DC UNIVERSE RETRO REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK


To coincide with the theatrical release of the live action Justice League, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released the DC Universe Original Movies: 10th Anniversary Collection (see full details here). AFJ decided to highlight some of those titles in anticipation of the new live-action film (out November 17th). Yes, it is called riding the hype wave. Enjoy Junkies! #AFJ4LIFE

Starring: Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Jason O’Mara, Ray Chase, Rosario Dawson, Jerry O’Connell, Alfred Molina, Roger Cross, Fred Tatasciore, Nicholas Turturro
Directed by: Jay Oliva

Written by: J.M. DeMatteis, Ernie Altbacker
Studio: Warner Brothers Animation, DC Entertainment
Rating: R
Run Time: 1h 15min

To start, Kevin Conroy is not Batman in this film. This Justice League story follows the current cast of James O’Mara (Batman), Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman), and Jerry O’Connell (Superman). It is rated R, so not really one for the kiddies. There also isn’t nearly enough Swamp Thing in it. Finally, I hope you know more than the average viewer about one John Constantine (Matt Ryan).

Justice League Dark is a bit of a quagmire for the DC Universe animated films. It features only one of the primary Justice League members, Batman, and introduces a whole new cast of characters. For the most part, we are introduced to these new members with a quick backstory or origin. What was severely lacking was a light shined upon our lead character, John Constantine.

People are seeing demons everywhere from Gotham to Metropolis, to Washington DC. The Justice League starts to piece together that people are committing heinous crimes against one another because they believe they are seeing friends, family, and neighbors as demons. This elevates the scale of what the JLA is dealing with and pushes this particular film to an R rating. After a quick, albeit pointless, meeting with the other members of the Justice League, Batman decides to tackle the problem head-on by enlisting John Constantine.

Constantine, who is a practitioner of the dark arts, but a good guy, is reluctant to team up with “Batsy”. However, he is quickly swayed when his friend Ritchie’s (Jeremy Davies) life hangs in the balance. Deadman (Nicholas Turturro), Jason Blood/ Etrigan (Ray Chase) and Zatanna (Camilla Luddington) are also enlisted to help, but this team of loaners may not be able to work together and the problem starts with Constantine.

I’ll admit that I got a little lost in the middle. As the final member of the team, Swamp Thing (Roger Cross) is recruited to hunt the baddie for this story, Felix Faust (Enrico Colantoni), and I felt as if something was missing. We are given a ton of backstory on Jason Blood and his connection to Etrigan, which feels really out of place. It matters in the end, but it feels as if we have taken the long way around since we really want to know more about John Constantine.


I can see how many people who followed either the Constantine TV series or Constantine’s comic, “Hellblazer”, could easily gloss over the absence of his backstory. I for one am a fan of Swamp Thing, so despite Batman’s quick breakdown of Alec Holland, I knew a lot about the character. However, I needed more for this Constantine. Why does he work alone? Why doesn’t he play well with others? Even his relationship with Ritchie felt lacking. This was the biggest hole in Justice League Dark. It did, however, make me want to pick up the comic, because of these heroes, who tangle with the icky villains of the DC Universe, seem more appealing to me now than another bout with the Joker, Darkseid, and Professor Zoom. Many times, fans of these films feel as if there is too much emphasis on a character’s backstory and that these films are made for the masses. This one is clearly not, but this fan kept wondering more and more about who John Constantine is.


When the main purpose for the villain is revealed, that long way around trip with Ertigan makes sense, but it didn’t feel like the story at hand. Instead, all I could feel was rushed that we got into the action, the other characters (outside of Constantine), and that this was the story I should have realized was happening all along.

This was a dark trip and one I still recommend taking. I only wish they would have included more of a backstory for Constantine, obviously. Action, incredible animation, and cool characters are great, but as this is an R rated tale, as an adult, I want more story. There is a full story/ origin for Jason Blood, but only because it matters to the plot. Constantine’s mattered too, especially for this fan of the animated DCU.

Special Features Review:

As usual, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers have included a taste of what is coming next in one “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract”. I for one never of heard of this “epic story” so it intrigued me a great deal.

I was surprised to see “The Story of Swamp Thing” on the disc, especially with how short his appearance in the film actually is. Don’t get me wrong, I think its inclusion is great. I would love to see Swamp Thing get his own animated story though. Perhaps teaming him up with Batman in an animated version of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (written by Alan Moore) is in the works?

The DC Vault only half delivers with its sampling of two Brave and the Bold cartoons. I know they needed to include a story with Deadman, but “Dawn of the Deadman” was pretty dry. I would have preferred “The Demon Within” from The New Batman Adventures in its place. I have no complaints with the insertion of BATB’s “Trials of the Demon”. Where else are you going to get Batman, Sherlock Holmes, and the demon Etrigan?

Blu-ray™ Deluxe Giftset and Blu-ray™ Details

A Sneak Peek at Teen Titans: The Judas Contract: An advance look at the next DC Universe Original Movie, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.

The Story of Swamp Thing (Featurette): Born out of the imagination of Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, Justice League Dark’s Swamp Thing had his own solo adventures throughout the history of DC. This documentary reveals the rich history of this fan favorite.

Did You Know?: Constantine origin, Color of Magic, Black Orchid, and Deadman Casting (Featurette): The creators of Justice League Dark will reveal surprising behind-the-scenes tidbits about the characters – and the actors providing their voices – during production of the film.

2016 NY Comic Con Panel (Featurette): A look inside Justice League Dark’s panel at New York Comic Con.

Sneak Peek at Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Sneak Peek at Justice League: Doom

From the DC Vault – Two Bonus Episodes –

Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "Dawn of the Dead Man!"Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "Trials of the Demon!"

 

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