Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
2 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Justice League Dark: Limited-Edition Gift Set

Street Date:
February 7th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
February 15th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
2016
Studio:
Warner Brothers
Length:
76 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

In Washington D.C., a woman has her car attacked by demons and she starts running them over...only to realize (when Wonder Woman arrives on the scene) that she's actually killed people instead. In Metropolis, a man is about to shoot a demon inside his house, but when Superman arrives he realizes he was about to kill his family instead. The Man of Steel then discovers the man's barn is full of neighbors he has killed...also believing they were demons. In Gotham, Batman arrives on a rooftop to stop a woman from throwing her baby off it...yes, she believes it's demonic as well. The Dark Knight saves the baby, but can't stop the woman from jumping to her death.

What you've just read is the fantastic opening to 'Justice League Dark', a movie that sadly is never able to live up to its first few minutes – a shame, since this opening is flat out the best sequence the DC animated universe has ever provided. The story, in case the box cover wasn't already a dead giveaway, takes Batman (voiced once again by Jason O'Mara, and the only member of the Justice League to get any significant screen time here) and teams him up with a more magical 'Justice League', made up of John Constantine (Matt Ryan, voicing the same character he did on the short-lived NBC series), Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), Deadman (aka Boston Brand, voiced by Nicholas Turturro), and – in a more limited role – Swamp Thing (Roger Cross). And while it's great to see some "fresh blood" in the DC Universe, I'm not sure fans of these characters will be thrilled with the proceedings, as the plot trades characterization for a lot of action sequences and magical spells.

In fairness, I'm not all that familiar with Constantine at all (other than the poorly received Keanu Reeves flick) and have virtually no knowledge of the other characters here (other than Batman, of course), so it's possible that more die-hard fans of these heroes will get a lot more out of 'Justice League Dark' than I did. Once Batman – whose only reason to be in this movie seems to be for better sales of the title – realizes that citizens' demonic visions may be the result of dark magic (including having the word 'Constantine' appearing all over one of his rooms in Wayne Manor thanks to Deadman), he reaches out to Zatanna to try and get in touch with Constantine. He eventually does (but at the expense of the batmobile!) and the newly formed foursome begin their investigation.

It's at this point in the story that I felt the plot got needlessly convoluted. Their search for answers revolves around a magical "Dreamstone", the possessor of which – as the name implies – can make people see things that aren't really there. Their quest leads them into – and I swear I'm not kidding here – an extended fight in a hospital ward with a giant poop monster. Kevin Smith should sue (see Dogma). After a long middle part of the movie that, honestly, confused the heck out of me and delved back in time to a story that involved Merlin the magician and a spell he casts involving two other characters seen here, things pick up again at the conclusion – which is a large battle that includes Batman and the others having to take on members of the original Justice League, who have fallen prey to demonic hallucinations along with the rest of humanity.

'Justice League Dark' is the second DC animated title to get an R rating, but it's hard to see exactly why. There's some language in the movie, but none that crosses the PG-13 realm, and the violence isn't particularly anything worse than what would be seen in a PG-13 live action movie either. I suspect that given the dark themes of the movie, as well as those opening scenes that involve people being run over and Superman finding dead bodies (although, again, there's nothing too graphic about the depiction) that the raters just "played it safe" and slapped an "R" on this, given that it's an animated title. I'm willing to bet if the exact same story was created for live action, this would have easily gotten a PG-13. Worried parents out there can take that for what it's worth, although I still wouldn't show this to anyone not yet in their teens.

The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Justice League Dark' battles its way onto home video in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD limited edition gift set (well, kind of "limited" as 60,000 of these babies have been produced). The keepcase, which includes a slightly embossed slipcover that slides overtop, arrives housed inside a larger cardboard box that also contains a John Constantine figure manufactured by Gentle Giant Ltd. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD are housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, along with an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet digital version of the movie.

The Blu-ray is front-loaded with a trailer for the upcoming 'Wonder Woman' feature film, and the main menu on both discs is the standard Warners' design, with the box cover image and menu selections across the bottom of the screen.

In addition to this gift set release, a standard combo pack release is also available. Also, as is usually the case with these DC animated titles, a couple of retailer exclusives are out there. Best Buy has a version that includes the same Constantine figurine along with the Justice League Dark graphic novel 'Into the Dark', while Target has an exclusive steelbook version.

