Justice League: Dark, releasing today in Blu-Ray and DVD, earns the “dark” part of its name. (It has been available to own on Digital HD since January 24th.)
1. It’s Rated R for a Reason
It opens with a chilling sequence in which a woman sees monsters and runs over an entire street of them with her car, only for the next scene to reveal that these were hallucinations and she’s killed scores of pedestrians. Another man under the control of a hallucination menaces his family with a shotgun.
The violence isn’t gory but it’s terrifying, far more suited for the horror than the superhero genre.
2. It’s a Good Introduction to DC’s Magical Characters
The Dark League is made up of John Constantine, Jason Blood/Etrigan, Zatanna, Deadman, Black Orchid, and Swamp Thing, plus Batman along for the ride to give credence to labeling this team as part of the Justice League. The origins of Deadman, Etrigan, and Swamp Thing are all recapped in the course of the movie, and their origins are covered more in depth in the special features on the Blu-Ray.
My son (17) was familiar with Etrigan from the Batman: Brave and the Bold miniseries, but Deadman was mostly new to him.
3. Constantine Is the Lead
Yes, Batman is in this but this movie is Constantine’s show. For comic fans, your favorite warped anti-hero is mostly intact, though my son wanted him to have more of a pronounced Cockney accent. Matt Ryan, who played Constantine on his live-action show, does equally as well with voice acting.
4. How Does It Stack Up to Other DC Animated Movies?
I’ve not been a fan of the last few years of DC movies, finding them too dark as a whole, and not as interesting as, say, Justice League/Justice League Unlimited or the various Batman animated series. But this one is decent, the plot moves along nicely, and the visuals are great.
5. About Those Visuals
When characters fight with magic, it should look cool. This does, featuring everything from magical shields, portals, tornadoes, a sequence in which elephants disappear, and those terrifying monsters. The visuals were our favorite part of the movie and makes it worth watching.
6. The Plot Is Okay
There is a twist to the mystery plot. My son and I sorted it out right away. You likely will too. That made the story less suspenseful, but it did add poignancy to the ending.
7. Deadman and Black Orchid Bond
These felt like a team that were only together because they could use magic, rather than having anything in common. Still, Deadman, who is one of the loneliest of DC characters, and Orchid, the living embodiment of the House of Mystery, have the most emotional scenes together.
8. Yes! The House of Mystery
A staple of DC’s horror stories, The House of Mystery sometimes comes when you call, sometimes not, depending on its whims. Early on, the movie features a great chase between the Batmobile and a magical tornado. Only the appearance of the House saves them. It cannot be destroyed. No one knows why. It’s my favorite house in the DCU, even over Wayne Manor and the Fortress of Solitude.
9. Batman Has a Few Good Moments
This isn’t essential viewing for Batman fans but the Dark Knight still has a few good moments, and some snark about how it doesn’t always take magic to defeat magic.
10. Special Features: Preview Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
The special features on the Blu-Ray are worth it, because they include more on Constantine, Black Orchid, and Deadman. But both the Blu-Ray and the regular DVD feature a short preview of the upcoming Teen Titans: Judas Contract movie. This is one of my favorite storylines ever so I was psyched to see a movie coming. I was not psyched that the movie rewrites Deathstroke’s motive in hunting the Titans. In the comics, his son Grant took a contract for HIVE to catch the Titans. Grant died, and Slade felt obligated to finish what his son started. A twisted sort of honor but honor nonetheless.
In this movie, he’s turfed out of the League of Assassins in favor of Damian Wayne, which makes Slade angry.
Yes, this movie will also include Damian Wayne, who wasn’t even on the radar in the original story.
I remain skeptical that I will like it any better this way. But, hey, at least the preview featured a bunch of classic George Perez panels.
Justice League: Dark is available in Blu-ray™ Deluxe Giftset ($39.99), featuring an exclusive Constantine figurine (which is pretty sweet); Blu-ray™ Combo Pack ($24.98); and DVD ($19.98).