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[Movie Review] Justice League Dark (2017)

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Plot Summary: 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.

Director: Jay Oliva

Writers: J.M. DeMatteis (story), Ernie Altbacker (story)

Runtime: 1hr 15 min

Main Cast:

  • Matt Ryan as John Constantine (v0ice)
  • Camilla Luddington as Zatanna (voice)
  • Jason O'Mara as Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)
  • Ray Chase as Jason Blood / Etrigan (voice)
  • Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman (voice)
  • Jerry O'Connell as Superman (voice)
  • Roger Cross as Alex Holland / Swamp Thing / John Stewart / Green Lantern (voice)

Review: by The Superior Spider-Sam

First appearing as a team DC Comics’ New 52, Justice League Dark is branch of the good old Justice League we all know and love that deals primarily with issues regarding the supernatural and magical.

The team, lead by John Constantine, takes on enemies you cannot necessarily defeat by punching, slashing, or shooting. This could develop into an interesting take on traditional comic book stories by delving into the mysteries of the occult; however, during nearly all of its run the Justice League Dark comic suffered from poor and convoluted story telling, uninteresting villains, drawn out story arcs, and basically bad writing. Now, we have the latest entry into the DC Animated Universe and another chance to get it right.

What I Liked:

The main draw of the film, and what I enjoyed most, was the character of John Constantine- leader of the team voiced by Matt Ryan. Whether or not you enjoyed or even watched the NBC series, I can assure you- Matt Ryan IS John Constantine. The voice, the look, the mannerisms, the general douche-ness were all there in his performance as the live action hero and is still present in the animated version. The Hell Blazer (moniker for Constantine) really stood out from the rest of the team because of his ability to be a charming jerk to EVERYONE he met (including Batman). We also get a chance to see something that casual fans of Constantine (like myself) do not see very often- that he is crazy powerful. It was a delight to see him shouting out spells, summoning demons, drawing pentagrams that provided force fields and shot magic energy blasts, and much more that I may have known he could do- but never imagined what it would look like in action.

Something else I really enjoyed was the use of magic in general. The team consisted of Constantine, Zatanna, Entrigan the demon, Deadman, and the Batman. Needless to say, one of them was pretty useless (more on that later). Seeing Zatanna using her spells which consist of speaking words backwards, or watching Deadman possess individuals, or seeing Entrigan literally rip creatures apart with fire and his claws (while rhyming his sentences the whole time) was pure delight. We really got to see magical duels that relied on knowledge of spells and intelligence rather than strictly brute strength. One of the main fights involves the magical villain Felix Faust, and watching Constantine and Zatanna fight him is a spectacle- one I’m sure to re-watch.

What I Didn’t Like:

Now it’s time for the problems- and there are quite a few. To describe the first and most obvious problem with this movie, I’m going to borrow from my good friend Anthony who said while we were watching, “he’s only in this movie so they could put him on the DVD cover.” The “he” is unfortunately the Batman- he is COMPLETELY useless in this movie. I wouldn’t say that if his lack of magical talent were the only issue but he hardly goes a scene without asking questions, he literally can’t see some of the ghosts/apparitions the team is speaking with, his batarangs do nothing and then do more nothing, and honestly I cannot remember his contribution to any of the battles. Now, I understand that he is meant to be a surrogate for the viewer and ask the questions we need in order to understand what is happening- but the fact that they made the surrogate the Effin Batman?! It really makes me believe he’s only there so they can sell more DVDs because he’s on the cover.

Next problem I had was with every character who not John Constantine. The issue with them was simple- they had no depth of character. This team was thrown together to fight a magical menace and Constantine received a developmental arc as he went from a jerk wholly uninterested in saving anyone to actually making it his mission to save the world. Yet, somehow, no other characters received the same treatment. This is especially frustrating for the characters of Swamp Thing and Zatanna because they had past relations with Constantine that’s never fully explained but clearly causes strains in the relationship today. Also, if I weren’t a reader of the comics I would have no idea what Entrigan’s deal was in the movie. His backstory was poorly told.

This leads to the largest issue of the movie- it is too similar to the comics- that is, it has the same faults. This movie tells a story that the casual viewer will not care about and that the devoted fan may find badly written. To compare this to another DC Animated film Justice League War- that films introduced the 7 members of the Justice League AND told a coherent enjoyable story at the same time. Justice league dark fails on both fronts- the story is so convoluted with magical mumbo jumbo and the characters (outside of Constantine) do not shine at all. This is a movie made for people who are already fans of the series not for people looking to gain an interest.

The other things I disliked are nitpicking but I did not care for Zatanna’s character design (she had bangs and her face looked too squared), and Deadman’s voice is terrible.

Images Courtesy of IMDB

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