Why was Constantine cancelled again? I’m asking this question because NBC produced such an awesome show in Constantine. Of course, I know the reason why. The show had really poor ratings despite being creepy and building a fantastic and well-realized world filled with magic and mysticism. Not many people tuned in to see the phenomenal acting work of Matt Ryan as the titular John Constantine, even though his performance was rather enigmatic as an exorcist, demonologist and
master petty dabbler of the dark arts.
I guess one good thing that came out of the cancellation of NBC’s Constantine is that Matt Ryan is free to appear in other DC related media and television shows. He already appeared a couple of times in the CW’s Arrowverse and now, he’s making his animated debut in Justice League Dark. And, after watching the direct-to-video animated film, I really have to ask, “Why was Constantine cancelled again?” I mean, Justice League Dark was good, but it was Constantine that stole the show.
By the way, although the animated film has been out for a while now, I’ll still make sure that this review will be a SPOILER FREE review. Suffice to say, I really liked Justice League Dark but if you want to get into the nitty gritty of it all, read on!
Justice League Dark takes place within the DC Animated Movie Universe which started with Justice League: War and Son of Batman. When a mysterious power starts causing ordinary people to see visions of demons and supernatural monsters, the Justice League are unable to find out the cause. After getting a “tip,” Batman enlists the help of Zatanna to find Constantine in the hopes of finding and stopping the being that is causing the supernatural epidemic.
By the way, I have to give a shoutout to Deadpool before I go on with the review because I have a feeling that I have him to thank for making Justice League Dark a Rated-R film. This definitely isn’t something that a little kid should watch without having a parent of guardian around! It’s pretty gory and there are some rather shocking imagery. It never gets too intense or bloody but, if you were expecting it to be a fun and jolly romp, you’d be in for a rude awakening!
I appreciate DC having the guts to add all the blood and violence because it really added to the atmosphere to Justice League Dark. If we’re dealing with the topic of the dark arts and the occult, you may as well up the gore. The action in Justice League Dark is all the more better for the added gruesome scenes. However, I will say that the actual action are rather tame for the most part. While they seemed to keep the fighting scenes to a minimum, they are pretty bombastic and action packed. In fact, the final two climatic fight scenes are incredibly good.
One of the things that makes Justice League Dark a really good movie is how they use the dark tone to establish the mood. I mean, it is Justice League Dark and it does live up to the name. Even so, there are still a lot of nice colors, especially during the battle scenes. Even when there are spells flying all over the place, the action is still easy to follow for the most part.
The voice acting from practically the entire cast works. Matt Ryan is still perfect for the role and I can’t really picture anyone else to portray John Constantine anymore. Camilla Luddington’s Zatanna has the perfect mix of elegance and experience that suits the character. I will say that Nicolas Turturro’s Deadman/Boston Brand’s incredibly thick Brooklyn accent did take some getting used to but, once you become accustomed to it, it really fits the rather comedic character.
Rounding the rest of the team is Jason Blood, who becomes the demon Etrigan, Swamp Thing and normal man in a Halloween costume, Batman. Oddly enough, Batman proves to be a little bit of more use than the other two! It’s not like the other two didn’t contribute to the crew, but Batman’s assistance, while pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things, was substantial throughout the film’s 75-minute runtime. If you’re a fan of either Etrigan or Swamp Thing, you may be disappointed with how little they actually helped.
One of the things I enjoyed about Justice League Dark is how it feels like your stepping into a totally new and unseen universe where magic is possible. There’s a sense of wonder for the viewer whenever the film introduces mystical and magical elements but a lot of the characters, namely Constantine and Zatanna, are unamused by it. For the viewer (and Batman actually), these are unknowns and sometimes really incredible things. But for the members of Justice League Dark, it’s just another day on the job for them. Oh, and you gotta love how it’s Batman who’s the dummy this time around and needs to have things explained to him.
The overall story is okay and there is a good mystery with who is causing all of this. But the film falls into the rather unfortunate pitfall that a lot of movies have made recently: the villain’s plot is too complicated to the point of absurdity and relies too much on everything going according to plan. It’s rather ridiculous and there were at least a dozen ways for the main bad guy to get exactly what he wanted without going through all the trouble releasing a magical epidemic and then waiting for everything to fall into place.
There’s also a pacing problem but it’s kind of necessary. While comic book fans may know who Deadman and Etrigan the Demon are, there are probably a lot more who are unfamiliar with them. As such, Justice League Dark goes through the trouble of showing us their origin story. I actually found it unnecessary and disrupted the narrative flow but I understand that some viewers may have needed a primer to how they got their powers.
The ending is also somewhat disappointing. While they do wrap up some loose ends, they don’t really answer everything to a satisfying conclusion. It’s difficult to really explain what I mean without spoiling anything. But let’s just say that only Zatanna and Constantine get a satisfactory conclusion by the end.
All-in-all, however, I would say Justice League Dark is a pretty damn good movie. The moody atmosphere is perfect and the action set pieces were fantastic. In fact, I will say that this is the best film from the DC Animated Movie Universe continuity. It’s still kind of flawed but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.
Oh, yeah. Please bring back the Constantine television series already!
Have you seen Justice League Dark? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!