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As we move into 2017, DC is under a microscope in terms of their movies. To be honest, I’m quite looking forward to Wonder Woman, and hope that Justice League Part 1 will blow everyone out of the water. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded that DC went through some rough times in 2016. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to impress everyone, resulting in the film underperforming, and while Suicide Squad was a financial hit, it didn’t fare well with critics and audiences being split with it. Personally, I find both films to just be middle of the road. I’m sure if I thought long and hard, I could explain why they don’t work for me, but this is about animation so how did they do in 2016? Not well either. Besides the amazing Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, their offerings were boring, underwhelming, or terrible. Luckily, if DC’s 2017 offerings are anything like The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, then they are in good hands. Let’s just dive in and see why Justice League Dark is one of the best starts in terms of animated films for 2017.
All over the world, normal law-abiding citizens are going on murderous rampages killing innocent people in the process. The problem comes into play when the Justice League try to stop them, and they find out the people doing these horrible acts of violence are apparently seeing demons. Batman, voiced by Jason O’Mara, then decides to enlist the help of the more magical/supernatural heroes of the world. These include John Constantine, voiced by Matt Ryan, Zatanna, voiced by Camilla Luddington, Boston Brand a.k.a Deadman, voiced by Nicholas Turturro, Jason Blood/Etrigan the Demon, voiced by Ray Chase, Black Orchid, voiced by Colleen Villard, and Swamp Thing, voiced by Roger Cross. It’s up to them to find out who is exactly causing all this chaos.
So, what does DC do right in this Jay Oliva-directed animated film? Well, I can tell you one thing that a majority of DC’s film line-ups didn’t have last year, charm. Justice League Dark probably has one of my favorite casts of characters in terms of DC animation. The way they work off one another makes them very likable and endearing to watch. I’m not fully on the DC hate bandwagon, but I’m not going to lie and say I found a lot of their recent iterations of characters in film form interesting or worth liking. Justice League Dark has a great balance of characters who are engaging and worth investing into. I think the best example of this is a scene early on in the film where John Constantine and Jason Blood are playing poker with The Demons Three. This one scene balances out action, comedy, and personality. Outside of that one scene, there are other points in the overall story, where the characters were engaging, and it helped that there was a good mystery of where the paranormal incidences were coming from. I was hooked in terms of what was happening, the villains behind this whole shebang, and let’s not forget how great the action is.
The animation is fantastic. While it might be straight-to-DVD quality animation that you normally see in terms of DC’s animated features, and yes, there is a tiny bit of stiff movements, it’s definitely easy to tell that this film had a bigger animation budget than, say, The Killing Joke. Due to this being a story that revolves around magic and demons, you not only get great visuals of the spells, but also action that takes advantage of said magic. It’s why animation is such a great form of entertainment. While you do need to create it, you are not limited by real life physics or limitations. Let’s face it; unless you are Game of Thrones, or you get a really good effects team, TV-grade effects are not going to be that impressive. It’s just so satisfying to watch the action in this movie, and see how creative the spells got.
The voice actors that were chosen were superb. It was a nice touch that they got Matt Ryan, who played John Constantine in the cancelled-too-soon NBC series as well, for this film. It’s like hearing Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop. If it’s not Steve Blum, then it’s not the same character. The other cast members, in addition to the ones I mentioned above, include Alfred Molina as Destiny, Enrico Colantoni as Felix Faust, and Roger Cross as Swamp Thing. They all did a great job at their roles.
Unfortunately, some of my complaints for this film come from some of the characters. They don’t really do much with Swamp Thing, and he doesn’t appear in the film until the 40-minute mark. He’s not really that interesting, and when he fights the big baddie of the film, he gets taken out rather quickly. I also didn’t care for what they did to Etrigan. Granted, I enjoyed about 80% of his screen-time, but what happens in the last 20% f this film bugs me. I won’t say what happens, but still. Deadman could also get somewhat annoying at times. I get why he couldn’t do much because he’s a soul, but he was very much the comic relief.
Justice League Dark might be the newest entry in the flawed rebooted DC animated film universe, and it does have its share of problems, but it’s easily the best one since Batman versus Robin. I liked the fighting, the comradery between the characters, the animation, and the story. I wish they were able to flesh out some more characters and not one-shot them, because the team in this film were easily the most endearing and entertaining. If you are a DC fan, and haven’t picked this film up yet, then I highly recommend doing so. Even though it’s early in the year, and I still think after Justice League Dark and The LEGO Batman Movie, this could very well be DC and WB’s year in animation. Well, that was fun, but next time we shall take a look at China’s highest grossing animated film that wasn’t made by other studios with Monkey King: Hero is Back. Yes, it’s spelled like that. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time.
Rating: Go see it!