mara is solid as the character. We have Zatanna (portrayed by Camilla Luddington). She’s a badass, magic based hero who really shows her stuff off in the movie. She’s extremely powerful and her banter with Constantine is pretty damn funny. There’s Deadman (portrayed by Nicholas Turturro). He was the one character on the team that I wasn’t really a big fan of. He was annoying and I didn’t find the voice work from Turturro to be very good. On the other hand Ray Chase plays both Jason Blood and Etrigan the Demon and he’s great. At the beginning of the movie I wasn’t really a fan, but as it progressed the character really grew on me. Last, we have Roger Cross as Swamp Thing. He didn’t have a big role in the film and he didn’t make much of an impression while he was there. He looked cool and was obviously powerful, but never got to do much and was overall pretty disappointing.
This film felt like a return to form for the DC animated films. I think the action in the movie was done a lot better than a few of their previous attempts. They have a couple of big fights in the film and they highlight each character pretty well. Deadman has the power to take over someone’s body and he uses it to get innocent people out of harm’s way multiple times. I found that to be a pretty creative use of his powers. The movie also establishes very well why these specific people are better suited to take on this specific enemy. It makes sense when you think about it. Superman has a weakness to magic and he’s the strongest weapon the Justice League has. It makes sense to bring in a unit that is more knowledgeable in that field.
Flaws with the movie are mostly what I mentioned before. I don’t like that Batman was in this movie the entire way through. He served no real purpose other than to say Batman in the movie and his spot could have gone to a Justice League Dark member that didn’t make it into this movie. Deadman as a character was annoying and the voice work on that character was sub-par. Swamp Thing was presented as this powerful creature, but never really demonstrated it. Also, right after they give us those first few scenes with people going crazy, things slow down for a bit and dragged a little.
Overall, I liked Justice League Dark. I think it’s a return to form and a good way to begin 2017 for DC. I hope this carries over to their live action movies because I don’t want to see those fail. The addition of Constantine to this animated universe was easily the best part of this entire movie. I hope he’s in other animated movies they do in the future.
Justice League Dark gets a 73/100