Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
In Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, the Justice League takes on Darkseid himself in a list-ditch attempt to save Earth from destruction.
From the moment the credits rolled on Justice League Dark in 2017, I knew I wanted to see a sequel to John Constantine's story. When Justice League Dark: Apokolips War was finally announced, I was thrilled. Finally, the adventures of John Constantine and the Justice League would continue. Then came the news that this film would mark the end of the DC Animated Universe as it has existed since Justice League: War in 2014. This changed my expectations slightly, but not that much. After all, every series deserves a grand finale, right?
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is a grand finale all right, but not in the way I was expecting. In fact it's entirely possible this film will catch a lot of people off guard. This story does not go the way you think it will, and whether that's good or bad will depend on how you feel about the DC Animated Universe overall. Personally, I think it's good to subvert expectations every now and then, especially with a story as big as this.
To be clear, this was a well-crafted story, even if it does bear a passing resemblance to Avengers: Endgame in certain areas. Though given that the film features Darkseid (a Thanos-like villain) and a large roster of superheroes, a comparison to Endgame was all but inevitable. Indeed almost all of the major DC superheroes put in an appearance (even Batwoman has a quick cameo late in the story), and there are references to events that have occurred throughout the timeline of this particular universe. What really helps Justice League Dark: Apokolips War work is that the film doesn't tell you everything you need to know right away. Certain events, and more importantly their consequences, are not explained until later in the film, which is a good thing. A story this large shouldn't give away everything right up front.
The voice cast for the film was spot on, in my opinion. Matt Ryan turns in a stunning performance as John Constantine, proving once again that he was born to play this role. Tony Todd's voice isn't what I imagined Darkseid would sound like, however that didn't stop me from being afraid whenever the character spoke. You can feel the menace in that voice. The one performance that let me down was Ray Chase as Etrigan the Demon. I was expecting a repeat of his performance in Justice League Dark but it was totally different, much to my disappointment.
Something I really liked about this story is that there are a lot of funny moments thrown in. Believe me, you'll need every last one of them because when there isn't something to giggle at, the story can get downright pitch black in terms of content. The humor is meant to keep the story from being one long (mostly) depressing onslaught of horrible things, and I think it mostly works. The one place it didn't is when Harley Quinn gets introduced to the story. I usually love Harley Quinn in any incarnation, but her brand of humor didn't quite...fit in certain critical moments. I get that her character is insane, but it still distracted somewhat from the action.
One detail that really bothered me throughout though is the utter brutality depicted throughout the film. Given the subject matter, I knew going in that the film would be intense, but knowing the film was rated R did not prepare me in the slightest for just how graphic it all was. Absolutely nothing is left to the imagination, and at times it all felt a little too much. On the one hand, I understand that the director and writers wanted to drive home the fact that this particular universe is coming to an end. But I really do feel that they pushed too far with some of the more...graphic...moments. If you're particularly attached to certain DC superheroes, you might have trouble watching this story.
Make no mistake, this story does drive home the fact that this particular animated universe will not continue past Apokolips War. In fact, at one point the devastation comes so quickly that I couldn't help but wonder: is anyone going to be left when this is over? For spoiler reasons I won't answer that, but by the time the story winds down it's clear that something has to give. The solution might please those who remember how this particular universe came to life in the first place, since it serves as a perfect bookend for this series of films.