It’s no stretch to say that Justice League Dark is the best film of the New 52 era films for Warner Bros. Animation. Dark lacks the inherent silliness and questionable comics to film translations of some of the more recent efforts. But it’s the new characters, action and terrific script that help Justice League Dark measure up with some of the best DC animation efforts.
One by one, the Justice League encounters bizarre incidents where people claim to see demons. Batman (Jason O’Mara, Agents of SHIELD) scoffs at the thought of magic involvement until he gets a ghost encounter with Deadman (Nicholas Turturro), who exposes him to a deadly new realm. One that not even a fully stacked Batarang can do much against. To stop this new menace, Batman is going to have to align with others who don’t even themselves heroes.
Like Assault on Arkham, Batman is largely used simply as a gateway to introduce another pocket of the DC Universe. That could have just as easily been done with under-served characters like Aquaman or Hawkman. But Batman gets the call since WBA is still gun shy about having a movie without Batman.
It doesn’t truly matter since Batman gets completely upstaged by the eclectic ensemble. There’s the mesmerizing magician Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), hellfire spewing Etrigan (Ray Chase) and the snarky John Constantine (Matt Ryan).
Writer Ernie Altbacker has a tremendous understanding of the various personality quirks of this group. They’re not exactly the team-joining type. That’s especially true with Constantine, who steals the film with his quips and nonchalant attitude.
Ryan has become synonymous with Constantine now and he carries the film easily. I’d love to see Ryan at least make a Constantine cameo in one of the live-action DC films. In a very cool Easter Egg for fans of the show, Jeremy Davies reprises his role from the Constantine series. And there’s some fun surprises with some smart villain choices that will resonate with longtime DC fans.
The film’s action sequences are superb so it comes as no surprise that Jay Oliva directed it. Oliva is the Warner Bros. Animation’s go to guy for these direct to video movies. Oliva brings a great knack for bringing big screen action and dynamic camera perspectives to the animation world.
With an R rating, Justice League Dark is definitely not kid-friendly, but fitting for the darker tone of the characters. Hopefully, this won’t be a one-off animated appearance from this team. Animated films deserve more diverse looks at the DC Universe and there’s few better than these magical tour guides.
Rating: 9.7 out of 10
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Animation