DC has a reputation for producing high-quality animated films, from Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, to Justice League: War. A lot of their success is placed on the shoulders of Batman, with him being a central character in many animated films, to the point he eclipses other characters. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case with DC’s latest movie, Justice League Dark, which focuses on magical heroes like John Constantine, Zatanna and Etrigan.
Although Batman is featured in the film, he’s used as a background character. He represents the point of view of the audience, who are introduced to a different world. Constantine and Zatanna are the true heroes. The film begins with people hallucinating they’re seeing demons and commiting crimes because of nightmare magic. The Justice League suspects there’s a supernatural threat, leading Batman to track down Zatanna for the whereabouts of Constantine.
Batman, Zatanna and Deadman travel to The House of Mystery to find Constantine. They form a team and visit Constantine’s friend, Richie Simpson, who is suffering from magical cancer and resents Constantine for not doing more to help him. Richie loans them the Keshanti Key, an artifact that lets them access different planes of existence. The team are joined by Jason Blood, who was looking for the Dreamstone. Together, they investigate the nightmare magic.
My favourite character in the film is Constantine, voiced by Matt Ryan. He’s irreverent, sarcastic and cynical, providing a great counterpoint to Zatanna’s hopeful outlook. Ryan does a grand job of presenting the surliness of the character. He also captures the vulnerability of Constantine underneath all the sarcasm and biting wit.
Zatanna is a highlight and the true powerhouse of the team. In a stand out segment, she fights against Felix Faust and kicks his ass single-handedly. Camilla Luddington puts a lot of effort into bringing Zee to life, from capturing her optimism, to showing off her toughness.
The animation is top-notch, with smooth facial expressions and eye-popping colours. The story features the right amount of twists and turns, so it never feels boring. Humour is executed well to balance darker moments, with comic relief coming from Deadman, Constantine and Etrigan.
Justice League Dark is an impressive showcase of DC’s magic community. It’s a reminder that Batman doesn’t have to be at the centre of a story to make it entertaining. I hope the trend of lesser known characters having their time in the spotlight continues.