Justice League Dark is an animated movie set in the headquarters of DC Comics’ all-star superhero team, during that one time when no one got round to paying the power bill. Just kidding! This direct to DVD film actually focuses on a band of crime fighters who are gifted in the mystical arts. Over in the States Justice League Dark lived up to its name because the ratings board deemed that its content deserved an R classification. I guess the folks over at Warner Bros are keen to ride on the coattails of Deadpool, who has previously sold gangbusters despite its mature age rating. To be honest though I didn’t think that the violence or language in Justice League Dark was all that bad. No one even gets laid… presumably because the writers want to avoid the backlash caused by Batgirl doing the horizontal mambo in a prior release.
This twenty-seventh entry in the DC animated movie franchise begins with several citizens committing atrocities. One man tries to murder his family, a panic stricken lady is seen mowing down pedestrians with her car and a young mother attempts to toss her new-born off a building. Was the parent in question simply trying to dispose of the smelly nappy affixed to the child? Nah, the aforementioned trio are the victims of an enchantment, which makes them believe that they are being assaulted by monsters. Batman, despite being the world’s greatest detective, dismisses the possibility that supernatural forces are responsible – even though the DC universe is rife with magic. An encounter with Deadman (a heroic spirit who can possess others) however convinces the Caped Crusader to reassess his views on the matter.
In order to investigate the root of the paranormal delusions Batman recruits the services of busty magician Zatanna, rhyming demon Etrigan and a spell-casting shyster known as John Constantine. The highlight of Justice League Dark is seeing these lesser-known characters get a moment in the spotlight. Batman is a big name, but his role in the movie is rather limited. I suspect he merely tags along with the group because it’s a proven financial fact that plastering the Dark Knight on a DVD case equals more sales. Constantine gets the most screen time, even if he is a reluctant team player. The British anti-hero is more of a lone wolf who specializes in manipulating others (not even Swamp Thing is immune to his swindles.) John is however convinced to follow the righteous path by former flame Zatanna. I guess he has a fetish for fishnets and top hats.
My rating for Justice League Dark is three stars. To be honest the movie is one of the weaker DC animated films I have watched in recent years. It’s worth renting if you like superhero cartoons, but I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it. The movie reminds me a little of Suicide Squad. It’s entertaining enough thanks to the action and funny one-liners, but the plot itself isn’t great. When it comes to grading those films I can be more generous with Justice League because it has the sense to wrap things up around the seventy-minute mark, moments before tedium begins to set in. Suicide Squad on the other hand felt like it was wasting my time with its bloated two hour running time. Margot Robbie in hot pants will distract me for ninety-minutes, but after that my mind will wander and begin to notice the scripts many flaws.
One big disappointment I had with the film would have to be the voice acting. I’ll forgive Deadman’s annoying accent because he is a comic relief character. Jason O’Mara as Batman cannot compare to the likes of Kevin Conroy or Troy Baker though. Constantine’s voice actor lacked passion too, which is odd given that Matt Ryan who fronts the Constantine television series was the guy in the recording booth. Perhaps I found Justice League Dark to be mediocre because I prefer vigilantes who fight street level crime or superheroes whose origins lie in science. When it comes to magic I can never get invested, because no matter how dire things get our heroes can escape with an incantation or wave of a wand. Magical Deus Ex Machina annoys me like old school magicians. They make me want to pull my hare out.