No way around it, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War was always going to be compared to Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. Both films feature a series spanning big bad and are the culmination of a cinematic universe. However, while Endgame spent nearly three hours telling a satisfying conclusion, Apokolips War accomplished the same in half the time.
The film doesn’t waste time setting up the opening action. Constantine and Zatanna are on the Watchtower along with the other members of the Justice League. Darkseid is planning a third attempt at conquering Earth. To prevent this from happening, the Justice League decide to attack Darkseid first on his home planet of Apokolips. Unbeknownst to them, Cyborg’s technology is still sending Darkseid information, like the JL’s plan of attack. Before the opening credits roll, the audience is left with enhanced parademons attacking the JL ships.
The action picks up two years later and slowly unravels the failed mission in bloody detail. This is where Apokolips War gets a leg up on Endgame, the R-rating allows them to show the true horrors of war. Blood, guts, swearing, and up close death. Characters drop f-bombs and multiple limbs are ripped off before you even finish blinking. It’s a world on the brink of destruction with no hope in sight. Yet, never does the audience lose faith in the heroes.
Despite the 90 minute runtime, Apokolips War manages to pay off and conclude numerous character arcs and story details from previous films. Specifically, Damian Wayne and Raven see their daddy issues resolved and admit their love for one another. We learn The Flash remembers the events of The Flashpoint Paradox, and that it has a direct relation to Darkseid.
Just like Endgame, Apokolips War uses the time jump to shake up some characters. Superman is powerless after receiving a kryptonite tattoo; Nightwing has gone insane after Damian tried bringing him back to life with the Lazarus Pit; Batman became a brainwashed slave to Darkseid; Etrigan became so depressed he stopped rhyming; and Wonder Woman and the other captured members of the Justice League became robotic warriors for Darkseid. The film is packed with countless surprises and twists that leave you smiling. Oh, and Lois Lane fights Harley Quinn in a boxing match. This film has it all, I tell you!
The voice cast (as always) is superb. Matt Ryan proves he is to Constantine what Robert Downey Jr. is to Tony Stark. He has brought the definitive portrayal of the character to life. Stuart Allan, Taissa Farmiga, and Jerry O’Connell also deserve praise for their time as Damian, Raven, and Clark Kent/Superman. We’ve seen them change over the last fifteen films, but it has been nowhere as severe as Apokolips War. Jason O’Mara is once again fine as Batman. I know there are some who think he’s the worst voice actor for Batman, but I think he did the role justice here.
However, despite a last minute victory over Darkseid, the Earth is still doomed. Our heroes vow to continue fighting to the last breath, but it all feels bittersweet. They know their time is up just as we know this universe has reached its end. Yet as we watch The Flash speed off to reset the timeline we feel hopeful. Our heroes may forget their greatest battle, but they will live on to save the Earth all over again and maybe stop the big bad before blood is shed.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War isn’t just a great DC animated film, but a great DC film period. Heck, I almost want to say it was better than Avengers: Endgame. That’s right, if that statement doesn’t get you to check this film out I don’t know what will. And I loved Endgame! I just think Apokolips War took more character risks and really went all out with the story (after all, there are no restrictions in animation). It’s not a perfect film, but it’s one I’d press play and watch again right now. DC accomplished a lot in only 90 minutes, and none of it ever feels rushed. If that’s not a testament to their continued success in the animation genre, I don’t know what is.
Apokolips War may conclude the DC Animated Movie Universe, but its ending promises us that our heroes will get their much deserved rebirth.
“I guess I have the last word. Suck it, bitches!” – Cyborg