'Justice League Dark: Apokolips War' - The Endgame for the DCAMU
How Well Does This Conclude The Series?
May 5 saw the release of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, the final installment of the DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU) that was created as a result of the events in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. The fifteenth film in the series, Apokolips War feels like the culmination of seven years of animated storytelling. It incorporates members of the teams whom fans have followed in this universe: Justice League, Justice League Dark, Suicide Squad, and Teen Titans.
Of course, opinions will vary in regards to how epic it was compared to something like Avengers: Endgame, elements of which appear in Apokolips War perhaps by coincidence. While I do prefer Endgame, as well as other DCAMU films, Apokolips War did really well with all the pieces it included. The premise of having the Justice League go up against Darkseid is one that the DC Extended Universe was intended to go, and I think that premise is executed very well here. Of course, such a premise has happened in comics. I'm most familiar with the "Darkseid War" storyline from New 52. There were similarities here and there, but by and large, Apokolips War was more of its own thing than an adaptation, which is a great move.
Going into Apokolips War, I had caught up to the "Darkseid War" storyline. As I read further and further, it became evident to me that Apokolips War would be very different. With Justice League Dark in the title, Constantine would have a substantial role. I was fine with that. The differences would provide an element of surprise. Batman does end up in the Mobius Chair in both stories, but how much control he has is different.
Diving further into my experience watching this movie, I think it's worth going into the aspects that reminded me of Endgame, which I found a bit distracting. To be fair, I may have been distracted because I went in looking for things to compare. For viewers who watch it without that intent, the similarities might not be as obvious. While Apokolips War was officially announced in July 2019, a couple of months after the release of Endgame, I'm not sure what the production timeline for this animated film was like and how conscious the writers may have been of Endgame at the time. This is not an accusation but rather a thought exercise.
For starters, Darkseid uses Cyborg to spy on the Justice League as they plan their attack on Apokolips in the beginning of the film. This, to me, feels very similar to Thanos going through recordings in Nebula's mind, using her to his advantage against The Avengers. The 2-year timeskip after the League's defeat reminds me of the 5-year timeskip at the beginning of Endgame, Earth having changed for the worse in both instances.
As remaining members of the League recruit allies for another assault on Apokolips, they recruit the Suicide Squad, one of its members being King Shark. Most of the time, the only thing he says is, "King Shark is King Shark," which brings to mind "I am Groot."
During the attack on Apokolips later in the film, Batman is motivated when his son Damian appears to be dying in his arms. I could not help but remember the lasting effects on Tony Stark after Peter Parker died in his arms at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
The gem on Raven's forehead becoming prominent could perhaps be compared to the Infinity Stones. When Trigon is released and inhabits Superman's body, the key to saving Superman becomes his mechanical glove containing a broadcast of Lois Lane. In this moment, I was reminded of the Infinity Gauntlet and the attempts to take it during fight sequences. Once Superman snaps out of it and witnesses the death of Lois Lane, he beats up Darkseid (even throwing him around the same way Hulk does to Loki in The Avengers) and yells the line that Wanda yells to Thanos: "You took everything from me!"
And, of course, there are portals involved, though they are not featured in a poignant way like how Endgame displayed them. At the end of the movie, The Flash travels back in time, which could call to mind all the time travel in Endgame, but it also comes full circle paralleling the time travel he goes through in The Flashpoint Paradox.
The biggest difference that Apokolips War has compared to Endgame, The Flashpoint Paradox, and even X-Men: Days of Future Past, is that we do not see the end result of the time travel at the end. Though Apokolips has been destroyed, the surviving members of the attack are not completely fine, and Earth isn't doing so well either. Before Barry Allen goes back in time, Constantine acknowledges that the next new timeline he creates could be better or worse. After Barry's departure, a light consumes the world, showing the end of this timeline as a new one is created. And then the film ends!
Going into this film, I figured out from an Amazon trivia note that this was set to be the last DCAMU film. I just didn't realize that it would literally end this universe. I was caught off-guard by the lack of an epilogue. The ending feels abrupt, but the uncertainty of whether the new timeline will be better or worse is somehow refreshing. It was unsettling for me to see some of my favorite heroes die. Part of me did wish for all of them to be healed, but I do think that there's also value in showing consequences this way. No matter how dark the world may be, the heroes try to press onward, and they still hang on to whatever hope they have. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but I do see the value in how it's executed.
Now the question is where exactly things go from here. Theoretically, DC could create another animated movie universe that's a result of the time travel at the end of this film. Perhaps it could be Rebirth inspired.
On the other hand, perhaps they might want to move away from animated movie universes altogether, and let the DCAMU stand proudly as a seven-year experiment that yielded great results. Without shared universe films taking up release dates in the future, there would be more opportunity for standalone movies or two-parters, which would be less daunting for newcomers. Writers could have more chances to experiment without having to conform to continuity. Essentially, we could have DC animated films the way we were having them before the DCAMU. We've still gotten animated films alongside that which were unrelated, but we could get even more of them.
In any case, I'm a strong proponent of more variety. As much as we love Batman and Superman, there are other, less exposed heroes who could be featured. Given the strong batting average that DC has had when it comes to their animated features, I am excited to see where they go from here.
Justice League: Apokolips War is an ambitious end to the DCAMU. While I did not enjoy it as much as other recent DCAMU films like The Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen, or Batman: Hush, it did well juggling the characters of this universe, even if there were some like Aquaman and Beast Boy who didn't really get featured. Even Swamp Thing could have been featured more, though, as someone who recently finished reading every Swamp Thing series, I was satisfied to see him with wings here. Some parts of Apokolips War are depressing, but not to the point where the film is unwatchable, in my opinion. Despite my mixed feelings, I found a lot to enjoy, which is why I give it the following score:
8.5/10 - A great film that acts as a somewhat fitting end to the DC Animated Movie Universe. I do not regret the journey, and would definitely recommend this film series so that viewers can get to the pay-off of Apokolips War.