Expectations can be a double edged sword. Sometimes, you expect something really grand and what you get is less than special. The opposite is true as well, as something you don’t expect to be any good can turn out to be one heck of an experience. I came into Justice League Dark: Apokalips War predicting it would just be an okay film and nothing to write home about. Sure, it was announced that it would be the final entry to the DC Animated Universe film series that started way back in 2013 with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. But, at the most, I expected it to just be okay.
Color me surprised, but I think Justice League Dark: Apokalips Wars was extremely good. Much better than it deserved. And that is thanks so some clever writing, rewarding longtime viewers of the DC Animated Universe who’ve watched every film in the series and, most especially, subversion of expectations.
Now, I will be giving a very SPOILER FREE review of the film, which is going to be very difficult because giving even the slightest sliver of information about the film would ruin the surprises Justice League Dark: Apokolips War will spring on you. Still, I do owe it to everyone to keep this SPOILER FREE as part of the fun is the multiple reveals.
The general premise of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War has Darkseid preparing for another invasion of Earth. This time, the Justice League, including the newly instated John Constantine, decide that the best defense is a good offense as they attempt to lead a preemptive strike on Apokolips… and this is all I can really say about the plot of the film. Honestly, anything else after this would be considered a spoilers so I will be shutting up about the story.
But it will be sufficient to say that this is probably the darkest film in the entire DC Animated Universe. Kinda makes you second guess the title, doesn’t it? Apokolips War is a rated-R film and a definitely earns it. There are some surprisingly gory battles and violent imagery here, which I totally didn’t expect to see. However, I do think it’s earned and not just there to shock viewers; these scenes are to drive the message home regarding how dire the situation is.
As mentioned, Apokolips Wars is supposed to be the final entry of the entire DC Animated Universe film series. The writers were incredibly smart to include numerous callbacks to the events of previous films in the franchise as there is a shared continuity. In fact, it’s not just the Justice League who gets to join in on the fun. A couple of Teen Titan members, specifically, Raven and Damien Wayne/Robin, have a lot of character growth throughout the film’s 90-minute runtine. They don’t really overshadow John Constantine as the main star but they are given enough time to make their story interesting.
However, the group that steals the show is the Suicide Squad. While they’re mostly played for comic relief (and rightfully so), they are written with such panache and personality that I can’t really get mad at why they weren’t in the film all that much. In retrospect, they’re there to lighten up the mood of the really dour feel that exudes throughout the movie. If they were there all throughout the film, it would have left me feeling like they were sending me mixed messages. Basically, the Suicide Squad never wore out their welcome.
Another standout here who not really mentioned is Etrigan, The Demon. Like the Suicide Squad, he’s mostly there for laughs but he does get some of the better lines, almost as if the writers knew he would perfect to illicit some of the more lighter moments, despite being a demonic killing machine.
Still, the star here is John Constantine. The film doesn’t exactly revolve around him but he is the catalyst that gets the primary story moving. He’s once again voiced by Matt Ryan and, honestly, I still he’s the most perfectly cast person all throughout the entire DC Animated Universe. He delivers all his lines that just sounds like how John Constantine would do it. It certainly helps he’s been playing the role for several years now. I’m still pissed they cancelled the Constantine series, by the way!
I will say that most of the voice acting here is pretty good. They got every person who have voiced their respective DC characters back for this and it does show. It looks like everyone’s stepped up their game here as even Rebecca Romijin’s Lois Lane and Taissa Farmiga’s Raven, two particular vocal performances that annoyed me in previous films, come off as much better here. Part of the reason why they sound better is because all the characters have more chances to show a bigger emotional range rather than the more static performances they had to give before. This does mean that Apokolips War, overall, just has a better script and a better story.
The animation quality, overall, is very good. It still has the rather “clean” animation style all the previous DC Animated Universe movies have but they did add a little more grit to the backgrounds, which was necessary to facilitate the more darker tone. The action and the battle scenes are also top-notch as it’s very easy to follow what’s happening. I already mentioned that the film is really gory at times and I’m glad because it really punches up how brutal the fights were.
One thing that Apokolips War get so right is how it feels like an actual conclusion to a series of films that share a long running continuity. While not every film in the DC Animated Universe enthralled me, I still watched them all and it rewards people like me who did. There are some callbacks to the events that happened in The Flashpoint Paradox, Justice League: War and Justice League vs. Teen Titans, to name a few. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is the DC Animated Universe’s version of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame all rolled into one package. This, of course, can be a problem for someone who’s only watched a few of the film in the series. But fans who have diligently watched each movie will definitely reap huge rewards.
My biggest issue, if you can call it that, is how Apokolips War ends. Now, I generally like the ending as it comes off as a definite conclusion to a long running franchise. There’s no mistaking that this is the last movie to be set here. However, I do kind of wish they let devoted a few more minutes to let the feeling marinate instead of rushing to the credits. It’s not abrupt and you know what’s going to happen but they could’ve devoted a little more time to let it sink in.
Overall, I was very happy with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. It comes off as a satisfying conclusion to a film franchise that rewards devoted fans who stuck with them through all the movies that were made. If you haven’t been following the DC Animated Universe but want to watch this, I do suggest that you, at the very least, see Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League Dark. I’ll even throw in Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay because that’s a particularly bonkers and fun film. But if you have watched them before, I really suggest seeing Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. A solid thumbs up for me.
Have you seen Justice League Dark: Apokolips War? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!