What’s up, Fanbros. I’d like to introduce you to our latest contributor to the site hailing from the U.K., Thomas Trang(AKA Chow Yun Facts). You can follow him at: @heyThomasTrang. This is his first of (hopefully) many new entries on the site and we’re excited to greet him. So, without further ado, the Fanbros review of Justice League Dark:
Four minutes into this film, and I’ve started wondering whether somebody spiked the punch. There’s a lady in Washington DC who goes all GTA and starts mowing down pedestrians in her car. Over in Metropolis, a dad tries to blast his entire family with a shotgun (the neighbors are already laid out in the garden shed). A mother throws her baby off a roof in Gotham, but Batman is there to swoop in and save the day. (Phew!)
Then the mother does a swan dive for the sidewalk and she isn’t so lucky. This is not the Saturday morning superhero cartoon stuff I remember.
After the (justifiably) maligned fiasco of Batman: The Killing Joke last year, Justice League
Dark is DC’s second attempt at an R-rated animated movie. 2016 also saw the release of cinematic duds like Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, so the powers that be at DC HQ must be hoping that this new effort bucks the recent trend.
With people across the globe seeing visions of demons, the Justice League conclude that there must be forces of magic at work. For some reason, Batman pulls an Agent Scully on the rest of the team: he ain’t convinced.
I am not 100% up on the continuity of these things, but I’ve read books where the Caped Crusader bumps heads with dudes like the Predator and Judge Dredd. Now he apparently he draws the line at magic. To cite a judge on any episode of Law & Order, “I’ll allow it, but you better be going somewhere with this.”
The movie quickly widens its net as Batman brings in some DC masters of the dark arts like Deadman and Zatanna.
It isn’t long before John Constantine shows up, and it soon becomes clear that he’s really the star of the show. Fans of Constantine on NBC will be pleased to know that actor Matt Ryan is on voiceover duties here, bringing that same dry British wit to the action. Mind you: Nobody outside of a Guy Ritchie film actually talks like this, but it’s still a better look than Batman, who spends most of the time here dropping “well, actually” jewels and walking around with a sour look on his face.
Maybe Batman is wondering why he’s in the movie. I know I was. Apart from some obvious brand recognition for the audience, the main purpose of his presence is for other characters to fill in backstory for him and helpfully explain what’s going on. Even with all the Batsplaining(tm), the plot of Justice League Dark is still a mess.
Our intrepid heroes are soon chasing after magic keys, fending off grim reapers and accessing other planes of existence. There’s a flashback to Camelot, at one point. They even do battle with a monster made from animated human excrement.
I, ahem, shit you not.
Was this a winking homage to Dogma? Who knows, but if you’re wondering whether the movie also took the chance to drop an awful (and very predictable) turd-related pun: don’t worry. Deadman’s got you covered.
Anyway, there’s some more exposition back at the House Of Mystery where we learn the origin of Etrigan/Jason Blood, and the crew are now on the hunt for “wizard and asshole extraordinaire” Felix Faust.
Swamp Thing also makes a brief appearance, coming on strong with the low-slung baritone like an eco-friendly version of James Earl Jones.
While it’s cool to see some of the more obscure characters from the DC Universe get a chance to shine, Justice League Dark is still a hard film to recommend to anyone but the most die-hard fan.
Tonally, the whole thing is borderline schizophrenic. It wants to be dark and moody, but for every beheaded demon or vehicular homicide, there are moments of comic relief that would be more at home on some Nickelodeon joint.
I’m not really sure who this movie is meant to be pitched at. With the R-rating, it’s a little too much for a younger audience. However, I suspect that older fans of more mature storytelling will find the whole thing a bit silly.
The biggest problem is that the narrative is all over the place, even for a superhero movie. I wasn’t expecting Citizen Kane, but I wasn’t expecting a doo-doo golem either.
So while Justice League Dark doesn’t have the problems that Batman: The Killing Joke had, there still isn’t enough magic here to convert the uninitiated.
Justice League Dark (2017)
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Starring: Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, Camilla Luddington, Nicholas Turturro, Ray Chase
How did you feel about the latest entry in the DCAU? Let us know in the comments or @FanBrosShow