DC Comics has been doing quite well with both their TV shows and animated films. I don’t want to get into an argument over the merits of lack thereof of their movies, but they too have been great money-makers as well, if not critical darlings, so I suspect things in DC land are going quite well.
This year, to much anticipation, Justice League Dark (JLD from here on) was released to home video. Here’s the movie’s trailer:
One of the film’s biggest draws was the return of Matt Ryan in the role of John Constantine, whom he voices in this animated movie and whom he famously played in the aborted Constantine TV series and, for one episode, in the Arrow TV show.
Also intriguing was the idea of seeing some of DC Comic’s most famous magical/mystical heroes in one setting. In this film you get not only Constantine, but Deadman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Jason Blood/The Demon, and the Black Orchid, along with a couple of mystical villains from the company’s comic book pantheon (I don’t want to reveal too much there).
The movie was entertaining though the story may not be the most spectacular you’ve ever seen. The animation, too, was decent but not out of this world. Allowances can be made to both as we are dealing with a direct video release and not a higher level theatrical “A” movie.
Apart from seeing these wonderful characters drawn to life, we also get brief appearances by the Justice League and a larger role for Batman. All were quite fun to see and, in the end, I recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of these characters and/or likes the DC animated features.
Note, however, that the film is rated “R” for language and violence and should probably not be shown to children younger than 13 or so. You have been warned.
There is one major quibble I had with the movie’s conclusion or, more specifically, the way it leaves a couple of characters. These two characters, part of the DC pantheon, are given very big changes and I’m not exactly certain why it was decided to do these things in this film.
Writing about these things demands a SPOILER, so here you have it…
DON’T READ ANY MORE UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED!
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
Ok, so the film involves our mystical heroes banding together for an “end of the world”-type scenario. They’re not certain who their enemy is -indeed, this is one of the stronger elements of the story- yet know there is considerable power behind them.
In the course of the film, Jason Blood, aka The Demon, joins the group. Later still the Swamp Thing is called upon to help them get to one of the villains and, while reluctant (he and John Constantine are often presented as being at each other’s throats) toward the film’s end het comes to help.
During the film’s climax, Swamp Thing gets his “humanity” forcefully stripped from him and, while tears roll down his (its?) eyes, the creature melts away into a mass of vines and leaves. Is Swamp Thing dead? I’m guessing not although this plot point is left completely unresolved and with a huge (and imaginary) “to be continued” sign hung right next to it.
However, the fate of Jason Blood is presented in far more stark terms. For those who don’t know, Jason Blood is the human “host” of the Demon Etrigan. They are two different beings and when Jason Blood needs the Demon, he calls for him.
Anyway, Jason Blood dies at the end of the film, thus releasing the Demon Etrigan of the dual nature they share/are cursed with.
And I can’t help but wonder why this was done.
I mean, we are talking comic book stories and death has a way of being very impermanent yet why was there was a need to make such big change to this character?
Again, I suppose this could be another “to be continued” element but given that we were presented with Jason Blood’s grave and funeral, it seems unlikely.
When Tim Burton’s Batman film was released way back in 1989 the fact that the producers were able to hire Jack Nicholson to play the Joker was an incredible coup. The actor seemed tailor made for the role and, for most of the movie, didn’t disappoint.
When I saw the film I was stunned, however, when at the movie’s conclusion the Joker falls to his death. Unlike the comic books which often showed the Joker apparently dying but his body never found, thus leaving the door is open to his return, in the Batman movie we see the Joker’s dead corpse.
At the time I felt this was a big mistake. Why not show Batman go down to the street and find a crater where Joker’s body should be, but find there is no body?
In time I understood there was a very slim, perhaps nonexistent, chance of getting Jack Nicholson to reprise the Joker role. Given it probably took moving mountains -mountains of cash, that is- to get Jack Nicholson in once, perhaps the producers felt there was no sense in kidding themselves or audiences with the possibility that Mr. Nicholson could come back, so the decision was made to make his “death” in the film a permanent one.
Movie-wise this made sense even if it didn’t do so character-wise.
In the case of JLD, there are “only” voice actors involved in the feature and one could (and they have!) had multiple people play the various characters. Unlike the Jack Nicholson situation, there is no real need to permanently “off” anyone because they can be replaced with far less fuss should they not return for a voice role. We’ve had others do the work without missing too much of a beat, though there clearly are favorites, so why “kill” a character that can be used in other features?
To that point, I would love to see another animated feature with the Demon in it but if one were made, the producers would now have to explain/resolve how it is the character is alive given what happened in JLD.
Further, if a Swamp Thing animated film were made (not an out of this world possibility), you would also have to explain what happened to that character following the events of JLD.
My point is that a story like the one presented in JLD, regardless of how much one may like it, has things occur within it that lay down some strong continuity which, for better or worse, will now have to be dealt with in future animated films that might feature these two characters.
And if such films are made and this continuity is ignored (another possibility, certainly) many may wonder why.