Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is for every DC Animation fan who felt like The Flashpoint Paradox could have used more death, gratuitous violence and questionable characterization of some of the DC Comics icons.
Those looking for a more thoughtful and character driven farewell to the New 52 era of films probably will need another option.
There’s no small irony that the DC Animation era of the New 52 outlasted its comic book inspiration. That proved to be one of the more controversial eras of DC Comics while the cartoon films very loosely operated in that realm beyond costume designs.
Apokolips War is an attempt to unite all the preceding New 52 films. That means characters from Justice League, Teen Titans, Justice League Dark and Suicide Squad unite to take on the DCU’s big bad.
In too many ways, Apokolips War feels like the New 52 version of The Flashpoint Paradox. Most characters are significantly altered takes on their traditional interpretations in this universe and there’s a greater emphasis on a sense of hopelessness and despair.
Darkseid (Tony Todd) is set to invade Earth, but the Justice League plans to take the fight to him first. This doesn’t end well and the film jumps two years to show the devastating aftermath with Earth in ruins.
Superman (Jerry O’Connell) and Raven (Taissa Farmiga) start rallying the surviving heroes including John Constantine (Matt Ryan) and Damian Wayne (Stuart Allen) to make one last desperate battle against Darkseid and his forces.
It was frustrating that most of the pitiful few black DC characters get killed off so quickly. Diversity clearly wasn’t a factor in deciding which characters survived the first salvo. Kid Flash makes his debut here and doesn’t even get a line while John Stewart has one of the more annoying fates in the film. Cyborg (Shemar Moore) has a key subplot that never truly gets developed either.
Having Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) featured as a leader of the resistance effort felt like a missed opportunity to showcase Amanda Waller. That in turn would have made for an easier explanation for the involvement of the Suicide Squad instead of Lois beating Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch) in a fight. It was also weird that Deadshot was nowhere to be found in this installment after being a main character in the two previous two Squad films.
I get that Romjin is somewhat of a big deal in touting the voice cast, but Lois’ prominent role would be similar to Pepper Potts leading the charge to stop Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. It doesn’t feel earned.
Teen Titans fans likely won’t be happy with their representation either. Wonder Girl is a non-factor and for all the focus on the team through two films, they’re really short-changed. On the surface some of the character deaths are surprising, but most of the main heroes in this universe survive for round two.
Writers Ernie Altbacker (Batman: Hush) and Mairghread Scott (Wonder Woman: Bloodlines) seemed to select characters for their abilities and personality quirks, which might explain why Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre) could survive an assault on the planet over characters like Cheetah and Shiva who have constantly shown their resilience in overwhelming odds.
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Granted, the Suicide Squad probably wasn’t big on Darkseid’s original hit list, but the second his souped-up Parademons enter the fray they should be mincemeat. Unless the writers are under the impression that in a fight based largely on power that Harley could somehow survive longer than Shazam, Green Lantern and The Flash?
The lighthearted dialogue clashes in a major way with the over the top violence featuring dismemberment, decapitations and mallets crushing heads. But if you’re going to triple down on the language and violence, a war against Darkseid is the best opportunity for widespread carnage.
Batman (Jason O’Mara) and Wonder Woman’s (Rosario Dawson) roles are interesting and match up the closest with Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s Darkseid War storyline in the Justice League comic that ushered in the Rebirth era.
Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson) felt like another character whose actions were inconsistent with his previous appearances in this universe. This is the same Luthor who forced his way onto the Justice League who constantly tried to kill Superman who was now bending the knee?
Of the main cast, Superman and Constantine are the most consistent while Etrigan (Ray Chase) proves a surprising scene-stealer. Ryan knows Constantine inside and this point and has a clear understanding of the ideal amount of snark to bring to the character.
O’Connell also continues to hit the right notes with his take on The Man of Steel. Raven has arguably the biggest character arc as she’s losing a battle to keep her demonic father, Trigon (John DiMaggio), from emerging and conquering what’s left of the planet. As always Damian gets plenty of screen time despite playing out the most predictable journey.
Directors Matt Peters and Christina Sotta deliver on the action sequences with crisp, lively character movement and displays of powers.Too often the fights end after a torrent of bloodshed with a random death intended more for shock value than a an emotional payoff. By the end, even that becomes dicey as the writers start walking back the finality of death when it impacts the essential characters.
The conclusion feels like a cop-out as the writers take an easy shortcut to fix the problem. It’s too easy a solution and one that seems like it could have been used far earlier to avoid further bloodshed. Unlike Flashpoint Paradox, which offered a hopeful ending in the wake of the carnage, Apokolips War lacks an epilogue to tease the future of the DC Animation universe.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War ends this ambitious run of DC films in an unlikely manner. For fans who invested no the series up to this point, you kinda need to see how it all ends, just don’t go in expecting more than a ton of violence and destruction of this animated New 52 Universe.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Animation