The DC animated universe continues with the first movie of 2017 Justice League Dark, shifting away from the traditional JL to embrace the darker side of superheroes sounded like an extremely risky move, but fortunately through the introduction of intriguing new characters, beautiful animation and a well told story, Justice League Dark is a great start to 2017 for animated films and ushers in these interesting and unique characters into DC’s best animated film to date.
Several incredibly disturbingly incidents around the world that are intercepted by various members of the Justice League (Superman & Wonder Woman) have some humans hallucinating that demons are living among us and must be destroyed. Boston Brand aka Deadman intervenes with Batman leading him to Zatanna and John Constantine to help track down the mystical forces creating the havoc. To finish off the Dark League the above are joined by Swamp Thing, Etrigan and Jason Blood.
The film is not based on any particular story arc from the comics and this helps explain a series of flashbacks from each character and tie it together in a supernatural story combined with some pretty intense action scenes that are a giant leap forward in traditional animation styles. The unique character style of John Constantine and Etrigan to the beauty and detail of Zatanna and Swamp Thing stand out amongst the dark shades on screen.
Deadman is a much needed comic relief in this movie, in scenes where it can get quite dark and disturbing, he provides some great relief. This is also offset by John Constantine’s dry sense of humour along with the i love him, i hate him dyamic. The biggest surprise was Zatanna, this is the first time I have geniuinely responded to the character and cared about her and this is helped by the performance from Camilla Luddington who brings a sweet and extremely strong persona to the role.
Matt Ryan returns as Constantine and really could not be voiced by anyone else. Jason O’Mara returns as Batman for the seventh time around and continues to grow and develp Batman as one of the most interesting versions and here whil he is definitely a background character, he makes the most sense to help assemble the Dark league and help achieve their mission.
Animation wise it is hard to know where to start. The palette is dark and is balanced by different colours for different kinds of magic. Purple and red are evil colours of magic while white is good. Interestingly enouch Constantine not being a traditional magical being weilds a kind of orange glow with his conjurings and this is a great addition to the character. Swamp Thing is definitely the most impressive character design wise in this movie. The colours are rich and his eyes are intimidating. The fight sequences with Swamp Thing in the city are intense and well animated with a great soundtrack, it made me want to see more of this character and these characters.
If you don’t know these characters or anything about the magical side of the DC universe, don’t go into this expecting a big name Justice League film, instead meet some new ones who open up a whole different side of the Justice League and will hopefully provide some fantastic stories in the future shared universe (come on WB animation you know you want to give us more!) You will get an entertaining romp through some great alternate DC characters that will make you want to delve into the comics.
Director Jay Oliva knows his DC and has delivered a string of DC animated hits in the last few years, but in Dark sets his stride and delivers his finest animated film to date using the DC shared universe. Getting a cast of characters, particuarly in animation for a bunch of characters who have not been brought into the mainstream before is no easy feat, but Oliva delivers this effortlessly.
Justice League Action is a DC animation masterpiece. It successfully manages to blend story, animation, new characters and a darker than usual storyline into an animated film that you will wnat to watch over and over again. Characters like Superman and Wonder Woman do make an appearance (as well as some new members of the Justice League #spoilerts!) but the spotlight never fades from the Dark characters who deliver the goods and solidify their place in the shared DC animated universe.
Review by Alaisdair Leith
Justice League Dark is available for digital download now and will be on DVD and Blu Ray next week.