REVIEW: Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
All of the marketing promises that Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, out today for digital streaming, is the final chapter of the DC Animated Movie Universe. Similar to Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame wrapping up a decade’s worth of stories, this too brings everything to a cosmic climax, the likes of which have not been attempted before. The largely successful effort clocks in at 90 minutes, making for the longest film yet in the 38 animated features from Warner Animation.
The film opens with John Constantine (Matt Ryan), now a full-fledged member of the League, in bed with Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), a moment of bliss before impending doom. The language and graphic violence definitely make this inappropriate for the youngest viewers so parents are forewarned.
Darkseid (Tony Todd) has been a looming threat and now, he launches his all-out assault on Earth. With the Titans left to defend Earth, Superman (Jerry O’Connell) leads the Justice League into battle on Apokolips. They get their asses kicked and Earth gets conquered.
Two years later…Really, no spoilers so far because this was in the first few minutes of the epic battle. Through dialogue and sparing flashbacks, writers Mairghread Scott, Christina Sotta, and Ernie Altbacker show how one by one, the world’s greatest heroes fell. Earth is now being plundered for its resources and humanity has been reduced in great numbers.
Of course, there is a resistance and this is where the bilk of the story takes place. Clark Kent, laced with Kryptonite through his body and therefore powerless, recruits Constantine, mourning Z’s death with alcohol, to help resume the fight. A loose network of heroes and villains, relying on one another for survival, forge a plan. As a result, characters from across the films are present with Lois Lane (Rebecca Romjin) taking a leadership role. And it’s no surprise lowlifes like Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre) are still around.
Meantime, Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) recruits his mother, Lady Shiva (Sachie Alessio) to join the battle. He and Raven (Taissa Farmiga) have one of the more significant storylines in this sprawling story while she and her father Trigon (Jon Bernthal) also have a major thread.
Standing in their way is Darkseid, no longer surrounded by any other member of the New Gods. His new Furies include transformed versions of Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), Mera, and Hawkman. Occupying the Mobius Chair is Batman (Jason O’Mara), now a loyal servant.
As the film unfolds, one of the most glaring aspects of these massive team-ups is exposed. Characters who normally avoid death from gunfire, talon, knife, cosmic blast, etc. easily fall here to show just how overwhelming the odds are. As a result, many characters are seen in very quick cameos. Similarly, Darkseid is just way too powerful, on a scale never before seen. He seems to make easy work of not only Earth’s heroes but the entire GL Corps and kills the immortal Guardians, which doesn’t feel right. And what happens to the Central Power Battery is an incredibly false note.
Surprisingly, Constantine is far more heroic and the center of action than he should for such a cosmic tale, but given that the title is Justice League Dark, it makes some sense. The other occult members play minor roles with Etrigan (Ray Chase) getting some of the film’s best lines.
This, of course, is a story about heroes and heroism with plenty of noble sacrifices throughout. The final solution involves some of both and fittingly wraps the film series. Then there is one final problem, with 31% of Earth’s magma now gone, the planet is doomed. Superman, though, refuses to give up and as he rallies the exhausted troops, Constantine turns to one of them, telling him he knows what must be done. And the film ends as it must.
I’m not sure why they felt the need to end the continuity, but they tie up many threads from previous films. And the heroes aren’t gone for good. Coming later this year will be a new Superman tale.
The film was screened digitally and there’s an interesting gap after the end credits suggesting a post-credit hint for the future.
None of the Blu-ray’s special features were included for review but for the record, you can expect on May 19:
- DC Showcase: Adam Strange (Animated Short) – On an asteroid mining colony, mysterious drifter Adam Strange is dismissed as an interplanetary derelict. But when the miners open a fissure into the home of a horde of deadly alien insects, his true identity is exposed. He is space adventurer Adam Strange, whose heroic backstory is played out in flashbacks as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long. Charlie Weber provides the voice of Adam Strange, alongside with Roger R. Cross, Kimberly Brooks, Ray Chase, and Fred Tatasciore. Adam Strange is produced and directed by Butch Lukic (Batman Unlimited franchise), who also conceived the original story – which is written by J.M. DeMatteis (Constantine: City of Demons).
- Darkseid: New God/Evil Classic (New Featurette) – This documentary explores the machinations of one of fiction¹s greatest Super Villains as we learn more about what fuels Darkseid¹s drive to becoming a galactic Atilla the Hun and the importance of Deities in our classic and modern fiction.
- Filmmaker Audio Commentary – Observations and behind-the-scenes insight from Executive Producer James Tucker, Directors Matt Peters and Christina Sotta, and Screenwriter Ernie Altbacker.
- Look Back: Justice League Dark (Featurette) – John Constantine leads a group of misfit characters that use magic to vanquish their opponents. This is the dark version of the Justice League taking on the malevolent forces that go beyond our plane of existence.
- Look Back: Batman and Harley Quinn (Featurette) – Take a peek at the animated feature film, Batman and Harley Quinn, featuring the creators and talented voice cast.
- From the DC Vault: Justice League Action, “Zombie King”
- From the DC Vault: Justice League Action, “Abate and Switch”
- From the DC Comics Vault: Teen Titans, “Nevermore”
- A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Superman: Man of Tomorrow – An advanced look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection.
Andrew beat me into it, but I was going to say that Damian’s mother is Talia Al Ghul (see Son of Batman and Batman: Bad Blood). Lady Shiva’s daughter (if they really follow the New 52 not show in any of the movies) is Cassandra Cain aka Batgirl/Black Bat/Orphan.