The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Justice League Dark' is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio using an AVC MPEG-4 codec. Although the animation style here is consistent with prior DC animated releases and there's a minor touch of banding here and there for the sharp eye, it actually appears as if the folks over at Warners are doing a better job with these animated titles. I detected no problems with aliasing this time around, and the black levels (important in a darker title such as this one) are pretty decent throughout. There is some very minor pixilation in the background of some shots, but it's not a distraction (only those with significantly large screens will even pick up on it), and likely due to the bit rate (surprisingly low considering the space available) Warners continues to use for their animated titles. The overall style used by the animators for these titles (with the exception of the bright-looking Return of the Caped Crusaders, which really isn't considered to be part of this realm of the animated DC Universe) leans toward a less-saturated look, but still manages to provide a nice range of colors throughout.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The featured track is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one and while it's short of being reference quality, it is one of the better tracks I've heard on a DC animated release, with lots of surround use (the rears are not only used for ambient noises, but for directionality and the occasional off-screen bit of dialogue) and some nice LFE use when explosions or the rumbling of the batmobile are at play. The remainder of the dialogue is front and center and presented both crisply and clearly. Since a big chunk of the second half of the movie is almost all non-stop action, this track provides enough to keep viewers engaged and entertained.

In addition to the lossless English track, Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are available in French, German, Spanish (Latin), and Portuguese. A Dolby Digital 2.0 track is available in Spanish (Castilian). Subtitles are an option in English SDH, French, German, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • A Sneak Peak at 'Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (HD, 12 min.) – A look at the next animated title from our friends at DC, which is due on home video later in 2017.
  • A Sneak Peak at 'Justice League: Doom' (HD, 10 min.) – Hardly a "sneak peak" since this one's been available since 2012, but if you're looking to catch up on some of the releases you missed, this will give you an idea of what this title is like.
  • A Sneak Peak at 'Justice League: Gods and Monsters' (HD, 11 min.) – Still the best 'Justice League' animated movie for my money (you can read my review here), this is a brief look at the creation of this animated release.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • The Story of Swamp Thing (HD, 18 min.) – Swamp Thing doesn't have a huge role (although it's an important one) in 'Justice League Dark', but those who want to know more about his origins will want to check out this featurette, which includes comments from Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein, DC Creative Director Mike Carlin, and Artist Kelley Jones.
  • Did You Know? (HD, 3 ½ min.) – This is a collection of four very short featurettes on different characters and aspects of 'Justice Leauge Dark', consisting of: 'Constantine Origin' (½ min.); 'Color of Magic' (1 min.); 'Black Orchid' (1 min.); and 'Deadman Casting' (½ min.). These can be watched back-to-back or individually.
  • 'Justice League Dark' at New York Comic Con 2016 (HD, 26 ½ min.) – Highlights from the 2016 Comic Con panel for the movie, which featured artist Phil Bourassa, director Jay Oliva, producer James Tucker, and stars Matt Ryan and Jason O'Mara. The panel is moderated by Gary Miereanu.
  • From the DC Comics Vault (HD, 46 min.) – As is par for the course with most of these DC animated releases, a couple episodes of DC's television library are included. This time around, viewers get "Dawn of the Dead, Man!" (23 min.) and "Trials of the Demon!" (23 min.), which are both from 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold'. These episodes are individual selections in the menu and cannot be viewed as a single special feature.

Final Thoughts

I can't help but feel that 'Justice League Dark' is a missed opportunity. The movie has a very strong opening and a solid ending, but much of the middle feels like a whole lot of magical mumbo jumbo that only the very die-hard fans of these characters are going to be able to appreciate. Still, there's enough here for me to offer up a solid – if not overwhelming – recommendation.

Technical Specs

  • 50GB Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy
  • Region-Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • German 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Spanish (Latin) 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, German, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish

Supplements

  • A Sneak Peek at Teen Titans: The Judas: An advance look at the next DC Universe Original Movie.
  • The Story of Swamp Thing (Featurette): Born out of the imagination of Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, Justice League Dark's Swamp Thing had his own solo adventures throughout the history of DC. This documentary reveals the rich history of this fan favorite.
  • Did You Know?: Constantine origin, Color of Magic, Black Orchid, and Deadman Casting (Featurette): The creators of Justice League Dark will reveal surprising behind-the-scenes tidbits about the characters – and the actors providing their voices – during production of the film.
  • 2016 NY Comic Con Panel (Featurette): A look inside Justice League Dark's panel at New York Comic Con.
  • Sneak Peek at Justice League: Gods and Monsters
  • Sneak Peek at Justice League: Doom
  • From the DC Vault – Two Bonus Episodes: Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "Dawn of the Dead Man!"Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "Trials of the Demon!"

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