The aesthetic of comic book movies, particularly DC adaptations from Warner Bros. like the Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel, seems to be leaning toward a darker, grittier, more realistic aesthetic. Perhaps the most logical way to one-up those movies (at least on the darkness factor) would be with an adaptation of Justice League Dark, and that's certainly the view of Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro, who revealed earlier this year that he was working on a story pitch for a Justice League Dark movie - originally called Heaven Sent - that he hopes will be financed and produced by Warner Bros.
Justice League Dark is a fairly new comic book series from DC that features a team-up of characters who are an alternative to the regular Justice League, not only because many of them stray away from the squeaky-clean superhero path into slightly more morally gray backgrounds and activities, but also because their powers and origins tend to be more supernatural than science-based.
Screen Rant spoke to del Toro at the European premiere of Pacific Rim this week and asked about the status of his comic book movie passion project. The director is moving on to gothic horror movie Crimson Peak before he does anything else and couldn't say for sure whether Justice League Dark was close to being picked up by Warner Bros., but he nonetheless sounded very enthusiastic about the project. We asked what appealed to him most about it and, with a seven-foot-tall poster of a Kaiju behind him to underscore his reply, he said:
"Monsters! More monsters. When I was following the DC comics in my youth, my favorites were Swamp Thing, [Etrigan the] Demon, Deadman ... My earliest love was Constantine, and I love Zatanna, Destiny, the whole mythology. So we're working on a really rich mythological environment."
The "we" refers to del Toro and a mysterious, unidentified screenwriter that he is collaborating with on the story and script for the film. Del Toro has declined to name the writer until the project is "firmed up" a little more, so it's unclear whether it's someone he's worked with before, like Hellboy's Peter Briggs, or someone new entirely.
Though del Toro's film hasn't yet been given a green light, quite a few details about it have already been revealed. The current working title is Dark Universe and all of the characters mentioned above, as well as Madame Xanadu, will be in the main team, along with many other superheroes and antiheroes who have been featured in the comics.
If the film goes ahead, this will be the first time that a Justice League Dark movie has been made, and for many of the characters it will also be their first time on the big screen. The comic book version of John Constantine originally appeared in issues of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing before getting his own long-running series, Hellblazer, and the character is a blond-haired, dry-witted, morally-ambiguous Liverpudlian magician with a habit of getting himself into grim supernatural situations.
The Hellblazer comics were adapted in 2005 as Constantine, which starred Keanu Reeves in the lead role and was, generally speaking, pretty dissatisfying for fans of the character. Constantine's friend and reluctant sidekick, a middle-aged taxi driver and weary family man called Chas, was played by a teenaged Shia LaBeouf in the 2005 film. Needless to say, it wouldn't hurt to have the big screen version of Constantine rebooted.
Swamp Thing has also made it to the big screen, first in a 1982 movie that was written and directed by Wes Craven, then several years later in a very campy sequel. There was also a live-action TV series and a cartoon series (the latter of which had a theme tune that was a remix of The Troggs' "Wild Thing" and should be heard by everyone at least once in their lifetime).
Constantine and Swamp Thing are the only characters from Justice League Dark to have movie adaptations of their respective comics, and that's largely where the appeal of del Toro's movie lies. Unlike properties such as Batman or Superman, which both have multiple beloved big screen adaptations, the Justice League Dark characters either haven't been featured in their own movie in a way that did them justice or simply haven't been featured in their own movies at all. There's plenty of rich comic book mythology in the world of Justice League Dark that has yet to be explored, and del Toro's enthusiasm for the characters alone makes Dark Universe sound like a very worthy pitch.
What do you think del Toro's chances are of getting a Justice League Dark movie made, and who would be in your dream cast for the team members?
Dark Universe doesn't currently have a release date, but with luck it will be del Toro's next project after Crimson Peak. We'll keep you updated on any further details.