Another R-rated movie from the DC Animated Universe. And this one is a sequel to Justice League: War.
Before we get into this, I want to say something about Justice League: War. I actually have hope that Zack Snyder’s movie will be better than this piece of shit. I bought the DVD, watched half of it, then pulled the disc out of the player, placed it carefully inside its protective case, then threw it across the room. My living room wall still has a little divot where it impacted. Then I gave my cats little kitty-sized doses of magnesium citrate* and let nature take its course. I then picked up the vastly improved DVD with a pair of ice tongs and buried it somewhere in the countryside. It was dark that night, so even I don’t know where it is. But if you spot a bare patch of earth – despite the kitty fertilization – where nothing seems to grow, that’s probably where I left it.
I’ve never done that with any DVD before. Hell, I even only paid someone five bucks to take the execrable “horror” movie Death Tunnel away from me. So that’s ten bucks and 97 minutes the Booth brothers still owe me, in this life or the next.
As readers of this site may or may not know, there was a big ol’ to-do about Batman: The Killing Joke, the animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s one-shot “ultimate” Batman v Joker story, whose biggest impact on the DC Universe was
the Joker shooting Barbara Gordon and paralyzing her. (She eventually became Oracle, team leader and mission control for the Birds of Prey (and for Batman in the Arkham games), and eventually was healed, which pissed off the disabled community, and then even later was turned into a high school girl, which I guess is fanservice for all the males under the 45-55 year-old demographic, BUT I DIGRESS.)
Anyway, DC/Warner Animation decided to do an animated adaptation of it, adding yet another movie that Alan Moore refuses to be credited in, and the big to-do was that, after several successful PG-13 features, such as Justice League: The New Frontier, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman: Year One, and The Dark Knight Returns, they’d rate this one R. True, the storyline was pretty mature, even for a comic book, and the
shooting of Barbara and subsequent nightmare her father, Commissioner Gordon, was put through, were pretty adult concepts for a four-color funnybook. But Alan Moore was on a tear with the DC Universe back in the Eighties, before DC fucked it up, and he put out some stellar stuff that made everyone (except Alan Moore, apparently) tons of money. He’d essentially resurrected Swamp Thing from near-cancellation (“Let’s give this weird looking British dude a shot at this. I heard he wrote some good stuff in those comic books over there. The worst that could happen is we cancel it anyway.”), gifted the world the Watchmen**, wrote a fantastic “ending” to the pre-Crisis Superman saga (you’re welcome), as well as “For the Man Who Has Everything”***, some great Tales of the Green Lantern Corps stories – in which he introduced us to Corps members Mogo, the Living Planet and Rot Lop Fan, the first completely sightless Member of the F-Sharp Bell Corps**** – and finally The Killing Joke, before DC pointed out the fine print on his contract and he went apeshit, vowing never to work for DC again*****, and spurring him to demand his name be left off any and all movie or TV adaptations of his works there******.
But anyway, before he left, he wrote The Killing Joke (you’re welcome again), which was released as an animated feature just a few months ago. DC/Warner decided to rate it R. I’d read the book, and though there were some very heady, adult themes there, I didn’t see anything in it that would warrant an R rating. However, after I saw it, I could see why. Without spoiling anything – because you should see this one, despite the DC-bashing I’ve done lately – let’s just say that the rating was earned. Not sure it was warranted, but DC animated stories have come a long way from Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League.
And that brings us to the point. As mentioned above, Justice League Dark is the second animated feature to get an R rating. The story, according to the trailer that recently dropped, is that there are forces that the regular Justice League either can’t or won’t handle. Supernatural stuff. So they call in some of the old supernatural/magical characters from the Vertigo days to create a new branch of the League that they call Justice League Dark, which sounds like something that would be served in a Pilsner glass.
This branch of the League is led by none other than John Constantine (and in a fit of inspired casting, Mark Ryan, the man who played the character in the cancelled TV show of the same name, will be reprising his role here). He recruits some of the heroes that delve into the weird, like Zatanna, Deadman and even Swamp Thing. (We just can’t get away from Alan Moore, can we?) The trailer is light on plot, giving only enough to pique interest, but it’s all going to be spooky stuff, for sure.
Now, the question is, why an R rating on this one? Will Constantine and Zatanna practice tantra******* to bring forth Deadman or something? Is someone going to get exploded like a Mentos-and-Diet-Coke experiment gone wrong?
I’m betting it’s, just like the reason for The Killing Joke getting the rating, due to violence. With an R rating, unless they’re going for sex or profanity, it’s violence. Maybe someone will say “fuck” again like in… that movie with Wonder Woman and those two other guys. But my money’s on grue here.
And, to be honest, I’m not sure what kind of audience DC/Warner is going for with these films. Making them R rated just excludes an audience that could benefit from new movies and TV shows about our favorite characters (yes, I still love them, no matter how mangled up and adultified they’re made to be), unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
Maybe the 45-55 year-old male demographic is so strong, maybe they’re such the major purchasers of these DVDs that the company is throwing up its hands and going “ah, what the fuck, why not, they’re grown-ups, they can stand some blood, tits and cursing”.
But again, there’s another movie with Superman in it that’s under-17-not-admitted, and it sticks in my craw. A Batman movie – like The Killing Joke – I can see being that adult. Batman and his world are steeped in violence and blood. His rogue’s gallery is one of the most terrifying in comics. Gotham is a city that is perpetually on the edge of criminal-driven anarchy, with gangs vying for control, corrupt cops everywhere and everyone else a potential victim. Like Wolverine telling Charles and Erik in X Men: First Class to go fuck themselves, it fits the character and the leitmotif of the setting. When Bob Kane and Bill Finger******** created the character in 1939, he carried a gun, and was likely as not to kill criminals as much as bring them in for justice. Gotham is a dark, gritty, scary world, and its hero suits it to a T. So an R rated Batman movie isn’t such a stretch.
But the words “R rated” and “Superman” shouldn’t coexist except in this sentence. You could power a city the size of Metropolis with the spinning that Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan, Julius Schwartz and Christopher Reeve are doing in their graves. Superman is goodness and light, and like him, Metropolis is the same. And that’s why the Big Blue Boy Scout is seen as a natural leader for the team. His greatest superpower isn’t his strength, or ability to fly, or heat vision. It’s his inherent goodness. His light. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely got it perfectly right in All Star Superman (and again, you’re welcome). And it still sticks in my craw when you put him in something rated more adult than PG-13.
I’m probably whistling in the dark here, and this long ramble is probably not going to dissuade the curious or (shudder) fans of the new version of the DC Animated Universe from checking it out. But I’m pre-emptively not going to waste a cent on this movie, the magnesium citrate or another plaster fill-in on my living room wall with this, as much as I’d want to see John Constantine in a cartoon.
Because, at the end of the day, no matter how many bloody headshots, bare skin or cuss words there are, it’s still a cartoon. But it’s no longer Saturday morning quality.
And that’s more sad than angering.
Anyway, here’s the trailer, for your viewing pleasure:
* Not really. I wouldn’t harm a hair on my fellow felines’ heads.
** Before DC/Warner/Zack Snyder fucked that up, too.
*** Which was adapted for the small screen twice: once on Justice League Unlimited and again in the current Supergirl series.
**** Seriously. It was a brilliant bit of writing. “F sharp” is to “green” as sound is to light, according to Moore.
***** And boy, was he pissed when DC bought Wildstorm, where he was working at the time.
****** Look it up on Wikipedia.