Look. I rarely write reviews anymore. I typically save my written praise or vitriol for something that truly affects me. A Mad Max: Fury Road or a Last Jedi. Most of the time, I let the ones smarter than I break down the films and TV shows because I have a tendency to lean into my emotions on things when breaking down their strengths or weaknesses. But then there are some emotions I can not quell. Some emotions that wake me up in the middle of the night on a Saturday and have me pouring my thoughts down on paper as though I were in a trance. And in this film’s case, it is a trance of pure hatred. So, let’s talk about the latest and last film in the current DC Animated Universe as presently constituted. Let’s talk about Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. (Slight Spoilers)
I am sick and tired of living in an era of entertainment where filmmakers adapting a classic property are keen on tearing down said classic property, leaving it unrecognizable to what it is intended to be and doing it under the thin veil of “it’s different” or “subverted expectations”. If you are going to deconstruct a character as classic as Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman or the Justice League as a whole and it not be a satire like the Harley Quinn animated show, you better have a deft hand. A brilliant hand. The hands behind Justice League Dark: Apokolips War did not act with any deftness or brilliance that I could see. To me, they acted with the intent of a 14-year-old bully tearing apart a kid’s comic books because they think comics are stupid and wanted to see how the kid would react by doing so.
Talk about the film? Right. Sorry. The “film” centers around the Justice League’s assault on the villainous Darkseid and his planet of Apokolips and the fallout after the battle, seen through the eyes of the always reluctant John Constantine. And from the word “go”…they f*%k up Superman. Oh, sorry. Did I jump ahead? Not really. They f*%k up Superman….from…the word…”go”! The beacon of hope and truth and justice and pragmatism makes a brash decision to have the JLA attack and kill…KILL…Darkseid, a guy who would dishrag Thanos without a second blush. A decision Superman so fervently believes in, he throws a rage-filled destructive hissy fit when he is questioned. Questioned with reason and logic by, of all people, Lex friggin’ Luthor. So right there, ten minutes into this film, I checked out. And I still had an hour and a half to go. But I knew it wouldn’t get better because in this short time the creators of this film have shown me they either hate Superman or think he’s an irrational idiot. And by association, they’ve made Batman and Wonder Woman equally stupid by having them go along with this plan. Batman puts his literal kids in harm’s way to go along with a murder plan that is about a step away from “Hulk Smash” in terms of strategy on Darkseid.
If I have to point to things I liked, it would be Matt Ryan as Constantine. The guy certainly loves this character since he’s been playing him in some iteration since 2014, and it shows. This is likely his last time voicing him and that saddens me. He and his relationship with Etrigan the Demon and the callously refrigeratored Zatanna were the only cool breeze in this burning desert of disappointment I had.
I’m sure people love this sorta thing and that’s their right. But I hate it. I hate lazy, A to…um…let’s skip B and C so we can just get to D, shock and awe storytelling solely to gain shock and awe through the quickest route. I used to think the Killing Joke animated film was the worst, most offensive DC animated film I’d seen, but this hateful film is by far the worst. I will never watch it again and may just stay away from DC animation for a while until I hear overwhelmingly good things from people I trust. Going in, I didn’t even know they were resetting the DC Animated Universe. After I found this out, I was even more upset. This…this is how you’re going to do it?
If you want to see a good, smart, respectful, enjoyable approach to this same story and enemy and material…watch the last few episodes of Justice League Unlimited. There they actually give Darkseid, the villain, a motivation, a character, and even bother to mention things like the Anti-Life Equation. What’s that you ask? Oh, nothing. Just the one thing Darkseid has ever cared about. Is it mentioned in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War? No…but hey look! One of your favorite comic book characters was just torn in half with their guts splattering on the pseudo camera. Cool huh? Who needs motivation when you can just wallow in displays of base instincts.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is like if Eli Roth was forced at gunpoint by Martin Scorsese to make a DC film that would take away the allure of comic book movies forever so people would pay to watch a four hour Irishman re-release. If you think it’s fantastic if comic book characters act uncharacteristically while dying horribly, disturbingly, and vacantly with all the gravitas of a jump scare in a bad Blumhouse movie, go and enjoy Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. A film that made me believe the actual apocalypse couldn’t be as bad.