Justice League Dark is coming! The live-action DCEU film, currently titled Dark Universe, brings together the most powerful users of magic in the DC Universe to fight a threat the normal Justice League can’t fight, or even comprehend. I’ve already decided to cast Matt Ryan as Constantine the Hellblazer, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Zatanna the magician, and Armie Hammer as Deadman the… well… literal dead man (a ghost!), in my last post. But now, my friends, it is time to decide who is best suited to play JLD’s least human characters, Swamp Thing and Etrigan the Demon!
Part of the fun with these last two characters is that their creation will rely heavily on CGI or extreme make-up effects. Because, well, Constantine wears a coat and tie, Zatanna has fishnet stockings, and Deadman is just a pale, ghostly while bald gentleman, while these other two are literal monsters. And while Matt Ryan is a complete unknown for most, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Armie Hammer have yet to carry a blockbuster of this size, this time I present two incredibly bankable movie stars to set Warner Brothers’ mind at ease.
Etrigan the Demon/ Jason Blood – Idris ElbaThe NEW 52 rewrote Etrigan The Demon’s history a bit, and it’s safe to assume that any big screen version of the character will stick closer to DC’s most recent iteration. Etrigan worked for Lucifer himself before the dark ages, eventually leading a revolution against the Fallen One. Meanwhile, Jason Blood was a scribe for Merlin (yes, the Merlin of Camelot), unhappy with his life; both full of rage and a desire to amount to greater things. For reasons that are too intricate to go into here, Merlin and Lucifer decided to merge Etrigan and Jason. A little like Bruce Banner and the Hulk, the two sides learn to coexist… eventually, as they are immortal. Etrigan has belonged to groups like Justice League Dark over the centuries, including the “Demon Knights,” who he attempted to betray to earn back favor with Lucifer. Things didn’t exactly go Etrigan’s way, as he was sealed beneath London by his “teammates” until the modern day, when he will surely be unearthed just in time to save the day (or betray JLD and become the main villain, Enchantress style). The little information on Dark Universe we have suggests that whatever evil Justice League Dark faces comes from Etrigan’s past, centuries before the likes of John Constantine and Zatanna were born.
As alluded to, sometimes Etrigan appears as a horned demon with fangs and claws, though when Jason Blood, he is all too human. Etrigan has super strength than can match Wonder Woman or Superman. His powers don’t end there; he’s a nasty cocktail of magic with telepathy, precognition, and super speed, able to produce energy blasts and breath fire like a dragon. His healing factor would make Wolverine jealous, and he actually takes pain as pleasure, so he can take quite the lickin’ and keep on tickin’. When in human form, Jason shares some of these abilities including precognition and telepathy, and is quite skilled at hand-to-hand combat.
Now, you could go full CG with Etrigan, but I think a more fitting approach would be heavy make-up and prosthetics, in the vein of Hellboy or Suicide Squad‘s Killer Croc. You need someone with a big frame, who can pull off the physicality, act through heavy make-up, and bring both characters an old soul. Ron Pearlman, who played Hellboy, is way too on the nose, but I was inspired by another movie that required heavy make-up, Star Trek Beyond. Idris Elba is the perfect size to bring Etrigan to life, especially if he goes on one of those world famous superhero work-outs & diet. And, yeah, you’d do him up in a similar way to his character Krall from Beyond, only with horns and bigger claws. Then, let Idris Elba do what he does best; act the shit out of this role! As Jason Blood, Elba would also impress; a very world weary man who has seen centuries pass. Is it also too on the nose because of the similarities to Krall in Star Trek Beyond? Maybe, but it’s also perfect casting; Elba’s done it before and who doesn’t want to see him appear in a superhero horror film?
Swamp Thing – Liam NeesonMaybe even more so than John Constantine, Swamp Thing is the most well known character in Justice League Dark. After all, only these two have had live action movies AND TV shows starring them. Swamp Thing and Constantine both originated in Vertigo Comics, kind of a harder, darker version of DC, before being brought into the fold of the greater DC Universe. Swamp Thing was created in 1971, but mastermind Alan Moore (‘Watchmen,’ ‘The Killing Joke’) breathed new life into the character in the 1980’s, also creating Constantine in the pages of ‘Swamp Thing.’
More or less, Swamp Thing was a man who has lost his human self in the form of a plant monster, but unlike Etrigan/Jason Blood there is no returning to human form for poor Mr. Thing (this does make him more like Marvel’s The Thing from Fantastic Four, and less like the Hulk). Though he sometimes pines for his lost humanity, Swamp Thing has a special connection to “The Green” (basically the life force of nature) and does whatever he can to protect it. His interests line up with whatever is best for The Green, and not mankind, so Constantine usually has to trick Swamp Thing to gain his assistance. Swamp Thing can inhabit any sort of body grown from plants and is able to heal himself quickly through his connection to The Green. He can also transport himself nearly instantly through nature, across the globe if need be, growing a new body on the other end. He’s nearly as strong as Etrigan the Demon and can control any form or plant life, using it as a weapon, akin to Poison Ivy. He is weakened when removed completely from nature.
Sure, you could just grab a Mo-Cap actor like Andy Serkis to voice and move like Swamp Thing, but even though it is kind of essential that this character go CG rather than heavy make-up, I would still like to cast an actor with the physicality and voice to bring Swamp Thing to life. Liam Neeson seems perfect. Have him throw on a gravely voice, and move like a giant mesh of plants, almost like a more stocky Groot. Unlike Groot, DC should use motion capture; just because Liam Neeson has never done it before, doesn’t mean he can’t give it a go, as even Independent Movie darling Mark Ruffalo has a blast acting like the Hulk in silly Mo-Cap pajamas. Sure, WB won’t be super stoked with casting Neeson only to never show his face, but that’s the modern age of movie making, folks!
I wanted to include a bonus casting or two, but alas, we’ve run out of time. I will leave you with this… how about Daniel Craig as Frankenstein? Though it is unlikely we will see this character in Dark Universe, Frankenstein’s monster himself is sometimes a member of JLD… and he carries a big fucking sword. Daniel Craig has the right look!