Fret not. This has nothing to do with Dawn of Justice. I just like the title.
There’s some mystical nastiness happening all over the world, and the regular capes and tights crew in the Justice League are ill-equipped to deal with such an event. Batman shrugs it off saying that people aren’t committing atrocities because they see demons everywhere, they’re just crazy! He washes his hands of all that hoo-doo until Deadman possesses him and writes “Constantine” all over his wall. Now, the Caped Crusader has to seek out Zatanna, his only magical friend, so he can get in touch with John Constantine and get this magical nonsense over with. Let’s hope he brought some extra “Hmms” in his utility belt, ‘cuz this is one adventure where the Dark Knight will constantly find himself out of his depth.
So, here we are with DC’s latest animated movie. Last year was a bit better for them than the couple previous. Return of the Caped Crusaders was a lot of fun, half of The Killing Joke was good, and I have yet to see Mechs vs. Mutants. As for the New 52 movies which have consistently disappointed, I actually enjoyed both. Yes, they had quite a few problems, but overall I like Bad Blood and Justice League vs. Teen Titans (jeez, if it ain’t a Batman movie, it’s a versus movie). Does Justice League Dark continue that upward swing, or are we spiraling down into the likes of the DCEU?
There are some poorly done exposition spots in this movie. Zatanna reciting Deadman’s origin to Batman while they’re looking for the House of Mystery felt a wee bit hamfisted and probably could’ve been done a little smoother. Black Orchid’s descriptions of everyone when they finally get to the House was even worse. Zatanna’s bit could’ve used a little tweaking, but Black Orchid’s was just jarring. Like, “Whoa! I guess we’re pausing the story so we can be told who these people are.” I get it. Exposition is necessary, and it’s not an easy thing to pull off so your audience doesn’t realize it’s happening until they’re done with the story. I just wish they’d gone back to these two scenes. Hell, even Jason Blood’s backstory about the Dream Stone and how he became bonded to Etrigan was pretty well done, but even that felt a little halting.
Also wish Black Orchid could’ve done more in the movie than just deliver exposition and housesit. She looks pretty cool, but she never leaves the House. I mean, yeah, I assume she doesn’t because here she’s a manifestation of the House of Mystery so it (she?) can walk around and be sorta human. Still think she should’ve gone out in the field.
The art style of these movies still needs some work. They’ve done wonders since the first few, but it’s a little off sometimes. Kinda like the faces are too long in some shots.
Didn’t care all that much for Enrico Colantoni as Felix Faust. It’s probably because I was introduced to the character in the amazing Justice League cartoon, so I expect Felix Faust to be menacing and entirely too sure of himself. Colantoni didn’t bring that to the character at all. The arrogance was there, but it felt baseless.
“Where’s the rest of the bad stuff, ol’ Sawcy ol’ pal?” I’m sure you’re wondering. Well…that was it. I kinda love everything else about this movie. I don’t even know where to begin with the praises. Guess I’ll start with the voice cast.
Brilliant. The members of the JLD are so ridiculously well-casted, I can hardly believe it. Camilla Luddington brings a commanding presence and playfulness to Zatanna that caught me off guard. She’s the new voice I’ll hear whenever I read Zatanna from now on. Same with Ray Chase as Jason Blood and Etrigan. Dude just nailed it. Nicholas Turturro and Roger Cross as Deadman and Swamp Thing, respectively, were both super solid, too. And, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let it be known I enjoyed Jason O’Mara as Batman. I’m not saying he’s found his groove yet, but I do think he played the fish out of water Dark Knight Detective extremely well here. Of course, Alfred Molina as big bad Destiny was fantastic. What else do you expect from Alfred Molina? However, the crown jewel here belongs to the magical con-man himself–John Constantine.
Matt Ryan is Constantine. There’s no getting around that now. He played the role to perfection in the painfully short-lived live-action series (bring it back!), and he just continues the greatness here. I honestly don’t see anyone else portraying the character better. Hell, he actually made me like Constantine. I used to hate the guy. Now? I love the charismatic asshole. This was essentially Constantine’s movie, and Matt Ryan doesn’t let anyone forget it whenever he speaks.
The voice acting isn’t all JLD has going for it. Most aspects of the story hit home. This movie is astonishingly funny. I laughed a good bit all throughout, and it was always at the parts you should laugh at. Nothing so stupid it’s funny here. All legit laughs. The action is also wonderful. They’ve really learned how to do battles when it’s a team against one villain. I was legitimately invested in the fights against Felix Faust and Destiny. Really, really well done action scenes. I don’t want to take away from the others, but those two just stand taller.
There’re also a couple moments that actually surprised me. I won’t spoil them, but they genuinely got me. I sincerely hope there’s a sequel so they can revisit these bits.
Y’all, I think I love this movie. I know I tend to speak very highly of things when I should ruminate on them for a while, but I sat down and really thought about JLD before writing this post. It just did everything better than the other New 52 movies. The art style works here, the action scenes are superb, it’s actually funny, there are surprises to be had, the threats are real, and the voice cast is the best one one of these movies has had in years (not counting Killing Joke since that’s cheating). This isn’t just the best New 52 movie; it’s a good movie in its own right. The DC movies are off to a damn fine start this year.
Let’s hope they don’t screw it up.