Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020)

It is the end of the DCAMU(DC Animated Movie Universe), at least I hope not.

Following his previous failed attempts to conquer the earth, Darkseid has gone on a warpath, destroying countless worlds, getting the attention of both the Justice League and the Teen Titans. The leaders plan to launch a counter-attack on Darkseid's homeworld, Apokolips, to kill him, despite the objections of both The Flash, who is still affected by the events of Flashpoint, and John Constantine. The League travels to Apokolips while the Titans remain on Earth. Then we cut to two years later.

Yes, seriously. The Earth becomes one of several worlds under Darkseid's rule. Cyborg, who is a mother box himself was unknowingly broadcasting the entire plan directly to Darkseid. Even then, Darkseid's army of parademons have been infused with both Doomsday's DNA and kryptonite, making them quite powerful. (If you are not a DC fan and you are reading this, what I'm writing must be complete nonsense). The battle wasn't even close. Several members of the Justice League and the Teen Titans are brutally killed.

I applaud the choice of not showing the entire battle. We are treated to snippets. Superman is imbued with kryptonite, rendering him powerless. Wonder Woman, Mera, and a few others are torn apart and turned into mindless slaves. Batman is Darkseid's right-hand man after brainwashing/torture sessions. Hope is in short supply.

Superman and Raven search for John Constantine and find him in a drunken stupor. They recruit him, Etrigan and Damien Wayne/Robin to join in the last-ditch effort to restore peace.

The film has great callbacks to previous films in the series, especially from The Flashpoint Paradox, Son of Batman, Justice League vs Teen Titans, Justice League Dark, and Reign Of The Supermen. Weaving the story from the events that occurred in those films results in several payoff moments that made the fan in me smile. Having the remaining members of the Justice League and Teen Titans team up with the Suicide Squad makes for fun interactions. Despite the doom and gloom, there are still some laughs to be had.

Everyone is great, but Matt Ryan is the standout voice performance for me. He is just pitch-perfect as Constantine, both animated and live-action. As big as the cast is, with its science-fiction elements, magic elements, and otherwise, putting the focus on him and the central team helps from keeping the film convoluted, given all the information the film is giving us with a 90-minute runtime.

The relationship between the two damaged kids, Raven and Damien is great as well. The two of them both get proper conclusions to their stories and find closure regarding their relationships with their fathers and each other.

The action sequences are a highlight in all their brutal glory. The R rating was an asset, given the high stakes. Those sequences go for broke as many of the characters get one final chance to shine. There is a particular fight near the climax between Darkseid and another villain that I never knew that I wanted.

Some things didn't work as well. The film is a few years too soon. For one, it didn't serve as a proper ending to this universe. This is the 15th film in the series. Nearly 1/3 of the films were solo Batman adventures. Several characters in the film are murdered, but the impact their deaths are supposed to inflict don't register unless you are a personal fan. Many of them were not developed. Shazam appeared in the first two Justice League films, and then nothing until this film.

There should have been at least 6 more films that paid attention to characters that have been ignored or pushed to the sidelines. The oversight regarding the various Green Lanterns sticks out like a sore thumb in one particular scene. Still, this is a solid film.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020) is overall a weak conclusion to the overarching narrative, but it is nevertheless a bloody action-packed emotional thrill ride with beautiful animation, combined with humor and heart that will satisfy long term fans and newcomers.

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