Unable to deal with the magical nature surrounding an epidemic of panic-induced murders, The Justice League is at the end of its rope. Batman then receives a mysterious message to contact John Constantine. And soon, he finds himself in the company of Deadman and Zatana. Together, they track the crimes to the evil sorcerer Destiny and form Justice League Dark.
A New Justice League Appears
DC is known for putting out high quality animated features. On the other hand, their live action output has been less consistent. With the release and subsequent disappointment of The Killing Joke animated feature, DC fans were on edge. Understandably, the hype surrounding Justice League Dark was tepid at best. Fortunately, Justice League Dark is a resounding success.
In response to the shortcomings of The Killing Joke, DC created an original story for Justice League Dark. This abandonment of a strict adaptation allowed the creative team to mine the backstories of its characters. As such, this fully realizes each character, justifying potential future installments or spin-offs.
Bringing Matt Ryan back to play John Constantine provided an anchor to the short-lived but loved television series. Camilla Luddington’s empathetic Zatanna is a great foil to the callous Constantine, and their romantic history filled out both characters. Deadman is the comic relief, but he still gets plenty to do. In addition, long-time fans of Swamp Thing will love seeing him get in on the action. However, the major players in the Justice League did not fare so well, Batman in particular.
Batman’s presence in Justice League Dark is little more than a marketing technique. He takes a back seat to the magically inclined characters. And, while that’s a net positive, he’s often standing around with nothing to do. When his investigative skills could actually come into play, he acts more like a begrudging babysitter than the world’s greatest detective. The animation only contributed to this problem by lacking in the quality and detail that could have made up for some of these problems.
As the DC animated films have grown in popularity, the need to release them more frequently has grown. Because of the high demand, animators are not afforded the time needed to create high-quality art. The facial expressions do not bring as much life into the characters as they should. Justice League Dark’s animation is an improvement over The Killing Joke, particularly in the action sequences, but there is so much left to be desired.
In the end, Justice League Dark is a blast. It serves as a great introduction to the more esoteric side of the DC Universe. The main players all have a nice chemistry, and the creative team took great care to make the relationships work. Freeing the characters up from a direct adaptation adds real weight and consequences to the story. This is a direction DC needs to explore as they move forward with their animated films. If they could get the animation in line with the quality of storytelling, DC may become a powerhouse in the animation industry.