A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Justice League Dark is an R-rated, feature-length animated movie based upon Justice League Dark comics, which first appeared in 2011. The original stories united a team of heroes (i.e., John Constantine, Deadman, Zatanna) who'd been introduced in DC comics over the years and who were steeped in supernatural forces and magic. The team fought battles against powerful enemies who practiced dark arts and had also surfaced in previous DC tales. The movie adds Batman to the mix, with brief appearances by Superman and Wonder Woman, to launch a more violent Justice League animated franchise directed at older fans to whom sinister villains like Destiny, Felix Faust, and Alec Holland would appeal. But with very little guiding backstory or other information, viewers are plunged into a gory, violent world of blood, explosions, people consumed by fire, and black magic. So, in addition to the almost continuous mayhem (citizens terrorized, deaths, raging battles), it's hard to keep the characters straight. There are more than a dozen evil-doers and just as many would-be good guys. Occasional swearing includes "s--t," "ass," "bastards," and "hell." Bottom line? It's too violent and spooky for kids, and too confusing and dense for those unfamiliar with these "denizens of the Dark."
What's the story?
Demons are on the move at the opening of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. But not everyone can see them. They are manifestations in the minds of a few unsuspecting innocents who see those demons in the bodies of others, including their own loved ones. So when a young mother in Gotham prepares to throw her infant from the top of a tall building, Batman (voiced by Jason O'Mara) appears to rescue the baby. In similar circumstances, Wonder Woman and Superman save the day in Washington, D.C. and Metropolis. The three quickly conclude that a supernatural force is in their midst, causing these nightmare crimes. The fate of all humanity may be at stake. It's Batman who takes on the formidable task of getting some answers. But the Caped Crusader is not the central hero in this story. He calls upon the one person who may be able to help. That hero, a specialist in the occult, is John Constantine (a "bewitching" Matt Ryan). Accompanied by Zantanna (Camilla Luddington), a performing magician, and with Batman along for a little derring-do himself, Constantine must face an onslaught of nefarious criminals, creatures, and the possessed to finally come up against the most powerful villain of all.
Is it any good?
Fans of this darker DC comic franchise should be satisfied; for anyone else it's an overpopulated mishmash of heroes, villains, monsters, magic, and mayhem, without backstories to make sense of it. A glossary of past DC comic heroes and villains would help. The Junior League Dark BluRay DVD package does come with several added features that provide info about some of the characters; it would be helpful for the uninitiated to watch those before the main event. This is not a movie for kids. And not just because of all the violence, spookiness, and fatalities. It's hard to differentiate between the Demons Three, the regular demons, the shrouded death demons, and the main demon sorcerer who runs the show. The "feces monster" who runs out of control in a hospital as people hold their noses and run for their lives is an example of a creation specifically created for this adventure. Recommended only for mature fans with in depth-knowledge of all things DC.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between animated movies meant for kids and animated films like Justice League Dark, which are only appropriate for mature teens and adults. How can parents separate the two? What is "too much" violence? When does a superhero adventure become a superhero "horror" film?
Did you know that Batman isn't a character in the original Junior League Dark comic book? Why do you think the creators of this movie included him? For artistic reasons or as a marketing tool?
Where would you go to find out the stories behind characters like John Constantine, Ritchie Simpson, and Destiny? Do you think it would be easier and/or more fun to watch if you know who these people/monsters are? Or is the constant fighting and magic enough to make the film enjoyable?
- On DVD or streaming: February 7, 2017
- Cast: Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Jason O'Mara
- Director: Jay Oliva
- Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 76 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.