Justice League Dark—directed by Jay Oliva; written by Ernie Altbacker and J.M. DeMatteis; starring Matt Ryan (John Constantine), Jason O'Mara (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Camilla Luddington (Zatanna), Nicholas Turturro (Boston Brand / Deadman), Ray Chase (Jason Blood / Etrigan the Demon), Roger Cross (Dr. Alec Holland / Swamp Thing and John Stewart / Green Lantern), Colleen Villard (Black Orchid), Jerry O'Connell (Clark Kent / Superman), Rosario Dawson (Diana Prince / Wonder Woman), Jeremy Davies (Ritchie Simpson), Enrico Colantoni (Felix Faust), Alfred Molina (Destiny), J.B. Blanc (Abnegazar), Jeffrey Vincent Parise (Rath) and Fred Tatasciore (Ghast).
If you've checked out my review for Doctor Strange, then you know that I'm not a fan of magic. This extends to pretty much everything in pop culture, as even when I like a particular series that deals with the subject matter, it's still something I'm not super fond of. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are two examples of great stories that I appreciate greatly, but I can't geek out over in the same capacity as most people. Knowing that information ahead of this review gives you a frame of reference, as you'd tend to like this film more than I did if that's more up your alley.
That being said, no, I didn't particularly like this movie. One of the downsides to these films is always how short they are, which means practically everything feels rushed. When you introduce the majority of the characters for the first time and have to give them very quick backstories to catch the audience up, that comes off even more hastily thrown together.
Take for instance Swamp Thing. The only reason I have any idea what "The Green" is is because I've been a fan of DC Comics my entire life. Watching this film, I'd be pretty confused just what is going on. Even knowing this information, he's still an underwhelming character. Swamp Thing pops up in two scenes—one where he essentially says "What's up? You're a bunch of dicks. Here's that Felix Faust's house." and the other is when he dies. Some character development.
Boston Brand is fine, but feels like nothing more than hollow comedic relief. He's just there for a few chuckles and that's about it.
I was disappointed in Zatanna, as I enjoyed both the Bruce Timm and Young Justice versions of her character significantly more. I do like the romance angle between she and Constantine, though, and if this live action film ever takes place, I have a feeling that's where they'll go. Hopefully, in that movie, she's written to be more than just argumentative and snarky, as the more she does that, the more it takes away from Constantine's most noteworthy trait. His character, by the way, was fine.
"Fine" is something that sums up quite a bit, actually. None of it was good, most of it wasn't bad, and it just sort of exists.
I do have to praise the continued improvement of the animation style, which looks better than ever, as well as the super dark opening and the scene where Batman scares the very entities that take people to Hell, as that made me crack a smile, but in so many aspects of the movie, you can just check things off as being serviceable, such as the voice acting. I have no problems with it, yet I can't think of anything that stood out that I could really tout.
Random side note: these films have an ongoing continuity, which I love, but did I miss the explanation for how Martian Manhunter, Hawkman and John Stewart joined the team? Also, where was Shazam? They couldn't have drawn him in that scene? Most people had no lines, so it couldn't have been an issue of not wanting to pay the actor to voice the role.
The action in these films is usually better, and what hurts it this time is that it's a magic-based story. Typically, those movies and television shows consist of indistinguishable tentacled and toothy demon monsters snarling while our heroes (and our lame villains Felix Faust, Ritchie Simpson and Destiny) spout out a bunch of jargon about The Amulet of Kalamazoo and The Dark Heart of *mashes the keyboard to think of the next name* —aspects that I don't find endearing, but if you do, I'm sure you hate this review.
I would have much rather seen some other stories adapted instead of this film, like Crisis on Infinite Earths or Kingdom Come, but I can see why they chose to do something a little different as well. This should be an okay means to test whether or not there's much interest in making the live action film, and I do hope they pull that off eventually in the future, but just not at the expense of anything I'm more interested in.
Unless you are a completionist who wants to see all of these films or you're a fan of this subject matter or you have an hour to kill, I would recommend skipping this rather than making the time to see it. Go watch one of the films nominated for the Academy Awards this year instead.