ANIMATION REVIEW: Justice League: Dark (2017) Blu-ray/DVD Combo

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WARNING! SPOILERS WITHIN! WARNING! 

The movie starts with random people all over the globe having hallucinations their fellow humans are hideous demons, and the result is a lot of homicides are happening, drawing the attention of the Justice League. Obviously something supernatural is happening, and you need to journey back to the past, like waaaay back to when Merlin and Camelot existed to find the cause of it all. Speaking in D&D terms there was a psychopathic magic-user on the loose, Destiny, he called himself and he created this fancy gemstone called the Dreamstone. Its purpose was to torment humans via hallucinations and Destiny would feed on their torment. A warrior named Jason Blood tried to oppose him, but he was no match. Merlin summoned the demon Etrigan to deal with him and this seemed to work. Destiny was “vanquished,” but as is typical with Evil he vowed to return one day. Seeing the critically injured Jason Blood would be of some use to the world he merged Etrigan and the man, which also granted Blood immortality. This flashback seen later in the movie also doubles as an “origin tale” for Etrigan and Blood.

The Justice League are merely background players for this tale with only Batman (Jason O’Mara) serving as a connection between the League and this new team that’s assembled to combat Destiny. Constantine gets the majority of screen time here. I was never a fan of his short lived live-action show on CBS, but I dig him in animation. And for those fans who were there right to the end for his show, Matt Ryan, who starred, also does Constantine’s voice. Constantine’s first scene in this animated movie is a hoot too. He’s seen playing poker with his “buddy” Jason Blood and three demons, which as you can guess leads to violent mayhem when one of the demons accuses John of cheating. He did too, but so did the demons. It was just John was better at it than they were.

John Constantine isn’t the most congenial man in existence, in fact he makes enemies where ever he goes and has very little in the way of friends, but he’s the best man you’ll want on your side when the supernatural shit hits the fan and it sure as hell does in this movie.

Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), a one-time love of John’s is recruited, along with Jason Blood/Etrigan (Ray Chase) and Deadman aka Boston Brand (Nicholas Turturro), who also gets a flashback origin tale. He’s an incredible asset to the team since he can possess people, and there’s a lot body hopping he does that’s essential, especially in the hospital when the “unknown forces of Evil” summon a demon made of shit from the bowls of the sewer. The highlight of this movie for me, however, was the inclusion of a certain team member who doesn’t get enough screen time. I’m talking about Swamp Thing. You may applaud.

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His origin tale is done through dialogue only, and of all the animated representations I have ever seen of Swampy this one here is the best. The story is done as a mystery as the Dark team tries to figure out who’s doing all this. We are eventually led to Felix Faust, but after an incredible battle of magic in his inner sanctum, Faust isn’t the guy. We are then led to a friend of John’s, Ritchie Simpson who contracted a fatal form of “magical cancer” once when he and John were doing combat with someone or something. It’s never elaborated upon. Ritchie’s a collector of arcane artifacts and thinks Destiny’s Dreamstone can cure him. But that’s when we all realize it’s Destiny himself, back from banishment, who’s been the Evil behind the scenes. The way this mystery played out reminded me of how Warcraft (2016) was plotted, which has a similar subplot. We think the Evil is someone, but it’s revealed that someone was just a vassal, a pawn, in it all.

The action animation was great, as I expected it would be. Yes, that’s how I judge my animated hero flicks and TV shows. I’m all right with a certain level of “primitive” character animation, but if the action animation is stiff and uninspired, forget it, I’m out. Thumb’s down, even if the story and characters are well plotted and executed.

There’s no end credits scene on this one. I was hoping there would be a hint of more adventures to come with this team. I would love to see DC/Warner do an all out Swamp Thing movie (hint, hint), but until that happens, if it ever does, I’ll have to settle with Swampy in this one.

Like Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) this one also got an R-rating, mostly for the dark undertones in the prologue and for a couple of impalements. You won’t find anything sexual in this one however.

On February 7th, Warner Brothers releases Justice League: Dark in these various editions: Standalone DVDBlu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Deluxe Edition with Constantine figure, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy with Constantine figure and graphic novel (Best Buy Exclusive), and a Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook.


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Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high defintion widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 French Dolby Digital, 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital (Latin 5.1 & Castillian 2.0), 2.0 German Dolby Digital, 5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital—English SDH, French, German SDH, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish subs

Extras included . . .

  • A Sneak Peek At Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (11:41)
  • The Story Of Swamp Thing (18:01)
  • Did You Know? (Constantine Origin :40/Color Of Magic 1:05/Black Orchid 1:03/Deadman Casting :37)
  • Justice League: Dark At New York Comic-Con 2016 (26:41)
  • A Sneak Peek At Justice Leage: Doom (10:17)
  • A Sneak Peek At Justice Leage: Gods & Monsters (11:07)
  • From The DC Comic’s Vault (2 episodes of Batman: The Brave & The Bold (“Dawning Of The Deadman” & “Trials Of The Demon”)

An excellent batch of extras, as usual. Watching the Comic-con panel and seeing who actor Jason O’Mara was made me aware he’s the dude who plays Mace on Agents Of Shield. I didn’t make that connection until now.

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About Shawn Francis

Movie collector and horror writer.
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