What is Justice League Dark: Apokolips War?

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Seven years ago DC animation adapted Flashpoint for the DVD shelves. Little did we know that this would be the start of a whole new DC universe. One that trounced the big screen adaptations and lagged behind the 90’s to 2000’s television universe. It was never the best nor has it been the worst. Through ups and down. Through suicide squads and teenage titans. This is move sixteen …….

Now first off I really should say that this is not the Justice League Dark. Sure I guess John Constantine gets top billing and some could argue he’s the main character but this is a crossover of the main properties so if you have to give one label; a simple Justice League would probably be best. While some might say that the Justice League Dark haven’t had a follow up and deserve one before the universe ends (spoiler) but the Justice League themselves haven’t had a titular movie in about eight or nine films by this point. Heck considering we’re so keen to go back to the beginning with this why not start with a Justice League just like we began. You could even argue that while John gets front and centre for the flick more Suicide Squad members show which could lead some to argue that their name would be better above the subtitle. But I’m getting off topic. We’re over two hundred words in and I’ve not got past the title yet.

So very quickly; Darkseid is on the war path and Earth is next. The Justice League decide to strike now rather than waiting to go on the defensive and thus take the fight to Apokolips. This goes wrong before the titles have faded and we jump to two years later. The heroes are beaten, Earth has fallen and John is getting drunk. He’s interrupted from this piss up by a starved looking Raven and a Superman who may have been listening to questionable medical authorities due to having pure Kryptonite injected into his veins after hearing that it kills the anti-life equation dead. After recruiting the drunk Brit they set out on a quest to set things right.

Now the flashpoint universe here started as a straight adaptation of the nu52 universe that DC tried to sell us a few years prior. This didn’t really work as the nu52 was mostly garbage and the films got better the more they drifted from this. The problem was that drifting from this typically meant fairly bland adaptations of classic DC stories. Things like the Death of Superman, Hush, and Judas Contract made up more and more but they didn’t really work partially due to the other movies that DC were bringing out at the same time. Films like Red Son, Gotham by Gaslight, and Superman vs the Elite. There was always a bit of a question mark over why some movies got such fairly faithful adaptations while others got these nu52 universe styled adaptations that were close enough to be familiar but far enough way to ask why you didn’t get your classic story as well as fans of Dark Knight or New Frontier do. Truth be told I haven’t see many of these, after all why do I need to see a second animated adaptation of the death of superman within ten years; especially if you’re gonna split its release and thus charge me twice. But maybe I should have been watching them as those films were slowly building a universe that comes into play here.

Now for a review of the movie itself, as a slight detour from my previous tangent, the films shows a dark future for the heroic universe and this doesn’t feel like a token effort. People die and when people die in this movie they really show it. Okay so maybe not totally over the top but there is blood splattering on the walls and swears a plenty that don’t feel out of place, as they sometimes do in superhero fare, given the plot and even some of the less over the top scenes manage to really pack a punch. Raven from the scene above will surely pull a tear or two from an unsuspecting eye lid. I’m not sure it hits as hard as they would like given how little time we have spent with these versions of said characters. Yeah it hit me to see what happened to Dick Grayson but that’s because it’s Dick Grayson. This one has only been seen a handful of times and isn’t even voiced by Sean Maher, who will thus be going out on Teen Titans vs Teen Titans Go (an interesting movie). Maybe it’s the short run time that hurts it here as they seem intent to get everyone back, some so quick I’m having to rely on wikipedia to tell me they were there. Yeah I saw Hal in the background of some shots and John Stewart gets a single, powerful, scene but I’m gonna take it form the internet that Guy Gardner was also there somewhere kicking butt and hitting on women with zero interest. As I said maybe this lack of interest comes from me not watching every movie when they landed and some still sitting on my to watch pile somewhere above Picard and Mandalorian and just below Killjoys and Lucifer season two.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the film though that could be the setting. I love when comics stray from the source and also when they’re free to show some weight to their fights. Some might complain DCeased is simply going back to the well with Dead World but the only thing I find more interesting than showing the end of all things is a writer willing to go beyond that and show what happens next. Nu52’s own Earth 2 only got good when the world was ending. Ironically from Darkseid invading.

And maybe that’s where this film really falls down for me. Spoiler warnings for the end of the movie. After all this when I finally have a universe that’s not just ‘another’ DC universe, that’s close enough to the comics I read as a child, we end it all. This is due to be the last from this line, with these actors, and these characters; and considering how they end it I believe they mean it. Flash takes off back into the speed force to presumably try and save Mummy all over again and hope that the ripples from it this time will make something better or at least different. I don’t think we’re supposed to take it as the launch of a new series but simply the end of this one; though I have been known to be wrong, from time to time.

I have movies coming out every year or so showing a bright and shiny Justice League or fresh faced Superman and I will probably get around to each of them eventually but there’s no rush because they’re the same as the cartoons I watched as a kid, comics I flick through even to this day, and sometimes even movies on the big screen. But just when this universe decided to do something new, when I wanted to tune in next week at the same bat-time and on the same bat channel because I genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next they close the curtains and take their final bow. Heck the way they back out of some of the big changes at the end made me think they were going to keep going.

I won’t list some of the dramatic ends but the closer we get to the end the fewer we stick to as though up until now we’re happy to wipe them out in an epic final fight against the forces of evil until we realise that we’re gonna have to tell more stories one day and don’t want to do so without this character or that one. Though thankfully even up to the end they don’t do this for everyone, making it seem like this isn’t going to be some happy ever after for all. Am I going to miss this line. Not really, though some may and I can see why. Nobody here was bad; well except for Lex who sounds terrible. I mean I know nobody can measure up to Clancy Brown but the whiny naisily voice sounds more like me than the greatest evil genius of comic book history. And while the movies were a little ill planned out, in the long run, they went further than  Marvel when they tried to bring the Ultimates to the store shelves. They only got through one decent adaptation, watering down some of the more adult content before realising that would be impossible for a second feature and giving us some weak Black Panther film. Heck even up to the end they keep fixing upon the Nu52’s mistakes such as laying the blame for flashpoint at the feet of Darkseid, though I was too lazy to make note of why or how, instead of some random chick in a cape or a metaphor for the abstract nature of self and humanity as written by one of the greatest, if craziest, writers of our time who promptly got screwed over by a faceless conglomerate who keep their stolen and ill gotten characters forever running in place like the Flash on the treadmill that Darkseid has him strapped to in the final act of this film.

If you’re a super hero fan I’d recommend this one simply because it’s their final outing and just like Enterprise in season four it seems like they have enough freedom to do what they want. This isn’t just another flights and tights movie, though it veers into it many times, even into the final climax of the piece with Superman being Superman because, well, he’s Superman. You don’t really need to get all the references to past films to follow what’s going on so long as you’ve caught a few DC motion pictures and or television shows in the last decade. They might even encourage you to go check out said past films as you want to know more about the origin of Doomsday, the last time Darkseid tried to invade the Earth or who and what the titular Justice League Dark might be.

 

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