Despite the efforts of Guillermo del Toro to put together a live-action film, it seemed as though DC's Justice League Dark was dead in the water. Fortunately, fans of DC’s darker side can finally celebrate, as the occult project is finally in the works. Devotees of the occult comic book series, which ran from November of 2011 to March of 2015, will now have the opportunity to see their favorite mystical characters in (animated) action.
The move comes as Warner Bros. and DC have been pushing boundaries, releasing the controversial (if not for the right reasons) Batman: The Killing Joke as an R-rated animated film. Rumors of an animated Justice League Dark feature broke last month and are now official. The new feature will also reunite Matt Ryan with his former TV character, John Constantine.
In honor of their latest, and most supernatural venture, DC put together a featurette (watch it above) with the input of prolific animation director Jay Oliva, producer James Tucker, and DC’s director of animation Mike Carlin. The eight-minute segment explores the style and cast of the latest DC animated venture. Claiming to take cues from popular entertainment like video games and anime when creating the new series, the new film has distinct stylistic elements, such as highlighting each character's powers with different occult runes.
In addition, the film will heavily feature Batman (voiced by Jason O'Mara) as a skeptic working alongside the loose band of occult superheroes. Included are fan favorites like Swamp Thing, Zatana (Camilla Luddington), Deadman (Nicholas Turturro), and Jason Blood/Etrigan, aka the Demon (Ray Chase), several Vertigo Easter eggs, and an appearance by Black Orchid. Producer Tucker described Justice League Dark, saying:
“No one is happy when they show up. If anything, with Justice League Dark, everyone is frightened when they show up. They misunderstand them, so...Having monstrous people who do heroic things is always kind of cool."
Equally thrilling is the return of Ryan from the prematurely canceled Constantine. While NBC’s series never quite found its mark, its cancellation after just one season hit many fans of the supernatural character – who’s previously outing was the 2005 film, Constantine with Keanu Reeves – as a major disappointment. After getting short shrift, Ryan is looking forward to further exploring the role, saying:
“I really wanted to jump into this project, to play Constantine in a different context…around some of the iconic characters that are in the DC dark world.”
The plot, from what we know so far, revolves around a crime wave perpetuated on a global scale by ordinary "law-abiding" citizens. It appears the wrongdoings are the work of dark forces seeking to remake the world in their image (they sure like doing that). In the wake of these inexplicable illicit activities, the beleaguered Justice League – which will include Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Green Lantern – begrudgingly turns to occult forces for aid.
The Justice League Dark film is exciting for many reasons. First and foremost, it brings an element of mysticism to the DC Universe. In addition, fans of the short-lived Constantine will finally get the chance to watch their favorite anti-hero team up with the good forces of darkness – something which was in the works before the show was canceled. The producers also say the film will delve into more horror elements prevalent in the mystical Vertigo universe. So even if Justice League Dark doesn't warrant an R-rating like The Killing Joke, the new animated feature won't be a toned down, kid-friendly picture.
Due to its darker nature, casual fans might be tempted to compare Justice League Dark to other heavier fare like Batman: The Killing Joke. However, the animated film has more in common with Marvel's first foray into the magical side, Doctor Strange. It is curious that DC chose to release a supernaturally themed feature prior to the Marvel's own Sorcerer Supreme taking his cinematic bow. At the same time, both features have been in the works, on and off, for a number of years. Their choice may have been strategically planned, or it may simply be a matter of right-time, right-place.
One thing is for sure: fans of darker, mystical comic books may have a banner year on their hands, depending upon how well Justice League Dark conveys its spooky subject matter. If it fares well in home video sales, it may prompt Warner Bros. to reopen their dusty tomes and put a JLD film back on the dockets.
Warner Bros./DC’s Justice League Dark animated feature comes to Digital HD, DVD, and Blu-Ray this fall. We’ll keep you posted on any further developments.