While it can be said that Marvel is currently at the top of the live-action superhero genre, one thing DC has over Marvel is superiority in the animation department. The DC Expanded Universe (DCEU) has yet to garner universal praise thanks to a rocky start, but the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) has been going strong ever since the '90s saw the release of the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series.
DC has released 25 animated features under its name and the 26th entry has just been announced, and it's going to be an animated adaptation of the cult favorite superhero team collectively known as Justice League Dark.
Check out the first teaser trailer and a bit of creator commentary for the upcoming Justice League Dark below:
No other plot details have been revealed, but fans will see these supernatural experts come together to fight an enemy tied to the worst kinds of dark magic in the movie. While Justice League Dark will definitely show how the team came to be, none of the characters will get an origin story since it looks like they are all established mages and exorcists in the world they live in, the same world where recent New 52 animated features such as Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015) took place in.
Justice League Dark is a chapter of the Justice League that has been tasked to deal with paranormal threats that are beyond the understanding of regular superheroes like Superman or Batman. Even if the League has encountered certain supernatural threats in the past, there are some enemies from the darkest realms they are not ready for, hence the need for heroes who are familiar with dealing with the living personifications of evil on a daily basis.
Though the team's members tend to change depending on the writer and the current story arc, its core members and founders are: Deadman, John Constantine, Zatanna, Madame Xanadu and Shade the Changing Man. Justice League Dark, on the other hand, will see Black Orchid, Etrigan the Demon and Swamp Thing replacing both Xanadu and Shade for the team's first film adaptation.
An animated adaptation of Justice League Dark's formation is more than just a fan's dream come to life, but a saving grace for the creators involved in the many failed attempts to bring the team and its characters to life.
At one point, Justice League Dark was meant to be a live-action film directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth). His version would have been one that connects organically with established DC movies and properties, and it would have seen John Constantine forming the group by recruiting the other characters. Sadly, Guillermo del Toro left the project after almost four years of pitching his Justice League Dark went nowhere. Though the live-action movie is still in limbo in New Line Cinema after the studio took responsibility of adapting DC's darker materials, Guillermo del Toro will no longer be attached to it. Similar to how Suicide Squad (2016) gauged its conception on Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), Justice League Dark may serve a similar purpose and be the testing ground for any future live-action attempts for the titular team of magic users.
Justice League Dark will also see the return of Matt Ryan's version of John Constantine, the fan-favorite star of the cancelled Constantine TV series from NBC. Though the show divided fans of the Hellblazer comics thanks to the adaptation's young adult tone that went against the source material's darkness, one thing everyone agreed on was that Matt Ryan was the perfect fit for the titular character. Justice League Dark's animated version of John Constantine will possibly be more faithful to the comics and give the character his iconic vices and edge back, allowing Matt Ryan to play the character in all his shady, substance-abusing and self-destructive glory.
Though there has been no confirmation yet, it's safe to assume that Justice League Dark will get a similar rating to that of the recent Justice League adaptations, that being a hard PG-13 that pushes the envelope as far as the rating permits it. In light of Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) being the first R-Rated animated feature, it would be interesting to see another animated DC movie go down a similar path and push the boundaries of animation. After all, Justice League Dark features a team of paranormal experts fighting a nightmarish foe. Why not go all the way with the depictions of evil? Whatever its final rating may be, Justice League Dark will be taking animated superhero movies to a place they have not gone to before, so it will be something worth waiting for.