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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

DVD Of The Week: Justice League Dark - Apokolips War (2020)


I imagine if he had had the budget to match the visuals on display in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, and access to a cast of thousands, Zack Snyder's Justice League movie would have looked somewhat like this.

In a very real sense, it is the closest DC, and Warner Bros, has yet come to a superheroic rebuttal of Marvel's Infinity War/Endgame duology.

The 90-minute animated movie, released on disc last month, opens with the arrival of Darkseid's world in our solar system and a gung-ho declaration of war by Earth's superheroes, with Superman (voiced by Jerry O'Connell) calling for a preemptive strike.

But this is a bait-and-switch, to catch us off-guard, with the narrative then jumping forward two years and Darkseid (voiced by Tony Todd) has won. The Earth is ruins and being drained of its resources by Darkseid's Fourth World technology.

Most of our superheroes have fallen, some have been brainwashed into Darkseid's service, and an obsequious Lex Luthor (voiced by Rainn Wilson) has switched sides willingly.

But there is a rag-tag resistance growing in the rubble, led by Clark Kent, the former Superman, now powerless having been branded with a liquid Kryptonite tattoo, and Raven (Taissa Farmiga), whose weakened state means she is always on the brink of being possessed by the spirit of her demonic father, Trigon (voiced by John DiMaggio aka Adventure Time's Jake The Dog).

Needing his magic for their plan, they track down John Constantine (voiced by Matt Ryan), the story's point-of-view character, who fled the initial conflict and has been hiding at the bottom of various whisky bottles ever since.

Surviving members of the Justice League, Justice League Dark, Teen Titans, and Suicide Squad then rally together to try and liberate the Earth from Darkseid's thrall.

In no time at all, Apokolips War puts the "dark" in Justice League Dark, but not in the heavy-handed way Synder did in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman.

Instead, this is a visceral war movie, with superpowered characters fighting amped-up alien demons, so people are going to die. A lot of people.

Often in gruesome fashion.

The climactic slugfest between a New God and an old one is just the icing on the cake.

As you may have guessed, and with the 15 certificate on the UK Blu-Ray release, this is not a child-friendly cartoon, with its liberal sprinkling of gore and the (now mandatory in a DC Comics adaptation) dropping of multiple f-bombs.

The 15th and final movie in the DC Animated Movie Universe timeline, it's also clear from quite early on, as the bodies continue to drop, that there's only really one way this can all end.

However, Mairghread Scott's script, of a story by Christina Sotta and Ernie Altbacker (inspired somewhat by Geoff John's Darkseid War storyline from the Justice League comics of a few years ago) does a magnificent job of keeping the audience on their toes, constantly second-guessing their assumptions of the final twist.

Spectacular and bombastic, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War does an immensely satisfying job of bringing a large-scale, comic book crossover event to life

For recent comparison, I'd say it does a far better job than the recent over-ambitious, and ultimately underwhelming, attempt to translate Crisis On Infinite Earths into a five-part, live-action, CW/Arrowverse story.

If I had to find fault, the only criticism I'd have of Apokolips War is that, at an hour-and-a-half duration, it's too short.

I'd have been more than happy if it had been twice as long, possibly as a two-parter, giving the many, many supporting characters a better chance to shine and for us to follow their sub-plots in more depth.

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