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Justice League Dark (Blu-ray Review)

3 Feb, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 2/7/17
Animated Superhero Fantasy
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 BD gift set
Rated ‘R’ for some disturbing violence
Voices of Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, Camilla Luddington, Nicholas Turturro, Ray Chase, Roger R. Cross, Jeremy Davies, Rosario Dawson, Jerry O’Connell, Enrico Colantoni, Alfred Molina.

There seems to be quite a following building up around Matt Ryan. No, not the quarterback for the Super Bowl bound Atlanta Falcons. This Matt Ryan played the title character in NBC’s now-canceled “Constantine” TV series, then reprised the role on CW’s “Arrow,” and now reprises it again in Justice League Dark, a movie that spotlights the supernatural superheroes of DC Comics.

Occult detective and master of the dark arts John Constantine is front and center in Justice League Dark, still managing to piss off everyone he does business with. He’s basically an animated version of the TV character, which should please fans of the show to no end, even if this storyline has nothing to do with his live-action counterpart.

Constantine is sought out by Batman (Jason O’Mara) to investigate a series of grisly murders carried out by ordinary people who start to believe everyone around them is a demon. As the title would suggest, this is a dark storyline for a superhero tale, but the DC Universe creative team manage to infuse it with a surprising amount of levity, not only due to the presence of Ryan but also Nicholas Turturro as the ghostly Deadman, and the winning chemistry among the rest of the Dark team, which also includes fan-favorite characters Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), the Demon Etrigan (Ray Chase) and Swamp Thing (Roger R. Cross). And, in another nod to the “Constantine” TV show, Jeremy Davies reprises his role as Ritchie, an old buddy of Constantine who’s tired of ending up on the wrong side of his friend’s magical misadventures.

While the film maintains a typical level of action and violence compared with its predecessors (like Batman: The Killing Joke, it is rated ‘R’ as opposed to the typical ‘PG-13’ for these direct-to-video releases), its magical motifs give it a bit of a different tone. Were it not for the presence of Batman, one might get the impression this was a response to Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie than a new “Justice League” adventure.

Justice League Dark is a welcome chance to shine the spotlight on some of the under-served but nonetheless popular characters of the DC Comics mythos. Those familiar with the “Constantine” show will find a lot to appreciate in the character’s return here, and fans who haven’t yet seen the show will hopefully be motivated to check it out on Warner Archive’s recent Blu-ray. Ryan is due to reprise the character again in an upcoming animated Web series.

While this is clearly Constantine’s movie (he is the subject of the giveaway figurine included with the Blu-ray gift set), another notable character appearing in the movie is Swamp Thing, an iconic character perhaps best known to mainstream audiences from his eponymous 1982 film directed by Wes Craven, and a subsequent 1990-93 TV series. Swamp Thing is the primary focus of the Blu-ray bonus materials, with an 18-minute featurette detailing the history of the character through various interviews, including his creator, Len Wein.

The subject of the resurrection of Constantine, among other subjects, is left to a 27-minute recap of Justice League Dark’s 2016 New York Comic Con panel, which featured Ryan, O’Mara, producer James Tucker, director Jay Oliva and character designer Phil Bourassa.

Additional production tidbits are offered in four vignettes, running about a minute each.

The Blu-ray also includes two bonus “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” cartoon episodes about Deadman and Etrigan, plus trailers for earlier DCU movies.

Finally, there’s a preview for the next DCU animated movie, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, coming this Spring. Originally planned as one of the original DCU movies back in 2007, the adaptation of the classic 1980s comic book storyline will now serve as a sequel to last year’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans, and will feature one of the last performances of the recently deceased Miguel Ferrer, who voices the villain, Deathstroke.

About the Author: John Latchem

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