With 2014’s Justice League: War, the DC Universe Animated Original Movies launched its own shared cinematic universe, largely inspired by the New 52 era of DC comics. After 14 movies, the story comes to an end in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, bringing together the iconic superheroes for a final battle against Darkseid as he sets his sights on Earth once again. The film is certainly the most ambitious, bombastic entry in the shared cinematic universe, although it’s also an unrelentingly violent and grim conclusion to the long-running story.
Learning that Darkseid intends to launch another invasion of Earth, the Justice League, Justice League Dark and Teen Titans join forces to launch a preemptive strike against Apokolips. However, the teams quickly discover the villainous New God has anticipated their actions, and instead puts them on the defensive as they mount a desperate last stand on Earth to stop evil incarnate. Along the way, heroes and villains outside of the three teams return to assist in the battle.
Told largely from the perspective of John Constantine, this is certainly the darkest of the 14 films in the shared cinematic universe. The high stakes are underscored from the outset by notable deaths, often displayed in gruesome, unrelenting fury. There are plenty of Easter eggs and allusions to earlier movies to please longtime fans, but many may be lost in the shock and awe as Apokolips War burns through its extensive cast. Many heroes and villains appear only briefly before being brutally dispatched.
Matt Ryan’s voice work as Constantine remains as strong as ever, with the actor having portrayed the Hellblazer for seven years now in live-action and animation. Joining him is Taissa Farmiga reprising her role as the Teen Titan Raven, who’s still very much at odds with her own inner darkness, as she and Superman reunite with Constantine to regroup. Farmiga has always had a pretty strong hold of Raven’s voice. and this potential final turn is no different as she delivers some of her most emotional work with the fan-favorite superhero.
The animation certainly captures the scope and finality of the story, from devastated landscapes to the hellish expanse of Apokolips. The action is a bit pat for much of the film but, by the climax, those sequences really go for broke as many of the characters get one final chance to shine. And, in keeping with the tone set by Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, it’s clear this animated movie is not for younger audiences — if the heightened violence wasn’t a dead giveaway — with even more family-friendly heroes employing coarser language as the stakes increase.
The DC Animated Movie Universe certainly goes out with more of a bang than a whimper in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, but it’s never easy watching fan-favorite characters go down, particularly so brutally. Some of the violence borders on unsavory, and is a bit more than audiences may be accustomed to in a DC animated film. While many of the major players get their opportunity to shine one last time, others are lost in the shuffle. For fans for the long-running franchise, this is a must-watch to close out the overarching story; for those looking for a lighter, more fun diversion, this may not be it.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War stars Matt Ryan as John Constantine, Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Taissa Farmiga as Raven, Stuart Allan as Robin, Tony Todd as Darkseid, Jason O’Mara as Batman, Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Shemar Moore as Cyborg, Christopher Gorham as the Flash, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane and Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor. The film arrives digitally May 5 and on Blu-ray May 19.
The final film in the DC Animated Movie Universe closes things out with a dark, bloody last stand for the iconic superheroes.