DVD Review - Justice League Dark

Jay Oliva has worked in the art department of many animated series. He started directing features in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies with Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011).

That same year, a new series of comics called Justice League Dark also began running. Oliva's latest feature is an adaptation of those relatively new comics. The comics are about a team of superheroes who deal with problems or threats that the traditional Justice League can't handle.

Oliva worked on last year's live-action Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which proffers that Batman is the founding member of the Justice League. He's the one who discovers them all and brings them together. This feature establishes that Batman is also the founding member of the Justice League Dark, but what is quickly revealed is that Batman isn't the leader. Batman might have discovered a few of them and brought them together, but he isn't the one in charge.

Matt Ryan who starred in NBC's Constantine and CW's Arrow as John Constantine also stars here as the voice of John Constantine, a working-class detective who studied and investigates the occult. He used to be a con-man from London who is also cynical and snarky but who looks like the musician Sting but in a ruffled suit and trench-coat. He eventually became a sorcerer who can cast magic spells, as well as perform illusions, rituals and curses. He also is a master of stage tricks, including hypnosis, sleight of hand and escapology. His base is the House of Mystery, a haunted house that also has metaphysical abilities. Constantine is also bisexual, according to the comics history, but the NBC series disavowed that. Apparently, so does this movie.

Camilla Luddington voices Zatanna, a medium and magician whom Batman approaches first because she works openly and has her own stage show. She is also one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world. Whereas Constantine can cast spells by waving his hands or body, Zatanna casts spells verbally. She has to be able to speak.

Nicholas Turturro voices Boston Brand aka Deadman, a murdered trapeze artist who exists as a free-floating spirit who can take possession of any person. He's friends with Zatanna because he worked for the same circus as her.

Colleen Villard voices Black Orchid, another spirit who is the spirit haunting the House of Mystery. She's confined to the house but she controls the house and all of its powers and functions. She can take corporal form inside the house or just be ephemeral. Her origin is completely different from that of the comics.

Ray Chase voices Jason Blood who becomes Etrigan the Demon. Jason Blood was a knight from medieval times. In fact, he was one of the Knights of the Round Table, aka King Arthur's Camelot. Jason was mortally wounded by an evil knight named Destiny. Merlin, the powerful wizard of Camelot, saves Jason by bonding him with Etrigan, the rhyming demon from Hell.

Roger Cross voices Swamp Thing, a half-man and half-plant creature who is a strict environmentalist. His presence is limited in this movie, and his use is tantamount to how the Hulk was used in The Avengers (2012).

The premise is that a series of murders result from imposed hallucinations. The source of the hallucinations stump the Justice League, meaning Wonder Woman and Superman don't know or can't figure it out. Batman thinks the source is mystical, so he goes to Zatanna and Constantine for help. Constantine takes over and leads the charge to gather team members who can solve the murders by tracking down magical objects and following the trail.

It's a fun adventure. There's some good, quip-filled writing. The plot is intriguing and entertaining enough. It is the 9th feature in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies to have the words "Justice League" in the title. This movie isn't in the top three, but it's not in the bottom three. It probably falls in the middle somewhere. The titles that I would put ahead of it are Justice League: Doom, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Justice League: Gods and Monsters and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.

Rated R for some disturbing violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 16 mins.


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