JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKOLIPS WAR / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MATT PETERS, CHRISTINA SOTTA / SCREENPLAY: ERNIE ALTBACKER, MAIRGHREAD SCOTT, CHRISTINA SOTTA / STARRING: MATT RYAN, TAISSA FARMIGA, JERRY O’CONNELL, RAINN WILSON, JASON O’MARA, TONY TODD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (DIGITAL), MAY 18TH (BLU-RAY/DVD)
Special Features: Filmmaker audio commentary / Three featurettes / Three from the DC Vault / DC Showcase: Adam Strange / Superman: Man of Tomorrow sneak peek
In terms of anticipation, rarely has an animated comic book-driven movie been as excitedly looked forward to as much as Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. After seven years and a total of 15 movies, the world that begun during 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox culminates here in a star-studded picture with extremely high stakes on the line. But can Apokolips War live up to the hype and pressure, or is this a film that ultimately has too many plates to continuously keep spinning? Let’s find out.
Pulling loose inspiration from Geoff John’s The Darkseid War comic book arc, Apokolips War is the point that all of its predecessors have been slowly building up to. To paraphrase another certain hero from another certain franchise, we’re in the endgame now. And boy oh boy, is it glorious! Opening with the Justice League intent on taking the fight to the nefarious Darkseid and ending things once and for all, things don’t work out all that well for DC’s finest. Instead, we’re soon taken to a ‘two years later’ landscape in which these heroes failed in their biggest test yet. As a result, many heroes are dead or rendered a shell of their former selves, while the universe as a whole has been left decimated by Darkseid and his minions. Even though Apokolips War features a who’s who of DC Comics characters, it’s largely down to John Constantine (Matt Ryan), Superman (Jerry O’Connell), and Raven (Taissa Farmiga) to band together to try and right the Justice League’s previous wrongs and somehow put a stop to Darkseid.
From the moment that Superman gives an impassioned speech during the film’s opening moments, you realise that the threat and risk of Apokolips War is unprecedented. Far removed from the ever-positive Man of Steel we’ve come to know and love, this is a Superman who has realised what really needs to be done to stop Darkseid – and a Superman who is now prepared to do just that. As mentioned, this battle doesn’t go well for those fighting the good fight, and thus we’re taken to an apocalyptic future just two years down the line.
Further adding to the hard-hitting nature of Apokolips War, those stakes are only further emphasised when some of our most beloved superheroes are brutally murdered at the behest of Darkseid. And in these moments, Apokolips War makes full use of its 15 certificate/R rating as the gruesome gore is never anything but shockingly violent. Seriously, elements of certain fight scenes are reminiscent of another recent animated Warner Bros. release, the carnage-laden Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge.
Juggling so many characters was always going to be a tall ask, and by focussing the majority of attention on a select few of these – a select few who nicely encompass the varying strands of this shared realm of movies – was a sensible call. Given how this film serves as a sequel to pretty much anything we’ve seen over the last six or seven years, Apokolips War does brilliantly to service the multitude of tales that came before it in a way that feels natural, logical, yet often also truly shocking. There are moments here that will bring a genuine tear to the eye, a lump to the throat, and a thawing out of even the coldest of hearts.
Brimming with emotion, action, and an engaging endpoint story, Justice League Dark: Apokolips is a complete and utter triumph from all involved in the cast and crew. Every voice talent does their absolute best with whatever piece they were afforded in this particular puzzle, but special praise has to go Matt Ryan and Taissa Farmiga. In a world so often dominated by a Batman, a Superman, or a Wonder Woman, it could easily be that characters like Constantine and Raven got a little lost in the shuffle. Instead, here Ryan’s Hellblazer and Farmiga’s Raven are front-and-centre as two of the movie’s anchors – and both do a fantastic job in steering the Apokolips War ship.
By the time all is said and done with Apokolips War, this shared animated universe very much will never be the same again. And while we may not know what’s next for this set of characters, Apokolips War delivers the sort of finale that is all that you could hope for if you’ve spent the past seven years invested in this world.