Justice League Dark is coming to the DCEU (DC Extended Universe)!… Though it may be titled Dark Universe, in order to avoid confusion among the uninitiated, who may mistakenly think the team is literally a “dark/evil” version of the Justice League. In reality, JLD is group of magically inclined individuals (NOT Superheros, if you listen to John Constantine) who have to come together to save the world from villains who also deal with magic and the occult… like Enchantress (who you already saw in Suicide Squad). These are the sorts of villains that are literally out of Superman’s league. Originally developed by Guillermo del Toro, who was the ideal director for this magical mix of Dr. Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy (forget Suicide Squad), and the horror genre, Doug Liman is now at the helm (Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity), after jumping the ship on Fox’s X-Men spinoff, Gambit.Similar to the Avengers and Task Force X (aka the “Suicide Squad”), Justice League Dark has a rotating cast of characters, unlike Justice League which really hasn’t changed much in 20 years. That being said, we’re told to expect the following characters in Dark Universe: fan favorites John Constantine (aka the Hellblazer) & Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Deadman, and Etrigan the Demon. Other members in the comic have included Katana (played by Karen Fukuhara in Suicide Squad), Frankenstein’s Monster (really!), Vampire Andrew Bennett (from the comic, ‘I, Vampire’), Madame Xanadu, Black Orchid, and Shade the Changing Man, among several others.
Here we’ll focus on dream casting for the “confirmed” (assumed?) five Justice League Dark members: Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Deadman, and Etrigan the Demon. I’ll tell you a bit about each character and suggest who the perfect actor is to play the role!
John Constantine – Matt RyanJohn Constantine is a charming, blond, Irishman, a mage, warlock, and self proclaimed “Master of the Dark Arts.” He’s also a womanizer (though he is bi-sexual), a scoundrel, a cheat, a drunk, a chain-smoker, and really not much of a leader… though he is the unofficial face of Justice League Dark.
Constantine’s childhood origin has been retold many times, but always results in some sort of grisly, demon related death of his parents. Part of a band in his early 20’s, Constantine began to research magic and the occult with his band-mates and friends, quickly becoming adept at all sorts of sorcery and exorcisms before he knew the cost. Constantine is scarred after accidentally damning a close friend’s girl, Astra, to hell during a botched exorcism. He lives on borrowed time, himself being damned to Hell as a result of the Astra incident, trying to make good in an attempt to save his soul. He fights demons and other more nefarious mages, defeating them often at the cost of the lives or souls of those he loves. Like any good”Superhero Team” (again, don’t use the “S” word in front of Constantine), expect these characters to butt heads; none of them are exactly team players. That being said, Constantine would be the 1st to stab any of his teammates in the back, or play them without laying out his plan, or strike out on his own all together.When the chips fall though, John will sacrifice himself to save those he loves, if he hasn’t lost them already.
The thing is, we already have the definitive John Constantine, Matt Ryan, who played the Hellblazer in the 2014/2015 NBC show, Constantine. Though not a movie star you can sell a movie on (Marvel keeps proving you don’t need movie stars to sell a great concept like this), I once ranked Matt Ryan’s casting as the most accurate to the comic of all the superhero movies and TV shows. He’s bloody perfect! He’s got the charm, he’s a bit of an oddball, and he really commits the the absurdity of casting a spell in Latin… and he looks exactly like the character. Ryan has returned to play Constantine in an episode of Arrow, as well as the upcoming Warner Bros. Animation Original Movie, Justice League Dark (yes, an animated version of the comic is also on the horizon). He was del Toro’s 1st choice for the role when del Toro was still planning to direct and there is a lot of pressure from Constantine fans online, for good reason.
Runner-Up: Colin Farrell I only include one because WB, who has relied more on established stars than Marvel, may balk at the idea of casting Ryan as their lead. Colin Ferrell has been mentioned many times, and he’s a solid second choice; another charming Irishman with a dark side. We’ve just go to bleach his hair!
Zatanna – Mary Elizabeth WinsteadZatanna is a powerful magician, both of the performing variety and kind you don’t want to mess with in a magic fight. Unlike Constantine, her powers are genetic; her father was a world famous magician and his disappearance/death ties into her origin. In the comics she was once a member of the actual Justice League, though this is very unlikely to be explored in the DCEU. Zatanna’s also has a romantic history with Constantine, which is likely to be included in the film. He’s burned her (not literally), bad, as he does with everyone in his life. Whenever John betrays the team or goes off on his own, it is Zatanna who picks up the slack. You could make the argument she is the leader of the Justice League Dark, more-so than Constantine.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Live Free or Die Hard) really fits the bill as Zatanna. Resembling your comic counterpart isn’t a requirement these days, but it doesn’t hurt. Winstead is a rising star, already appearing in another underrated comic adaptation, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. She could play a strong, confident heroine who can hold her own against Constantine and whatever evil lurks in Dark Universe. Zatanna is also the optimist, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead seems like the perfect combo of all these things.
Deadman/ Boston Brand – Armie HammerBoston Brand, like Dick Grayson, the original Robin, was a trapeze artist, but unlike Dick, he’s dead. Get it? “Deadman!” He’s a ghost who can possess both friend and foe, either to control them or simply root through their brain to get the information he needs. Only those skilled in magic, like the members of Justice League Dark and his foes, can even see him. Deadman does whatever a ghost can; walk through walls, go fully invisible, and even fly. Being a former acrobat, he’s pretty handy in a fight, whether it’s against a supernatural spirit or even a goon on the street… if he’s possessing said goon’s friend.
Though all the members of Justice League Dark have a… well… dark side, Boston is the quickest to crack a smile, and not a sadistic grin like Constantine. Casting Deadman is tricky, because you could go any direction. If you went old, he basically looks like Bruce Willis, and I also considered someone with more of a background in comedy, like Donald Glover.In the end I’m going with Armie Hammer (The Social Network, Lone Ranger, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). Hammer wowed audiences with his portrayal of the Mark Zuckerberg’s nemeses, the Winklevoss twins, but his blockbusters just haven’t clicked with audiences. I personally love The Lone Ranger and think Hammer deserves yet another shot. He can do serious and still be a little silly. Maybe a team movie where he doesn’t have to carry all the weight is what’s best for him at this point (he was cast in George Miller’s Justice League film before the Writers’ Strike killed it). Besides, who’s going to argue about a ghost with a perfect jawline?
This article is getting long in the tooth, but I still have perhaps the two most interesting characters yet to cast, Swamp Thing and Etrigan the Demon, which will both require some sort of CG or extreme make-up to pull off. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll throw in a bonus character or two, like Black Orchid or Frankenstein.