The first DC Animated Original Movie for 2017 is Justice League Dark. Based off of the much-loved New 52 title of the same name, this new animated feature sets to introduce a rather magical dynamic to the DC Animated Universe - and does it ever succeed in doing so.
Following a series of mysterious homicides spread throughout the world, the Justice League comes to the conclusion that a magical element must be responsible for this deadly new outbreak. Despite having plenty of past experiences with magic, Batman expresses his skepticism and walks out; however, upon returning to Wayne Manor, he finds himself temporarily possessed by the hero known as Deadman. Upon awakening, Batman discovers the word Constantine scribbled all over his walls.
Events than flashback to five days prior, where it is revealed that John Constantine and Jason Blood engaged the Brothers Djinn in a high stakes poker game in Las Vegas. It is during said game that John outs up the House Of Mystery as part of a pool in exchange for a box of artifacts, including one called the Dreamstone. Both parties end up cheating, and a battle ensues that sees the Brothers Djinn defeated - but not before they swear revenge on John and Jason.
Returning to the present, Batman pays a visit to Zatanna following one of her performances to inquire of John Constantine, with whom Zatanna had a past romantic relationship. During their conversation, Batman is once again possessed by Deadman, who tells Zatanna to bring the Caped Crusader to John. En route to the House Of Mystery, a tornado is manifested against the trio, who are narrowly able to make it inside the house and escape. Once inside, the heroes are joined by both Constantine and Black Orchid - who happens to be a manifestation of the House of Mystery's magic. The group then gathers to share information before deciding to form a team to deal with these mysterious events once and for all.
The group then heads to the home of Ritchie Simpson, a friend of Constantine and Zatanna's. Once they reach the house, the team is forced to deal with a group of Shrouds determined to collect Ritchie's soul - and to get even with Batman for the numerous times he has cheated them.
Which also happens to be one of the funniest moments throughout the entire film.
After banishing the Shrouds, the team is invited into the house by Simpson, who happens to be suffering from a magical form cancer, and who resents Constantine for abandoning him to his fate. After some convincing, our heroes convince Ritchie to loan them the Keshanti Key, a magical artefact they hope to use in an effort to probe the mind of one of the spree killers from earlier in the movie. It is while doing this that Constantine and Zatanna discover that the man is being controlled by a mysterious shade equipped with a magical ring. In an effort to escape detection, this unknown adversary creates a monster and sends it on a rampage throughout the hospital. The creature, made up of living feces, is eventually defeated at the hands of Batman and Deadman before our heroes head back to Ritchie's home in an effort to discover the identity of this new threat.
Once there, the team discovers that Ritchie is about to die, with Jason Blood and the shrouds standing over him. Batman revives Ritchie with a shot to his chest, but the man ends up slipping into a coma. Blood tries to run, but is captured by Constantine and brought back to the House Of Mystery for interrogation. Blood reveals he had not harmed Ritchie, but was simply looking for a way into the House of Mystery to find the Dreamstone.
Blood then recounts an experience from his youth, as a Knight in Camelot, when a powerful magician named Destiny came to conquer the country using the magical Dreamstone that he'd created. Blood engaged the wizard and split the stone in two, but was mortally wounded in the battle. Merlin would then step in, summoning Etrigan to battle Destiny.
Etrigan defeats the magician, but is then bound to Jason Blood by Merlin.
It is at this point that Ritchie awakens and names Felix Faust as his attacker. The heroes locate Faust, with some help from Swamp Thing, and engage the wizard. He is eventually defeated at the hands of Zatanna, but reveals that he was not involved in hurting Ritchie either.
As the heroes return home, it is revealed that Ritchie has the other half of the Dreamstone, which he's been using to keep his sickness in remission. He combines the halves, bringing Destiny back to life - and seemingly killing himself in the process.
The magician goes on a rampage, looking to sink the world into madness. Our heroes jump into action, with Etrigan engaging Destiny, but being separated back into Jason Blood and Etrigan. Swamp Thing joins the fray, but is defeated when Destiny rips Alec Holland's corpse from his body.
Constantine is able to trick Destiny into bringing him and Deadman into his protective shield, allowing Deadman to wound the magician, while the Dreamstone is destroyed. Blood kills Destiny but, after being separated from Etrigan, succumbs to his mortal wound from centuries before. Days later, Blood is buried near the site of his old village, while Constantine and Zatanna return to the rebuilt House Of Mystery to begin rebuilding their relationship once again.
Justice League Dark has a lot to appreciate about it during its 75-Minute runtime.
For one thing, we love the fact that Matt Ryan is back in the role of John Constantine after his all-too-short-lived stint as the character on live-action TV. Although, we will admit that this is a really nice transition for Mr. Ryan, who will be voicing the character again in an upcoming Constantine animated series over on CW Seed - which we can't wait to see.
Additionally, Nicholas Turturro proves he was born to voice Deadman. He's always ready to deliver the perfect one-liner to lighten even the most dire situations presented throughout the course of the film. His addition to the cast adds some much-needed light to the darkness presented here, and it's always welcome and on point. Here's hoping Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have some plans for the character moving forward, and that he's not just going to feature once within the ever expanding world of the interconnected DC Animated Original Movie Universe.
Jason O'Mara returns to voice Batman for the seventh time, and he's got some of the most entertaining scenes in the film. Whether he's running interference between the mortal and the magic, aggravating the Shrouds, or taking on a feces monster with nothing more then a few batarangs and a defibrillator, The Batman proves there is absolutely nothing he can't handle!
The movie is entertaining and contains a well-constructed and interesting story. While the majority centers around the members of the JLD, it's nice to see the regular Justice League members getting a little bit of screen time and, while it feels a little forced, we love the fact that Batman's back front and center to help save the world once again.
The animation is clean and cool, with plenty of computer-generated augmentation throughout.
Granted, this is a dark movie - and having been slapped with an R rating, this is not the way to introduce younger fans to the more magical side of the DC Universe. However, older fans are sure to find something to like abut this one. Whether its the strong voice cast, the stunning visuals, the entertaining plot, or the impressive roster of heroes and villains, Justice League Dark has taken the DC Animated Universe to the next level.
And we can't wait to see what's coming next!
Featuring the voice talents of Jason O'Mara, Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Nicholas Turturro, Roger Cross, Ray Chase, Jerry O'Connell, Rosario Dawson, Enrico Colantoni and Alfred Molina, Justice League Dark was released on Digital HD January 24th, 2017. IT will be available from Warner Home Video Tuesday, February 7th, on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Special thanks to Gary Miereanu for making this review possible.
Until next time, Infinite Earths fans!
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