The Magical and The Bat-Justice League Dark Review

DC hasn’t had too much luck with adapting the occult into other media. With the dearly departed Constantine TV series and the long-rumored Justice League Dark/Dark Universe movie still in development hell, there isn’t much success in adapting the more…magical fare onto the screen. Which is why the Justice League Dark animated movie is a pleasant surprise.

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Alternate title: Batman and His Magical Bitches

Helmed by Jay Oliva, Justice League Dark is the first outing for DC’s titular team (stretching the word a bit) of mystically-inclined heroes (again, stretching). Consisting of John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Swamp Thing, and Etrigan, alongside Batman as the ‘outsider’, the team must face an ancient evil threatening to destroy both life and afterlife alike.

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Say hello to the new Robin

The plot isn’t exactly anything new, but boy, does the cast make it a fun trip. Matt Ryan absolutely steals the show in his return as John Constantine. John is every bit the loveable bastard we’ve grown to love from the show, and his lines are sharp as ever. Jason O’Mara provides the straight man to the rest of the craziness as Batman, Camilla Luddington brings a balance to the team as backwards-talking magician Zatanna, Nicholas Turturro is annoyingly yet endearingly chipper Deadman, Ray Chase plays both man and rhyming demon Jason Blood and Etrigan, and Roger Cross rounds up the main cast as the protector of the Green, Swamp Thing. Jeremy Davies also makes a return as John’s long-suffering friend Ritchie Simpson, and Alfred Molina is Destiny, the main villain of the piece and live-action Skeletor lookalike.

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Toldja

Justice League Dark’s strongest suit is its characters. Most of the main cast play very well off of each other, but what surprised me pleasantly was the inclusion of Batman, who I thought would likely be shoved in there for marketing purposes, to turn out pretty good. He wasn’t overused and hogging the spotlight, but conversely he isn’t just /there/ either. He strikes a good balance between being the perspective ‘everyman’ character and the major source of snark and the occasional grunt. John Constantine is easily the best part about this movie, which is exactly what most of us came here for. If this is the direction for John we’re going for in the CW Seed series, then this is going to be fun.

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Even seeing his name caused Batman to cut himself shaving

Deadman is an unexpected favorite, playing comic relief for most of the movie, and both Etrigan/Blood and Swamp Thing’s albeit brief appearances, they made a sizable impact in the movie. Especially Etrigan and his mad rhyming skills. It’s a bit of a shame Zatanna’s spotlight seems to dim a bit compared to the other team members, but she still proves interesting in her backwards magic and reining John in.

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I’m sure he gets this a lot

What I loved about this movie is that it doesn’t exactly shy away from the dark, the creepy, and the strange. The intro builds the sense of dread well enough, and sets the scene that what they’re facing this time is something else. And one of the more fun set pieces is around the middle, when the thing made of shit comes along. It was wholly unexpected, and to be frank, I loved it. The climax leading up and all the way to the ending was also quite the highlight, and kept me at the edge of my seat along the way.

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And now the literal shit has hit the proverbial fan

While I liked most of the movie, I do have several gripes regarding it. One of the major ones is that John doesn’t even so much as gets near a cigarette during the whole thing. Even the NBC series, when he ostensibly can’t be shown smoking, he’s still shown holding a cigarette and in some of the last episodes he’s seen outright smoking. While this may look like a minor thing to some, cigarettes are part of his iconic look, and not even teasing that feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Black Orchid and Felix Faust were also sort-of wasted in their roles. While Black Orchid had one great exchange with Batman, Felix Faust felt like just another speedbump in our heroes’ journeys.

With all that said, I enjoyed Justice League Dark very much. A fun, solid ride that did what it set out to do, despite several points of contention. But nothing’s perfect, right?

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Great Bat-Time-Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders Review


Holy animated movie, Batman! In Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, the legendary Batman of the 60’s return, voiced of course by Adam West, accompanied by his (no longer teenaged) ward Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Newmar returning as the feline fatale Catwoman in an animated feature that pays respect both to the classic series and adds a dash of modern love for it.

 

It’s the Bat-Climb. IN SPACE.

 

The initial plot is as straightforward as it gets. The main Bat-Rogues team up, and our Dynamic Duo has to stop them. But in its execution, it both pays homage to the classic moments of the series, BANG, BIFF, ZOTs and all, plus a few references to the show’s legacy and clever behind the scenes nods.
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The movie’s second half, still closely related to the first is a veritable love letter to the show while taking a few playful jabs at the current state of Batman. It features a slightly ‘edgier’ Batman and a completely hysterical plot to replace every important person in the city with Batmen. Yes, even the bakers and street sweepers. Not to mention a great nod towards Batman’s habit of disappearing on Gordon.
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It’s raining (Bat)men!

To top it all off, the movie climaxes in a huge showdown between the show’s many Bat-Villains versus an army of Batmen. There’s even a lone Batman doing the Batusi while all of this happens!
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What ever shall we do?

Not just that, the movie provides us with loads and loads of references and nods to other pieces of the Bat-Mythology, like the intro sequence recreating classic Batman comic covers and previous/future Batsuits making a background appearance that will sure get the rise out of any Bat-Fan.
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He’s Batman. Of course he prepared.

Return of the Caped Crusaders delivers all it promised to deliver and more, giving us a chance to reexperience the classic TV show and all the while showing love to the source material at the same time. The only thing missing is Batgirl. But aside from that, it’s the Bat-Movie we need and the Bat-Movie we deserved. Until next time, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!

Never Gets Old – Batman: The Killing Joke Review

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After a lot of hype and controversy, the animated of Alan Moore–sorry, The Original Writer and Brian Bolland’s legendary Batman story, The Killing Joke, was finally released. Featuring Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in their iconic roles as Batman and The Joker, the voice cast is rounded up by the ever-versatile Tara Strong reprising her role as Batgirl and onetime Swamp Thing, Ray Wise, as Jim Gordon.
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As far as first impressions go, the animated version of The Killing Joke doesn’t leave an especially strong one. Roughly the first thirty minutes is (to my knowledge) an original subplot about the capture of Paris Franz, a mobster, and the building of a romance between *cue collective fan sigh* Bruce and Barbara. While I understand this is used to give Barbara Gordon a little bit more screentime and pad out the already short approximately 78 minute runtime, this whole sequence feels like it could be cut out entirely and the story wouldn’t suffer much because of it. I honestly wouldn’t mind watching a 40ish minute The Killing Joke adaptation.
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After the rocky half hour, we get into the Killing Joke adaptation proper. And here is where the whole thing shines. As far as I can remember, this is almost a beat-for-beat adaptation of Moore and Bolland’s story. The overall sense of unease and creepiness is present almost the whole way, and the funhouse sequence is almost as disturbing as it was in the comics, though it could stand to be made a LOT more disturbing. Some of the comic’s most iconic shots were also recreated to amazing effect in the movie.
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For such a disturbing story, the art style is horrifyingly beautiful. It feels like the best of Timmverse and the best of Bolland’s art had a drunken night together and had a lovely child. The contrast between the man who would be Joker and Joker as he is now is especially jarring and made all the better because of it. Bonus points for using the Batmobile from the animated series.
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The voice performances are all very strong, but Conroy and Hamill managed to give out their best performances in this. After all these years, Batman laughing is still creepy as hell. And Hamill’s Joker musical number? A thing of beauty.
Despite the rough start that I suspect will have a lot of us complaining dragging down the early half hour, the rest of The Killing Joke is an amazing adaptation in both style and spirit, bringing one of comics’ most disturbing and legendary arcs to life.