From Warner Bros Animation, DC Entertainment, director Jay Oliva (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), writers J.M. DeMatteis and Ernie Altbacker (Green Lantern: The Animated Series), comes the next original animated DC Comics film Justice League Dark. Starring voice talents Matt Ryan (Constantine), Jason O’Mara (Batman), Camilla Luddington (Zatanna), Nicholas Turturro (Deadman), Ray Chase as (Etrigan), Roger R. Cross (Swamp Thing), Jeremy Davies (Ritchie Simpson), Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman), Jerry O’Connell (Superman), Enrico Colantoni (Felix Faust) and Alfred Molina (Destiny). It hits digitally on January 24, 2017 and Blu-ray/DVD on February 7, 2017.
When innocent civilians begin committing unthinkable crimes across Metropolis, Gotham City and beyond, Batman must call upon mystical counterparts to eradicate this demonic threat to the planet. Enter Justice League Dark, reluctantly led by the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine. Like Batman, Constantine is a cunning, often cynical loner who is the best at his chosen profession – but quickly realizes the sinister forces plaguing the planet will require help from other supernatural alliances. Forming a new “league” with sorceress Zatanna, otherworldly Deadman, and Jason Blood and his powerful alter ego Etrigan the Demon, this team of Dark Arts specialists must unravel the mystery of Earth’s supernatural plague and contend with the rising, powerful villainous forces behind the siege – before it’s too late for all of mankind.
Well that was….. Dark. Right? It is very fitting that the Justice League Dark animated film would be appropriately grim and unsettling. I can’t get that opening out of my head after watching a series of innocent people manipulated into thinking other humans are in fact demons, so they either try to kill their family, go apeshit and vehicular manslaughter everybody in the street or you know – toss what they think is a demonic spawn off a building when in truth it’s just a cute little baby. That sequence mind you, is the best of the film and features Batman rescuing an infant from a mother who is convinced (and we see the monster through her eyes) that her newborn is a demonic creature from the depths of hell. After the horrifying intro, which features our NORMAL BORING USUAL Justice League coming to the rescue, they decide to recruit an array of mystical heroes better suited for this investigation, like Zatanna and Constantine in order to uncover what is happening around the world.
I didn’t expect Batman to be such a strong force on this team, but I guess they figured we would need a familiar face alongside less known (but still beloved) DC Comics heroes. He fits right in though, and hell, he even brings some humour to the table in a few scenes. You know your flick is some bleak stuff when Batman is dishing some jokes. That being said, much of the laugh cred goes to Deadman, voiced by Nicholas Turturro. It was a voice I did not expect to come from THAT character, but I’m also not overly familiar with Deadman’s comic origins. Either way – it worked and I loved how he would take over other bodies during action sequences.
There’s one sequence in particular that stood out to me, and it involves the Justice League Dark team battling a POOP MONSTER in a hospital. Yes – a demonic force comprised of human shit – which even devours the flesh right off it’s victims Blob style, leaving a bloody skeleton in it’s wake of destruction. Director Jay Oliva didn’t hold back for Justice League Dark in terms of the violence. Nothing is overly extreme, and I don’t recall much in the way of cursing or sexual content, but because of the grisly content and imagery, the film’s R-Rating is definitely earned and wasn’t done in a way that felt excessive. It was an artistic choice that I feel was spot on.
There were some lines that fell flat, including one where a pair of demons actually say, “Your ass is grass and we’re the lawnmower,” after being banished to Hell following a poker game gone wrong involving Etrigan the Demon and Constantine. PS – Etrigan’s action scenes were the most intense of the film and I can’t wait to see that anti-hero in a live-action setting. Another no no for me was the lack of Swamp Thing’s screentime. It takes the team WAY too long to make their way to the swamp and ask the Avatar of the Green for some help. He does pop up in the final battle, but by then it wasn’t enough for me – I wanted more dammit.
Justice League Dark is the second R-Rated DC Comics animated film and it’s also the best one, putting The Killing Joke to shame. It isn’t without it’s faults – example – I could have done without the scary faced tornado chasing the Batmobile at one point. It’s tough to truly bring the seriousness in an animated film that features iconic superheros and more magical content than Marvel’s Doctor Strange, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be distracting at times. It was nice to see/or hear… Matt Ryan return to his Constantine role after the series was criminally cancelled not long ago and I do think that this is easily the best DC Animated film since Flashpoint Paradox (which is still the king in my eyes). So if you dig DC’s Vertigo line of comics, then give this flick a shot – you’ll have a good time.