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If the Warner Brothers executives would like to fix their live-action DC Extended Universe, they don’t have to look far to find the people who can do it. Justice League Dark, the Warner Brothers animated movie, is a good example of what would work well on the big screen.

While we begin with the members of Justice League that you know (and love) including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, it quickly becomes apparent that defeating the enemy is going to require something more than punching things with great force.

So, Batman goes looking for supernatural detective (and all-around a-hole) John Constantine. While the presence of the old-school Justice League, and particularly Batman is cool, this is really the story of Constantine and many of the heavy hitters in the DC horror comics.

In fact, one of the really fun things in this film is taking a tour of many of the horror and magic characters that have been around for decades. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises, but whether you followed these characters in the 60s and 70s horror titles, or you found them through their appearance in the DC/Vertigo line, you’ll get a kick out of seeing them in action.

What makes Justice League Dark so effective is not a great story, and it’s not brilliant visuals, it’s simply knowing these characters so well and presenting them to you properly.

John Constantine (perfectly voiced by his live-action counterpart Matt Ryan) is the selfish, abrasive, but wickedly clever character that they missed in both the Constantine movie with Keanu Reeves and with Matt Ryan in his many incarnations.

Zatanna (Camilla Luddington) is charming, and kind, but hides darker and exceptionally powerful abilities beneath that persona.

I’ve never enjoyed Boston Brand/Deadman more than this version voiced by Nicholas Turturro. He was funny and cool.

The other characters are all right on target. And what do you know? When you understand these characters so well then they are interesting and they each have a part to play, and these scenes just click.

I love the Vertigo version of these characters, which is much much darker, so it’s interesting to see them fully re-introduced into the greater superhero universe, both in the comics and in other media. I think they are doing a good job of keeping some of the edge while softening them a bit for wider consumption.

What you have when you don’t understand these characters is Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern. What you get when you do understand these characters is Justice League Dark.

Much of that credit goes to writer J.M. DeMatteis who has an extensive background as a prolific comic writer. He’s got these characters down cold. And while the plot for Justice League Dark is not earth-shattering by any means, it’s entertaining, it sets up what could be a whole series of new movies, and it vividly demonstrates how good these characters are if you know what you’re doing.

There’s fun action and some inventive solutions as each of the good guys deal with adversity. Batman is really a supporting character here, but one moment with the “Shrouds” is absolutely hilarious, and he manages to be relevant outside of his comfort zone.

I really wish these direct-to-video animated features were produced one notch better. This movie is not bad, but if Warner Brothers would spring for just a little better animation then I think they would be even more memorable, and might make bigger waves.

With that said, Justice League Dark was well worth my time and I’d like to see these characters again.

And to the boys and girls who are producing the DC movies, you might want to visit the animation department to get some inspiration for your next series of films. They know what they’re doing with these characters.

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