(Submitted by Mr. Prince Adam…Thank you, Super Friend! 🙂 xoxo)
“Beings with supernatural powers join together to fight against supernatural villains. This team of supernatural beings include John Constantine, Zatanna and Jason Blood also known as the demon Etrigan.” (DC Entertainment)
I read the first volume of Justice League: Dark from The New 52 and loved it. I thought it was one of the best books of that initiative. So when I heard they were making this movie, I was so excited. I thought it would be a direct adaptation of that story but it wasn’t. It was its own story using DC’s more supernatural heroes. I love how this movie uses the main well known heroes from the Justice League proper team, to transition to this team of darker, mystical heroes. Now I know who these characters are, but the casual movie buyer may not. So this was a smart decision. The film opens with people seeing others around them as demons and monsters. Innocents are killed in the attack, which brings the Justice League, specifically the Trinity into action. Superman stops a husband from killing his wife, Wonder Woman stops an out of control driver, who is mowing down civilians with her car and Batman stops a mother from throwing her newborn out of a window. These scenes, plus Constantine’s language alone, make the film worthy of its R rating. Speaking of Constantine, The Justice League surmises that magic and the dark arts are behind these occurrences. Skeptical of this, Batman scoffs and heads back to Wayne Manor. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne goes through a series of blackouts and when he wakes, discovers the name Constantine seemingly written in blood on walls close by. They look as though they were written in blood. The way these scenes were filmed, it seemed as though Batman was being stalked and attacked by an unseen supernatural villain. We later learn that all this was the work of Deadman, possessing Batman’s body in an attempt to warn him. So Batman turns to my favourite Magician clad in fishnets, Zatanna, to find Constantine. She help Batman and, by extension, Deadman locate John Constantine. The next segment of the film sees John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Jason Blood aka Etrigan the demon and Batman, discuss the culprit of the recent events. Since the likes of John Constantine, Zatanna and of course Batman have all had stints on live action film and television, as well as animation before, the film spends some time on the more unknown quantities in this film. In briskly paced flashbacks, we get the FYI origin stories of Deadman and Etrigan the Demon. For Deadman we see his murder during a trapeze circus act and his post death encounter with a Hindu Goddess, who felt pity on him and granted him his ghostly existence and his ability. With Jason Blood, the flashback takes us back to Camelot, where Merlin magically bonds Jason with Etrigan the Demon after he is mortally wounded. I must confess, I didn’t know much about Etrigan but I absolutely love that his origin is tied to Arthurian legend. I l also got a kick out of the interplay in that scene. Zatanna and Constantine have a history, and their bickering highlighted a past relationship and some sexual tension. This actual played out quite similarly to volume one of the book. When you throw in Boston Brand’s commentary during the arguing, it felt like a episode of The Big Bang Theory, with Penny and Leonard arguing and Sheldon making smart ass comments. Batman’s reaction to the irrefutable existence of magic only adds to the humor. Every time magic is on display early on in the film, Batman grimaces and almost grunts in disbelief.
Magical weirdness kicks off, when the group visits a colleague of Zatanna’s, Ritchie Simpson for help. When they arrive at his doorstep, they find Shroud Spirits of Death waiting for Ritchie’s demise. The group enters his house and they learn Ritchie has a mystical form of cancer. The group surmises that whatever triggered Ritchie’s mystical cancer, likely caused people around the world to start seeing monsters and demons and go on killing sprees. They bring Ritchie back to the House of Mystery and use the mystical Keshanti Key to access one of the unconscious civilian rampagers mind. While inside his head, clues seem to reveal that the culprit for all this chaos is Felix Faust. While the group confronts Faust, Ritchie Simpson reveals himself to be a sinister magician Destiny, from the time of Camelot. He was the character who fought Etrigan in the flashback scene. He lay in hiding to gain access to the House of Mystery, where the other half of the dream stone resides. With the full stone in his possession he has the power to gain vengeance on Jason Blood and rule the modern world. While Batman and the rest of the core Justice League is present during the final battle, it is the teamwork of Etrigan, Zatanna, Constantine and Deadman that defeated Destiny and saved the day. I loved that their plan of action was a combination of mental trickery and magical force. I was happy it wasn’t just fisticuffs the whole way through. I was genuinely shocked that Ritchie Simpson was in fact Destiny. That reveal was deceptive and unexpected. While I don’t know much about Etrigan, this film changes his status quo in this animated universe in a big way. I have no idea if this has ever been done in the comic books before, but for the film to separate Jason Blood and Etrigan, essentially killing Jason Blood, I thought was pretty ballsy. This film is definitely the formation of the Justice League Dark. At the end of the film, Batman extends offers to Zatanna and John Constantine to join the Justice League. So while they took the characters from the New 52 comic books, they definitely went their own way in terms of origin story for the film. My only complaint of this film is the use of Swamp Thing. What a waste of a great character. If he’s in the film for more then 7 minutes I’d be shocked..
The animation is dark and very sleek looking. It definitely takes it’s cues from the art of Mikel Janin. One of my favourite scenes is the twister that occurs trying to conceal the House of Mystery. It’s like Twister, but better because it feature superheroes and the Batmobile. Though, I was cringing to see that beautiful Batmobile get swept up and destroyed. I loved the origin scenes where both Deadman and Etrigan were highlighted. Those scenes had different and distinctive looks and could have easily been their own separate short movies. Also worth noting is the scene where Constantine and Zatanna enter the mind scape of the unconscious rampager. It was very trippy. Like 70’s acid trip trippy. Then out in the real world, Batman is chased through the halls of the hospital by the Shroud Spirits of Death. They look like a cross between the Undertaker’s Druids from the late 90’s WWE and the liquid that spewed from Penguin’s mouth in Batman Returns. The third act finale features plenty of force fields, lit up mystical symbols of energy and corresponding energy blasts. You know, this movie has quite a bit in common with Marvel’s Doctor Strange film. By the way, that’s not a bad thing, as I enjoyed that film. The voice cast was all fairly solid. I am really getting used to Jason O’Mara as Batman. He has officially joined the Bat family in my opinion. By the way, knowing he voices Batman, makes his character on Agents of SHIELD so much cooler. It was great hearing Matt Ryan reprise the role of John Constantine. It was weird hearing him use some foul language but was great that the character was unrestrained by the R rating. By the way, it’s a shame that NBC cancelled the live action Constantine show. I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if Boston Brand is supposed to be from New York but Nicholas Turturro’s New York accent really fit the character. He was distinctive from the rest of the characters. Camilla Luddington is known as the voice of Lara Croft. Here though, she plays Zatanna. There is no trace of Lara Croft in here performance, and I give her a ton of credit for managing the backwards spell dialogue.
Justice League Dark takes the characters from the comic books and manages to tell a wholly original story. That in and of it self is quite the accomplishment. Add the fact that in character origin stories and its villain, this film is better than Marvel’s live action Doctor Strange. That’s an animated film is better than a live action feature film is an absolute win. If you’re a fan of DC’s magical characters, you can be happy they’ve been given the respect they deserve. Buy this movie so that Warner Brothers sees the interest, which will give them confidence to explore these characters in more animated and live action films