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Listen to our in-depth review about the film above to learn more about Justice League Dark. In Gotham, Metropolis, and around the world, citizens are seeing their friends and family as ghastly demonic creatures intent on their destruction, causing many to kill innocent people. When the Justice League convenes to consider action, they realize that it is the work of dark magic, something they are not fully equipped to handle. Batman (voiced by Jason O’Mara) himself is most dissuaded by it all, not convinced of the truth, but is swayed back when he gets a visit at Wayne Manor by Deadman (voiced by Nicholas Turturro), also known as Boston Brand, who scribbles the word “Constantine” on the walls, which leads Batman to Zatanna (voiced by Camilla Luddington), a stage magician who uses very real magic.
“Constantine” is John Constantine (voiced by Matt Ryan), a powerful sorcerer and exorcist with a general distaste for well, everyone, whom we find out, five days earlier had a bad poker game with the Demons Three, gaining possession of a shard from a relic called the Dreamstone, created in ancient times by an evil sorcerer named Destiny, thought to have been rendered harmless by Merlin in the Middle ages. Somehow, someone–or something–has kickstarted the stone again and its powers are running rampant. The Dreamstone is actually the stuff of nightmares we’re told, a piece of dark sinister forces that has victims seeing the worst within themselves and then feeding off their torment.
A friend of Constantine, an ailing Ritchie Simpson (voiced by Jeremy Davies), steers them to a possible lead, another powerful sorcerer named Felix Faust (voiced by Enrico Colantoni), though it becomes clear that Constantine’s own shard may be playing a part in it all. Along with other players, including Jason Blood and his demon alter ego Etrigan (voiced by Ray Chase), Swamp Thing (voiced by Roger Cross), guardian of the earth’s plant life, and the Justice League members themselves, they set about to take on a risen demigod with means and motivation to rule the world.
Directed by Jay Oliva, who has been directing DC Comic animated films for ten years, Justice League Dark is the twenty-seventh film in the series and only the second to be given an adult rating of ‘R’ for its themes of violence, with last year’s Batman: The Killing Joke being the first. That rating seems well-deserved as the film begins with a pretty intense sequence of violent acts that set an early tone, though it doesn’t sustain it, swinging back to more traditional superheroes versus supervillians as it heads for its exciting finale. That’s actually the right choice as it puts the story in motion and then allows us to concentrate on the diverse characters, of which there are plenty. Seriously.
The standout is Constantine, voiced with some real fun by Ryan, who actually played Constantine in a short-lived live-action television drama, taking to the animated iteration with some great energy. He just about carries the film once he’s introduced, and is the conduit between all sides. That said, it is Zatanna who comes of best though, a terrific character who gets some truly great moments, revealing how her magic is just about the most powerful thing there is in this universe, at one point even stopping Superman (voiced by Jerry O’Connell) in a truly inspired sequence. Luddington really balances Ryan’s work well and delivers a few surprisingly emotional high marks. Most amusing of course is Batman, with O’Mara, whose been doing the voice since 2014’s Justice League: War offering quips and grunts in reaction to the events throughout, perfectly capturing the Caped Crusader’s sardonic attitude. It’s good stuff.
With so many characters, it might seem impossible to be able to give them all enough time and weight, and yet Justice League Dark does it mostly well, even it there could have been more with Ritchie Simpson and a few more appearance by the more familiar heroes. Still, action is the name of the game and there’s plenty of stirring set pieces, with some as-expected good animation from the now very reliable team from Warner Bros. Animation. For fans of the long-running movies or new-comers just hopping onboard, JLD will be well worth a look.
Movie description: Justice League Dark is a 2017 animated superhero film about a group of supernatural powered beings who join forces to face off against supernatural villains of dark magic.
Director(s): Jay Oliva
Actor(s): Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Jason O'Mara