Review – Justice League Dark
Is anyone else livid over the fact that Constantine got cancelled while Gotham limps on? I hear that Legends of Tomorrow got better, same as Supergirl, but I gave them both a chance and just couldn’t keep watching, and yet one of the three good DC shows got axed. Matt Ryan brilliantly played the sarcastic one-man army standing against the darkness that lies beyond the veil of illusion we call life, who walks between heaven and hell and raises a middle finger to both. The intention was to incorporate the series into the Arrowverse, a plan which has apparently not been entirely scrapped.
Y’see much like many of his nemeses, Constantine just won’t die. There was a brief stop-motion mini-series, a cameo on Arrow, an animated series underway in a few months time, and a starring feature in one of DCs far superior animated film series, Justice League Dark. Where is this DC?
All of DCs better known works are semi divine entities, Superman has every power under the sun (harr harr), Batman’s a swiss army vigilante, the Flash is an entity beyond time itself, and the Green Lantern can literally accomplish whatever he imagines. Even Wonderwoman and Aquaman are equipped with their own respective brands of divinity. Here we venture into a collection of DCs heroes who are just off the beaten track, those who walk a path of mysticism, into places where the villains aren’t quite so direct or polite as Darkseid or Brainiac.
Enough build up, let’s get into it.
Into The Dark
The common or garden Justice League are dealing with a few unusual incidents of people suffering serious hallucinations of demons that cause them to act erratically and dangerously. Most of the League conclude that magic must be involved because many of them have some experience with it, but Batman – ever the sceptic – leaves them to their wild conjecture and heads home to be possessed by Deadman, a former trapeze artist turned poltergeist who inhabits mortal bodies to enforce his will on the world. Deadman paints the word “Constantine” on the wall.
The gang gets together in the teleporting House of Mystery, Deadman, John Constantine, the uncontrollably powerful Zatanna, the rhyming demon Etrigan, and the unmovable scrutiny of Batman. As they follow the breadcrumbs to uncover who’s been conjuring demons in an effort to bring hell to earth, they’re besieged on all sides by the mystic forces, a hurricane with a face, a poop-demon, the machinations of one Felix Faust and his spell lasers, and the indifference of Swamp Thing.
The film gives us a summary of some of DCs more interesting properties without burdening us with backstory. The nice thing about most of the animated films is that they give comic book fans the pleasure of a good story without boring us with origins, something that comic fans and rank amateurs (like me) can enjoy side by side. It makes you wonder why people get so obsessed over the same old Justice League goons when actually DC have some truly cool aces up their sleeve that might offer Marvel some real competition. I may be biased because I like my superheroics edgy and dark, but I would dearly like to see more of this.
There are some wonderful easter eggs in the voice acting cast:
Matt Ryan reprises the role of John Constantine, may have mentioned that already.
Jason O’ Mara plays Batman as he has done on many occasions in the Justice League cartoons, as well as playing the temporary director of S.H.I.E.L.D Jeffrey Mace. You know it’s a dark storyline when Batman ends up being the comic relief.
Rosario Dawson makes something of a cameo as Wonderwoman, who has even less involvement than her character in the Defenders.
Alfred Molina plays the immortal villain Destiny, a far more direct big-bad than his previous major comic book appearance Doctor Octopus.
But my personal favourite is another face from the Constantine series returning, Jeremy Davies as Ritchie Simpson, a favourite if only because I was stupidly proud of myself for spotting it without resorting to imdb.
It’s nice to know that geeks can’t kick the habit, and Ryan seems firmly stuck on the role of the Hellblazer, and I’m sincerely hoping that he’s not done with it yet. Between cameos, this animated appearance and the upcoming animated series he appears to be on a mission to make himself as eponymous to the role as RDJ is to Iron Man. In truth Justice League Dark isn’t entirely Constantine-centric, but it’s a nice little reminder that he’s not going away.
It’d still be nice to see more of Jason Blood/Etrigan. It must be said that despite Blood’s protests that Etrigan’s demonic presence is a curse the only indication of his evil nature is that Blood fears he may go on a killing spree… which he never does. Still, a fire breathing, constantly rhyming demon from the very pit of hell trapped in the immortal body of a Arthurian knight strikes me as an epic premise for a film.
It also strikes me that it may be time to resurrect the idea of a Swamp Thing film, with the ever growing fears of global warming as its effects become all too real, the defender of the Green needs to come to the big screen.
A Shared Universe
With the growing popularity of shared universes, or at least attempts at them, it’s worth remembering that DC are actually doing a damn good job of putting one together, they’re just not putting it on the big screen. Their television efforts aren’t all bad truth be told, I may not be getting on with half of the Arrowverse but it’s got a solid fanbase out there. It’s the animated universe that I feel is excelling in terms of quality acting and story telling, and while it may be pulling a few punches in terms of violence and language it’s certainly not targeted to kids.
It’s now a given that I’ll be getting myself a copy of Teen Titans: The Judas Contract to tide me over while I wait for the far more interesting Batman and Harley Quinn, and after that The Watchmen, which may actually change my mind about the property and wipe clean the stench of Snyder.