Released: February 2017
Director: Jay Oliva
Run Time: 75 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Matt Ryan: John Constantine
Jason O’Mara: Batman/Bruce Wayne
Camilla Luddington: Zatanna
JB Blood: Abnegazar/Merlin
Ray Chase: Jason Blood/Etrigan
Roger Cross: Alec Holland/Swamp Thing/John Stewart/Green Lantern
Jeremy Davies: Ritchie Simpson
Rosario Dawson: Wonder Woman
Alfred Molina: Destiny
Jerry O’Connell: Superman
It is no secret that when it comes to comic-book based movies, Marvel Entertainment and Disney clearly have the upper hand with their Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their live-action films have done serious business and have been mostly well-received by both audiences and critics. However, the same can’t necessarily be said of their animated films. Their animated films, with the exception of maybe one or two, aren’t that good. DC Comics and Warner Bros. have the exact opposite problem right now. The two live-action movies released last year, Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad were not very well received by anybody. While I personally enjoyed Dawn of Justice, I can’t necessarily say the same for Suicide Squad. It was a massive disappointment. Their animated films though, are absolutely amazing. Movies like Batman: Under the Red Hood really blew the lid off of the animated superhero genre. Last year’s Batman: The Killing Joke, had issues with the opening, but was otherwise a really faithful adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name. DC and Warner Bros. have two live-action films due this year, Wonder Woman and Justice League. I really hope they get those two movies right. But right now, I’m going to be looking at DC’s latest animated feature: Justice League Dark.
The film’s dark opening has us witnessing various horrible crimes being committed by law-abiding citizens because they seem to be seeing demons. While the Justice League, being led by Superman, are investigating these crimes, one of them believes that the origin of these crimes may be magical in nature. As a result, Batman recruits the talents of demon-hunter John Constantine to help investigate these incidents. With the aid of magician Zatanna, it is discovered that there is a sinister magical force at work here. So, they recruit a Dead Man and Swamp Thing to help fight these dark forces that threaten the world. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never been a very big comic book reader. I’ve read my fair share here and there, but it wasn’t an obsession. That being said, I found the story in Justice League Dark, to be very interesting. This kind of mystical menace isn’t something that’s generally tackled by the normal Justice League. A new team had to be formed to combat these new threats. While the main villain’s motivations are still unclear, it’s really cool to see that there is a connection to the Merlin of legend, and the Knights of the Round Table. It was actually a pretty gripping story and it was paced quite well. It’s also really refreshing to see a DC movie with a bit of a horror movie slant to it.
While the Justice League proper does appear in this film, they are mostly sidelined for most of the story, with the exception of Batman. The heroes we get this time are very unique. John Constantine is a magician who battles demons. Zatanna is a stage magician who has unique powers of her own. Deadman is an assassinated acrobat who can possess people while Jason Blood is a former Knight of the Round Table who, with the demon Etrigan, is bound by a curse. Swamp Thing is obviously a creature of the swamp, who used to be human, but now protects everything green. Like many people, my exposure to Constantine was in the Keanu Reeves movie of the same name. That was my introduction to the character. There was also a TV series about the character that lasted only 13 episodes. Zatanna I had heard of, but my only experience with that character was in the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. Swamp Thing I was more familiar with because of the campy movie from the 80’s. These are very interesting characters and their relationships with each other are fairly complex. The villain/s in this film are where this film starts to falter. We have Felix Faust and Destiny. While they have very cool superpowers, we aren’t given any kind of motivation other than world domination/destruction. We don’t even see Destiny for nearly the whole movie. He’s in a flashback scene, where he’s basically a disciple of Merlin that went insane, and a full-blown demon towards the end of the film. Not that impressive, I have to say.
The voice cast they got for this movie is impressive, to say the least. Matt Ryan, who actually played Constantine in the TV series, returns to voice the character in this film, and he’s definitely one of the biggest highlights of the film. Jason O’Mara has voiced Batman for at least six or seven animated movies so far, and he’s not shabby. He’s no Kevin Conroy, but he gets the job done. Camilla Luddington really gives her character that extra pep and feistiness that you would expect from Zatanna. Alfred Molina is the voice of Destiny, even though you couldn’t tell, but he’s mostly wasted. It’s a shame, too. Molina is one of the best actors out there. Overall, the voice acting is pretty good.
The artwork in this film is rather impressive. I didn’t see a single 3D image in there whatsoever, so it appears that the whole thing was hand-drawn. That’s a good thing. There aren’t many movies out there anymore that employ these kind of visuals. It’s dark, gritty, and it gets violent from time to time. It’s definitely action-packed and visually interesting to watch. The character designs are very unique and the animation is pretty solid. So, aside from some issues with the villains, Justice League Dark is actually a pretty good time. It’s got stellar voice-acting and some really outstanding visuals. I would definitely recommend this one.
Final Score: 8.5/10