I don’t want to alarm you, but until recently… I haven’t really been a DC fan. I mean, I’m a huge Poison Ivy fanatic (hello, she’s my e-mail addy), and I love Teen Titans and Nightwing is a total boss, but past that, I haven’t really cared much.
Which is funny considering that, as much of a Marvel fan as I am (LIKE SO MUCH), I’ve yet to do a Marvel-themed post on the blog yet, but I’ve done two DC-themed ones. A bit misleading there. Woops.
What finally convinced me that, “Hey, DC is cool,” was John Constantine. And not Keanu’s Constantine. Oh no, the real John Constantine is MUCH cooler. And also blonde.
The Darker Side of the Justice League
Originally I considered covering the Constantine series that ran on NBC from 2014 to 2015. (It was cancelled because the universe hates me and apparently also hates really, really, really good shows.) But I thought it may feel cruddy to have two weeks in a row of shows that were cancelled. So, my love for John ever unfailing, let’s talk Justice League Dark.
In September of 2011, DC Comics went through a large overhaul. Basically, they needed a re-branding. This involved cancelling all of their existing comic titles, and introducing 52 new series–an event called The New 52. The introduction of Justice League Dark was a part of the first wave of releases.
Justice League Dark is the other side of the Justice League. Filled with supernatural members of the DC Universe, JLD is responsible for situations that the Justice League may be a bit, well, unfit for. You know, occult stuff.
The animated feature film Justice League Dark was released early this year. While not a direct adaptation of the comic, Justice League Dark follows the same formula: There’s a large-scale magical threat that the Justice League isn’t capable of handling. As John so gently puts it, “The capes and tights crew? Useless against magic.”
Thus, Batman, with the help of magician Zatanna, goes to convince John Constantine to help them.
The rest of the team is built up of Deadman, a ghost trapeze artist who can possess people; Jason Blood, a knight from way-back-when who was bonded with a demon named Etrigan; and the Swamp Thing, a hulking green mammoth.
Each core member has their backstory touched on, and that’s one of the greatest parts of the film–learning about the team, and watching them work. Although Batman was prominently featured in advertising campaigns for the film, this is Constantine’s movie–he is the leader of Justice League Dark, and he is the front-runner of the show.
Really, Batman was probably the least-suited of the Justice League to join hands with Justice League Dark. Not only does he profess to not believing in magic throughout the first part of the movie, he has no magical contribution of his own.
Although Wonder Woman would have probably been a more logical choice, Batman does fit the dark, gritty image of Constantine and his crew, and he acted like a good piece of comedic relief at the right times. But really, in the end, Batman could’ve totally gotten himself killed–he was not qualified for the realm of magic and demons.
The action animation was excellent. Previous films have shown some pretty stuffy sequences including likes of pile drives and cheesy combat. Justice League Dark, however, shows that DC’s animation studio is stepping it up. The action was fluid and exciting–everything you need it to be, especially with magic is involved.
The voice cast is absolutely flawless (okay, except for the cheesy voicing of Felix Faust, but I’ll let that slide). I’m most likely just super-mega-biased because Matt Ryan (who portrayed Constantine in the television series that I so dearly love) voiced Constantine in Justice League Dark, but Zatanna is beautifully stern but soft, Deadman has a slight New Yorker accent that just adds to his humor, and Alfred Molina is the voice of the final baddie and I may have wet myself.
Overall, Justice League Dark has a solid and straightforward plot that flows into a nice twist at the end. Their task is difficult enough to cause tension, but clean enough to build suspension of belief. This film is a fantastic base point for the long rumored live-action Dark Universe film.
My only wish is that DC would just let they’re really freaking cool female characters take a spot in the limelight for once. Zatanna was portrayed perfectly, but she was still unnecessarily back seated at one point, in my opinion.
Overall, the casting, the plot, and the flow was so well done that I can’t really stay upset at Justice League Dark for any of its tiny misgivings. It was streaming on Netflix for a bit, but unfortunately no longer. You can rent or buy it on Amazon, and it’s well-worth the price.
Who’s your favorite DC superhero? Are you excited for Justice League?