Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is the Synder Cut we Deserve (a Review)

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There has been a lot made over the creation and direction of the DCEU. It’s many stops and starts, it’s disastrous reception, and many tragedies has made it one of the most contentious Hollywood stories of all time. The biggest is the butchered Justice League movie that is finally going to be released to HBO Max as the Snyder Cut. A hopeful better version of the film. The problem with all of that debate is how the nerd-sphere has missed that DC has had an ongoing movie universe that spans just as long, and it, like Avengers Endgame, has come to an end.

Spinning out of an adaption of Flashpoint, the DC direct to video movies have followed a more comic book approach, one that matches the, then recent, New 52. That all ends. The Justice League has decided to make their move on Darkseid, intergalactic ruler. Only, when things go awry the Earth is captured, heroes are killed, and Superman, de-powered by one of Darkseid’s plans, and Raven, Teen Titans empath who is hounded by her demon father, must turn to the least helpful person in the DC Universe, magical con man and drunkard, John Constantine to save the day.

This movie hurts your feelings if you have any semblance of care about the DC universe. It is hard to say what heroes do not walk away with any scaring or baggage after what’s happened. It hurts your feelings, but in the right way. The movie knows what these heroes are supposed to be like, then twist them just enough to make you feel bad for them. The movie says to look and what happened, and asks you to see them struggle to make it better.

It succeeds in that.

As an animated film goes, it is not amazing to look at. The models feel stiff at points, a lot of the faces look copy and pasted over. It is not a major motion picture effort. It is a direct to video effort. The fights looks decent enough, and has incredibly atmosphere. This film feels like the DC universe has turned dark. In fact, if Justice League Dark was not already the title of a previous film in this series, and a team all their own, it would be a perfect title for the film because this is a twisted world.

And that is the reason to see the film. It has an honestly interesting twist on what happens to the biggest characters in the DC universe, but doesn’t make it cynical, gritty, and contrived feeling. To give just a taste, Harley Quinn (who is actually good in this film) leads the Suicide Squad as a group of Robin Hood like trouble makers. They are far from good guys, but they know who the real threat is, while still taking their own cut. There is also a group of corrupted heroes that are hidden for a great reveal.

The best of all of the twists is possibly the coolest Evil Superman ever. The concept of Evil Superman feels overdone. Clark becoming a despot feels stale and unoriginal. What this film does with that concept is so cool, and leads to a great fight that it feels too good to miss if you know anything about the DCU.

The film is rated R, and does earn that. There are some swear words, and foul language, but when you’re in an apokolips it is okay. The worst is the use of CGI blood spatter. It is far too disparate from the rest of the designs and feels off. There is also a lot of gore. Again, heroes do die pretty graphically.

The reason this feels like a Snyder Cut is because of its dark, grim, hurt-your-feelings vibe. The difference, and reason I think this is superior (I could totally see Snyder doing a great live action version of this, but) is because the writers, again, know what makes the heroes great. It can look at Superman and understand why he is important, how to ground him, and how to corrupt him in natural (for a comic book universe) ways. It wants to be honestly edgy, and “subvert” superheroes, but gets what that truly means. The Synder Cut (which should technically be two movies, so did they combine that into two films in the script? Is that why it’s 4 hours long? Are we even going to get all of that? I mean if it’s his cut will there still be deleted scenes? How much of the original movie will be in there? So many questions) will come out, and probably fall in line with BvS and Man of Steel, but there will always be this alternative, even to the subversions

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