Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray; $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence, language and some sexual references.
Voices of Matt Ryan, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Taissa Farmiga, Stuart Allan, Tony Todd, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, Christopher Gorham, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is among the most brutal superhero movies and animated movies one is likely to encounter.

The film is the 15th and final chapter of the DC Animated Movie Universe, a series of direct-to-video films that started in 2013 with a string of ‘PG-13’ adventures and gradually pushed the envelope into ‘R’-rated territory. This film earns its rating, with multiple scenes of superheroes being dismembered and torn in half.

The film begins with Superman (Jerry O’Connell) urging the Justice League to attack the planet Apokolips to end the threat of Darkseid, who has attempted several invasions of Earth throughout these movies. However, the battle is a disaster for the heroes, who are nearly all slaughtered, with many being turned into cyborg minions of Darkseid’s army.

Cut to two years later, and Darkseid’s forces have conquered Earth and are sucking minerals from the planet’s core. Superman, depowered due to kryptonite poisoning, recruits the few remaining heroes, as well as Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad, on a desperate mission to divide the armies of Apokolips so they have a chance to kill Darkseid.

Key to the plan are John Constantine (Matt Ryan), the practitioner of the dark arts whose magics are needed in the final battle, and Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan), the son of Batman (Jason O’Mara), who has been brainwashed into serving as Darkseid’s chief tactician.

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The filmmakers have pulled out all the stops for this one, producing an animated equivalent of Avengers: Endgame for the DC Comics characters. The film manages to involve nearly every character who ever played a part in one of the movies of the series, even if it’s just a small background cameo.

One of the key strengths of the film is how it serves both as a fitting conclusion to the 15-movie cycle while also working effectively well as a standalone adventure. The extreme circumstances the heroes find themselves in almost qualify the movie as an Elseworlds alternate reality tale, which adds to the fun.

It also helps that the premise gives a lot of the franchise’s quirky breakthrough characters to shine, with Matt Ryan’s Constantine (a role he also plays in live action on “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”) is practically an institution at this point, and always a sure bet to carry the story to where it needs to go.

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The Blu-ray includes a good commentary track with executive producer James Tucker, directors Matt Peters and Christina Sotta, and screenwriter Ernie Altbacker.

The disc also includes a good 15-minute featurette about the comic book history of Darkseid, plus a few bonus cartoons.

There are also previews for other DC Universe animated movies, including the upcoming Superman: Man of Tomorrow.

The Blu-ray also includes the 16-minute animated short film DC Showcase: Adam Strange, a gritty mini tale for the classic character (voiced by Charlie Weber) who finds himself trapped on a mining colony after his homeworld is invaded. Unable to return to his family and unaware of their fate, he finds himself scorned as a drunk, but must rise to defend the people who would cast him aside when they are attacked by a horde of deadly insects. It’s a decent update to the character.

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