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8/16/17

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK - REVIEW


Released in early 2017, Justice League Dark was an animated feature based on the DC comics run by Peter Milligan following the likes of John Constantine, Zatanna and Deadman as they battle various demonic/magical beings with some help from Batman and the Justice League.

The prologue is surprisingly grim and more than earns the film's R rating as we see normal people in various cities panicking when they start seeing demons everywhere. They start killing others, even themselves thinking they're defeating monsters when, in fact, those turn out to only be hallucinations. The Justice League has an emergency meeting where they discuss the possible cause of all this and Batman's investigation leads him to John Constantine. The tone switches radically when the trench coat-wearing occultist and his magical pals enter the picture as we first meet Constantine (voiced by Matt Ryan) as he engages in a high-stakes poker game in Las Vegas with the Demons Three before a fight inevitably breaks out. Batman (Jason O'Mara) seeks out Zatanna (Camilla Luddington) to ask her questions about Constantine and, soon enough, everyone is gathered in the same place, ready to collaborate on a solution to the unexplained phenomenon that's been taking lives left and right. Don't expect to see a Justice League movie, this is very much about John Constantine and his team with Batman tagging along and other familiar faces showing up here and there.

There's maybe not much reason for Batman to even be in this story but the character does contribute a lot of cool moves during the action sequences, his seriousness is a welcome contrast to the infinitely more jokey Deadman and he represents the JLA so no real complaints there. The plot leads the team to one of Constantine's old friends, who is suffering from a magical cancer (don't ask), the forest where we find none other than Swamp Thing and finally to supervillains like Faust and Destiny. The intrigue works quite well, the characters are likeable and the animation is solid so Justice League Dark is, at the very least, a bit of fun. If you're not familiar with a lot of those characters, this film should make you want to learn more about them and dig deeper into the comics. As enjoyable as the action is and as amusing as our anti-heroes are, however, one would have liked to see an overall darker film in the vein of the aforementioned prologue. Characters do die and some of the fights get a bit rough but this is an overall pretty tame fantasy superhero adventure more akin to Doctor Strange than the Hellblazer comics. A last-minute re-cameo from Swamp Thing makes little sense and the ending is rather anti-climactic but the film itself is still perfectly watchable.

Justice League Dark won't go down as one of DC's finest animated features but it works fine as an introduction to the more occult side of the DC universe and as a one-off viewing. It's an entertaining John Constantine vehicle, Batman's in it and there's never a dull moment so not too bad overall.

Hit-and-miss.

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