With the release of Justice League this week, we’re getting pretty excited for the next stage of the DCEU and the potential for this universe to further expand. Justice League Dark, formally Dark Universe, was announced as “in-development” at 2017’s WB San Diego Comic Con panel. The film has been on WB’s radar since 2012, with Guillermo del Toro at the helm before leaving the project in 2015. He was followed by Doug Liman who was briefly attached before departing earlier this year. Currently, Justice League Dark has several versions of a script but no director. We’d love to see a director who has at least some of del Toro’s touch and influence, as well as a deep love of monsters. Andy Muschietti, Fede Alvarez, and J.A. Bayona are our top choices to bring the film to screens. While things have been quiet on the Justice League Dark front since SDCC, we expect that if Justice League is the success we all hope it is, DC will starting venturing into some teams and characters a bit more off the radar of the general public. While we play the waiting game, here’s the cast and characters we’d love to see in the first installment of Justice League Dark, with an eye toward future installments and solo spin-offs:
Gina Rodriguez as Zatanna
A cult favorite character who casts spells by saying the words backwards, the magician Zatanna should be the central lead in Justice League Dark and the audience’s entry point into DC’s world of magic. A stage illusionist who discovers magical abilities inherited from her father, who has long since disappeared, Zatanna becomes one of the strongest magic wielders in the DC Universe and has been an indispensable ally to the Justice League, and particularly Batman, over the years. Zatanna deserves an actress who can convey immense enthusiasm and joy at the discovery of a newfound world, while also being able to explore the depths of loss and impatience as a result of that. We think Gina Rodriguez would perfectly convey Zatanna and easily make her a fan-favorite.
Jimmy Smits as Zatara
Zatanna’s father, John Zatara is one of DC’s oldest heroes, first appearing in Action Comics #1 in 1938 alongside Superman. Like his daughter, he doubles as an accomplished stage magician and dabbler in the dark arts. Sacrificing his life for his daughter and reluctantly leaving her in the hands of John Constantine, Zatara has appeared as a ghostly presence over the years. Jimmy Smits has a warm presence that would make him the perfect fit for Zatanna’s father, as well as the father of modern magic in the DCEU. Even if Zatara doesn’t make it out of the film alive, the character has enough history and connections to other heroes and villains that Smits could find himself reprising the role across the history of the DCEU.
Ben Daniels as John Constantine
A chain-smoking, bisexual con man in no short supply of cynicism, John Constantine also happens to be a damn fine magician. Constantine should stand in contrast to Zatanna, his enthusiasm for magic burnt out long ago due to the cost he knows magic takes. While the character has made a number of appearances in film and television over the years, none have managed to get him quite right as a man who’s lived a hard life and has seen things that would drive anyone else to madness. We’ve seen younger live-action versions of the character a couple times now, so we think it’s time for an onscreen portrayal of the character who has been at this for a while and has begun to lose hope in his ability to do good. Ben Daniels, who does a fantastic job as Father Marcus on The Exorcist series, has the kind of world-weary sense of having lived a life and the ability to deliver humor with cruelty that fits Constantine like a glove.
Alexander Skarsgard as Swamp Thing
A personal favorite of mine, Swamp Thing is in part the classic melanchology monster, but he has the added factor of being a god over all plant life. It was Alan Moore’s run on the character that helped plant the seeds (pun intended) for Justice League Dark through his creation of Constantine and having the characters, along with a number of DC’s other supernatural based characters, team-up in his “American Gothic” storyline. Swamp Thing’s struggle with his identity and the question of whether he is still Alec Holland, or something else entirely, has played a central role in the character’s narrative over the years and it’d be great to see some of that teased in the film while also paving the way for a solo film. While there will certainly be some CGI involved in Swamp Thing’s transition to the big screen, I’d like to see it only used to enhance the practical effects work. Seeing the humanity in Swamp Thing is a key part of the character. We think Alexander Skarsgard fits the bill, and has the stature, good looks, and mysterious brooding quality to convincingly portray both Holland and Swamp Thing.
Emilia Clarke as Abby Holland
The psychically powered and empathetic Abby Holland, wife of Swamp Thing, has frequently been placed in the role of damsel in distress, despite her strong willed and capable demeanor. We’d like to see her as not just wife and confidant, but a full member of Justice League Dark who can build a strong friendship with Zatanna, as both women search for their place in the world of magic and monsters that they were born into. Given her uncle, Anton Arcane’s infatuation with her, it makes sense that she should be there to go up against him, that is if the rumor of him being the central villain remains true. Abby’s essential to Swamp Thing’s story, but her presence in the film should also serve the function of making her an essential character in her own right. Emilia Clarke could do really interesting things with Holland in terms of making the character her own, and breaking away from the stoic regality that she’s known for on Game of Thrones.
Sam Rockwell as Deadman
A ghost and former circus trapeze artist, Boston Brand is given the ability to possess any living being by the Hindu God, Rama Kushna, in order to find his killer. Deadman is known largely for his swashbuckling sense of adventure and gallows humor. He’s unable to be seen or heard by anyone when he’s not inhabiting a body, except for mystics. While possessing other bodies, Deadman can control their actions and infiltrate their ranks, making him one of DC’s most powerful supernatural heroes. Sam Rockwell has the lithe figure and smirking sense of humor that would make DC’s ghost with the most the scene stealer of Justice League Dark.
Idris Elba as Etrigan
A demon bound to the knight Jason Blood, Etrigan has survived into the modern age and given his human host a taste of immorality. Evil on his own, Etrigan is forced to work on the side of good because of his bond to Jason Blood, who having given up his knighthood long ago works as a demonologist in Gotham. One of DC’s more explicitly horror-centric characters, Etrigan isn’t known for the same sense of humor or fascination with the dark arts as some of his counterparts, though he does have a penchant for rhyming. Blood is often sought out as an occult investigator, with many unaware that he’s host to a demon. This would be an interesting factor to introduce in the movie by having the team seek out Blood to join their ranks, and only later realizing they also have a demon on their team, who if given the chance could destroy them all. Idris Elba would kill in this role, and we’d believe him as a knight, a demonologist, and a man struggling to keep his darker impulses at bay. Also, Elba really deserves to be in a superhero movie where he’s given a full spotlight in which to shine.
Viggo Mortensen as Anton Arcane
The evil uncle of Abby Holland, Anton Arcane is Swamp Thing’s central antagonist and has been a thorn in the side of DC occultists and magicians for ages. A genius who developed an army of synthetic monsters he called his Un-Men, Arcane has constantly been in search of immortality. After attempting to grow new organs to replace his failing ones, trying to transfer his consciousness into Swamp Thing, Anton became one his Un-Men through his various experiments and attempts at self-preservation. A collector of magic artifacts, Arcane could certainly pose a formidable thread to the newly formed Justice League Dark, especially if he believes one of them holds the key to his immorality. His Un-Men would also provide plenty of cannon fodder for the team to battle. While we tend to associate Viggo Mortensen with heroism of Aragorn, we often forget what an odd and compelling character actor he can be, imbuing characters with little tics and eccentricities that make even the smallest roles stand out. Morstensen could make a horrifying turn as the obsessive Arcane.
Featured Image: Mikel Janin (DC Comics)