Justice League Dark is true to its name from the get go. It begins with a woman who is under attack from terrifying demons before being rescued by Wonder Woman, only to find out that the real monster is – herself. A man holds demons at gunpoint, but when Superman shows up we see they are his cowering family. Darkest of all, a new mother holds her helpless infant over a building’s edge. While Batman manages to save the child, the mother plummets to her death. Dark, dark stuff. When the League realizes that magic is involved the appropriately skeptical Batman ends up working with magic wielder Constantine, sorceress Zatanna, Deadman, and Jason Blood AKA Etrigan the Demon.
This is the first of DC’s animated films to receive an R-rating, but the movie could still have been more adult. While the intro scenes show some disturbing images, the rest of the movie is more PG-13, with things like sex and swearing still only subtly displayed, which almost squanders the harder rating.
Constantine is true to form, even having the cajones to flip Batman the bird. Matt Ryan keeps the role alive following his starring role on the short-lived liveiaction NBC series. Jason O’Mara (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) returns in his seventh film voicing Batman, though he becomes background while the wisecracking brit takes center stage. While it’s always nice to have Batman around, seeing some lesser celebrated heroes take the lead was fun, especially Constantine. Like Batman in many ways, the cynical con-man leads his own group that is a sort of magical Justice League. Batman almost acts as comic relief, as having magic proven to him cracks his stoic facade, but that leaves Constantine to be the brooding hero. Zatanna (Camilla Luddington) holds her own and takes a well-earned invitation to join the Justice League in the end, after proving to herself that she is capable.
While the movie held a lot of promise, the lack of a real villain is a little off-putting, not unlike last summer’s Suicide Squad. The movie is well worth the 75-minute running time in spite of its few short-comings. DC has been making their mark with their animated features, and this shows promise for more adult-focused films in the future.
Geek Grade: B+
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Image: DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation