Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020) – So What Happens Now?

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (Video 2020) - IMDb

      This is a film that brings an end to the ongoing films in this Franchise. This is a Franchise that includes all the Batman stories with Damian Wayne, the different Justice League films, the Teen Titans films and Justice League Dark. So, how does it stick to landing? Without going into spoilers I liked a fair amount of the world that we see and the character dynamics but some bad performances and the ending ruin what could have been a dark ending with hope. In the end, this is not a film I’d recommend as I feel the ending cancels out all the choices that were made over the course of the film.

The film was directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta and written by Mairghread Scott.

The story follows the Justice League as they plan an attack on Darkseid’s world of Apokolips in order to prevent an invasion of Earth.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Failed Attack on Darkseid – I like how our heroes attacking Darkseid fails and we see through him hacking Cyborg and seeing the invasion plans that it was doomed from the start. The rest of the story is us dealing with the fallout as he dominates Superman and makes the rest of the Justice League he caught into Cyborgs under his control. When Darkseid wins he really wins and the failed invasion sets the tone for the rest of the story. We learn the reason for his victory lies in his Paradooms. Parademons with Superman’s DNA, making them a mixture of Parademon and Doomsday. They are an awesome threat and win any battle they are in.

Earth’s Resistance – Earth’s resistance of Darkseid’s rule includes Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Raven primarily with Etrigan and Constantine until they are pulled in as well. From here we have the League of Shadows and the Suicide Squad join forces and eventually Lex Luthor himself changing sides to fight Darkseid. They are fighting a losing battle on occupied Earth and come up with a last ditch plan to rescue Batman and stop Darkseid. The resistance has a wonderful dynamic to them as the Suicide Squad controls the prison, which is one of the safest places in the world under the occupation and Clark Kent and Raven are the wanderers recruiting the last remaining heroes.

Clark Kent / Superman – Superman is defeated by Darkseid who decides his punishment will be to pump him full of liquid kryptonite, neutralizing him and after returning him to Earth. It is well done as we see that Clark Kent never stops fighting and is willing to risk it all to save the world. His power doesn’t define him, which is the kind of Superman story I enjoy. Besides Constantine and Raven, Clark’s is the main perspective that drives the narrative. The plan is eventually a success and in the Superman fights Darkseid once again after Trigun is purged from his body and in turn the liquid Kryptonite is too.

Lois Lane – Rebecca Romijin (Mystique and Number 1) voices Lois Lane and I got to say I like this version of Lois Lane. She is a military brat who has learned how to fight and clearly trained with Superman. She is the one who defeats Harley Quinn in a brawl that convinces Harley to give them control of the Suicide Squad. She is one of the faces of the resistance and I love how she drives the story. In the end she dies with Lex and the Suicide Squad to prevent the Paradooms from returning to Apokolips.

John Constantine – Matt Ryan continues to be the voice of Constantine and he is great in this. In this film we have a Constantine wracked with guilt as he ran from battle during the assault on Apokolips. His story arc is facing that guilt and loss of his love Zatanna as it is his final acts that help prevent Darkseid’s plans for Earth. We also see his pansexuality as we learn he and King Shark were once together. Sadly though, he is also behind one of the stupidest part of the film as he convinces Barry Allen to reboot this entire universe in another Flashpoint.  We also learn he ran away because Zatanna cast a spell when they talk in heaven together.

Okay:

Damian Wayne – I didn’t hate Damian Wayne in this film. It is still annoying how he doesn’t immediately help Clark Kent and the resistance, but his relationship with Batman is really well done as you see how much they care for each other. It is Damian’s risking of his life that frees him from Batman’s control.

Cons:

Raven – Raven is so bland in this film. She spends most of the story reacting to Trigun wanting to be freed and her only act of agency is bringing Damian back to life after he is killed. She is central to the story but it doesn’t feel that way. Trigun feels like a much bigger part and he is only a voice for the majority of the film.

The Flash – Flash is super bland in this and is captured and used by Darkseid after the failed assault on Apokolips. He reboots this entire film but he isn’t even a POV character all he is a plot device. I wasn’t a fan of the voice acting as he sounded bored and tired. Christopher Gorham was fine in the other animated films so I’m not sure what was going on here. His act of rebooting the universe is the final act of the film and it feels tacked on, like his role in this story.

When in Doubt, Reboot – I hate that this film ends in a reboot. A world rebuilding with cyborg heroes freed from Apokolips seeking to save the world from destruction could still be an awesome story. Instead all the growth and development we get of these heroes means nothing. I’ll still probably watch whatever the reboot is, but the fact that they thought the reboot was how to end this story really shows how little confidence they had in the world they’d made.

This is a film that I’d only recommend to those who have been watching the DC animated films in this continuity up to this point. If you want to see Darkseid as a threat and some good Clark Kent and Constantine work you will find things to enjoy. Sadly you can’t hang a story on that and if you reboot the story the audience is left wondering what the point of telling the story was in the first place. I wouldn’t recommend this film to any fans of the animated films and the ending ruins the potential for a lot of great stories that could have come out of the story this film tells.

Final Score:

6 / 10 Giving some points for telling a story with consequences but penalizing it for the reboot that potentially do away with those consequences.

 

“The Flash” Season 2 – Character Growth, A Great Villain and an Ending That Could Ruin All of That

The Flash Season 2

   I’m going to take a leap and voice that the writers of this show may actually know what they are doing. This season was one of the best experiences of television I’ve had this year that wasn’t “Better Call Saul” or “Game of Thrones,” though those are in a camp of their own and this is very much something enjoyable but not Classic the way those are. Part of why it was so enjoyable is it took so much of what worked last season and built on it, which I’ll get into further in the review.

    “The Flash” was created by Greg Berltani, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns.

     The story picks up with Flash’s closing of the Portal as it ends up leaving rifts behind to Earth-2 (a world in another Universe) that a new enemy Zoom sends Meta-Humans through to kill the Flash so he can be the fasted man in the Universe. All is not as it appears to be though as new allies and enemies arise.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Neely has created an amazing soundtrack! Everytime it plays I see this Universe the CW has created and it is beautiful. DC did something right.

The World – The World of “The Flash” is fascinating! Whether it Earth-1 and 2 and the meta-humans in both or the tie-ins to “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” This is a world I want to come back to.

Earth-2 – Earth-2 is fascinating! All the characters are in different roles…Iris is a detective, Joe is a lounge singer, Barry isn’t a meta-human, Snow is Killer Frost and Cisco is Reverb…some characters are outright villains like Killer Frost, while others are more complex like Dr. Wells who end up on good, but it is complicated.

The Meta-Humans – The meta-humans are part of what makes this show so interesting. Even the “Monster of the Week” metas manage to be fascinating in their own ways too. This is part of what makes Flash fun, they stick around and advance the plot.

The Weather Wizard Alliance – Weather Wizard teams up with The Trickster (Hamill’s back!) and Captain Cold. Captain Cold has a change of conscience and warns Flash while the others try to destroy the town on Christmas.

King Shark – King Shark is a giant man-shark Meta-human and has a great design! He’s got a Great White Shark’s head and is huge and strong enough to counter most of what Flash and his team throw at him. He’s also a running gag earlier in the show.

Gorilla Grodd – Grodd gets his own episode as we see him continue to grow and that his striving to understand while still have connections (he relates to Snow who was kind to him) and in the end finds an army/peace in a refuge on Earth-2. I hope he comes back. Seeing his plans in his episode were a lot of fun, as well as Wells from Earth-2 pretending to be Thawne-Wells and their interactions as Grodd figures out something isn’t right.

Killer Frost – Panabaker is a good actress! Her performance as the sociopathic meta-human Killer Frost was a lot of fun and I hope we see more versions of this character (or this character again as Zoom kills her at one point). She was an awesome villain and a good wild card.

Reverb – This character had such a short of time with us, which was a shame as he shows us Cisco’s power to warp reality and to jump to different Earths. This character needed more screentime.

Reverse-Flash – Flash goes back in time to learn how to travel faster to defeat Zoom and wants to learn from Reverse-Flash. He ends up being caught and we see how powerful the Reverse-Flash is as they blackmail one another into a deal but Thawne does eventually help the Flash. An earlier version of Thawne also travels to Flash’s future and Flash ends up having to send him back and learns that the Reverse-Flash is obsessed with Flash and wants to be him and destroy him completely because of his obsession. It is really well done.

The Heroes – The heroes are great in this and all of their flaws come to the surface. This is the beauty of the show, our characters aren’t perfect and because they aren’t they make choices that have consequences and change because of it.

Captain Cold – Captain Cold shows us he is more of a free agent than a villain as he warns Flash about the Trickster’s and Weather Wizard’s plan and logically we see where this follows when he is recruited in “Legends of Tomorrow.” This character has grown on me a lot and become a favorite, thanks to Wentworth Miller’s performance and some pretty good writing.

Mr. Allen – Barry’s dad is alright. Thawne confesses to everything in a video which frees him and Mr. Allen leaves. He later comes back only to be killed by Zoom, just as he is reintegrating himself into Barry’s life.

Cisco Ramon / Vibe – Cisco is comedic as usual and in this we see him deal with his darker side was he fears becoming like his Earth-2 counterpart in Reverb. He gets past it though thanks to his friends and Dr. Wells and he helps bring the team back together after their initial separation at the beginning of the season.

Dr. Caitlin Snow – Snow like Romon deals with her darkside as she learns about Killer Frost and the fact that Jay was really Zoom and serial killer. She doesn’t let this defeat her though. She helps save the city from Grodd and even becomes friends with him and is able to manipulate Zoom enough times for the team to get wins against him. Even when she’s trapped she’s never a victim and it is awesome.

Wally West – Wally is Joe’s son he never knew about and is obsessed with speed. His arc like Barry’s is learning his limits and learning that people care about him. He is hit by the energy force and may get the Speed Force or will have it in the future! He’s a great character and compliments everyone really well.

Joe West – Jesse L. Martin is one of the best parts of this show. In this we see him realize he had a son when his drug addict wife left and he deals with her death as well as integrating Barry and Mr. Allen into his growing family, and he does it well as we see him learn limits. He’s also kidnapped by Zoom at one point after his plan successful knocks Zoom into Earth-2 and the portal is closed. Joe is arguable the glue of the show. Without him it wouldn’t be the same.

Iris West – Iris also goes through a lot in this as we see her work through her grief over Eddie’s sacrifice and come to terms with her feelings for Barrie. We also see her rise in the paper and demonstrate that she is a leader and a full member of Team Speed for a reason.

Earth-2 Dr. Wells – Tom Cavanagh is one of my favorite actors on this show and it is great seeing him play a Wells that isn’t really Thawne and isn’t a villain. In this he is working to save his daughter from Zoom and in the end becomes part of the team on Earth-1 and finds the family he never had as we see how cruel and arrogant he was in his world and Zoom taking his daughter forced him to empathy.

Barry Allen – Barry goes through a lot in this. We see him reborn in the Speed Force and gain a new perspective and he realizes the endless possibilities, we see him accept his life without speed and we see him make the selfish choice he denied himself last season, even as he has a relationship with the one he loves (Iris). He goes through a lot and is forever changed. He fears losing everything and in the process does. At the end, Barry is probably a villain. He’s become like the Reverse-Flash using time travel for himself.

Zoom – Zoom is a great villain. The character is a serial killer who watched his father kill his mother and self and it broke him, and now he does the same to others. All he has is his speed and control over others. He is willing to kill past versions of himself he creates to becomes stronger…and in the end his darkness becomes a part of Barry as what he takes from Barry leads Barry to make the same choices. In the end his manipulating time gets the Speed Force’s attention and he is pulled away by the Time Wraiths. Though all that may be canceled out, now that Barry did what Zoom wanted and changed time.

Choices and Consequences – This is a story of consequences…we see everyone’s relationship to Jay change when they realize he’s Zoom (and their trust issues before come up from when the Thawne-Wells was around).

Okay/Con – Jessie Quick – Jessie is okay but she doesn’t really have a relationship outside of her relationship to Dr. Wells…though this could change as her and Wally are hit by another energy force (chat change Barry initially) so I think them being Speedsters is eventually in store.

The Cons: Ending Must Not Undo All the Growth – Flash goes back in time and saves his mother, defeating Reverse-Flash (though Thawne is still alive). What this means changes everything…though I want this to be another timeline or if it does change things for good that Flash is now the villain. He made a choice just for himself and did what Zoom and Reverse-Flash have wanted him to do. If that means nothing (or is resolved quickly), this fear will be a con.

  My biggest issue with this season was the possible reboot the series could take if the writers choose to go that way, which I would hate. Flash should not be the only one making choices and changing over the course of the show and this ending had me worried, even though I greatly enjoyed it because of how the characters grew and changed and the fact that Reverse-Flash and Zoom were proven right in the end…Barry acted like a villain in regards to taking what he wanted regardless of the consequences and that is beautiful and powerful. I hope that Season 3 doesn’t blow this because this show improved from last season and is a great show now. If you like comic book films you’ll probably like this series. Here is to this show building on it’s momentum and continuing to rise beyond the great show it has become.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Zoom

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) – An Underutilized Waller and Suicide Squad

Assault on Arkham

    So many of these DC films have potential. The “Arkham” Games are a great series that manage to explore the Universe in such a way that villains feel respected and like a threat versus in this they feel mostly small time or not wholly their own characters and underutilized, which is shame as this is a Suicide Squad film, one of the most fascinating groups in the DC Universe in one of the greatest Game Universes. This film still manages to be alright, but Amanda Waller and her threat feels like missed potential, you have a problem.

     “Batman: Assault on Arkham” was directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding and written by Heath Corson and produced by James Tucker.

    The films involves Amanda Waller (C.C.H. Pounder) bringing together the Suicide Squad to infiltrate Arkham Asylum to get information held in the Riddler’s Staff. The team must deal with the threats of each other and Batman (Kevin Conroy) who is tracking them.

The Pros: The Animation – WB and DC animation do a good job with this. It captures some of the feel of the games, even if the animation is a bit more like that of the other current DC Animated films, but it still has enough character for me to make it a pro.

The Suicide Squad – They are underutilized overall but I like the idea and how some of the characters are handled.

King Shark – This guy is the Killer Croc of the team and is a lot of fun! He’s a cannibal but he falls in love with Killer Frost and she kind of does too, their relationship is adorable as this is the guy who wants to eat any enemies he comes into contact with. His design is funny and threatening too as he has a bit fin on his head and a metal mouth.

Killer Frost – Killer Frost is Waller’s agent who was sent to kill the Riddler since he broke away from Waller’s control. She never stops serving Waller and has good moments with the characters given that none of them can trust her.

Harley Quinn – Harley is very much the Harley of the games and sadly has an identity only as the Joker’s girlfriend in the end. She sleeps with Deadshot and tries to kill the Joker once before becoming old Harley again. I was hoping they’d do something more with her character but since this is a prequel and in the games she’s weak, of course they went this way. She’s still a pro though since it is great seeing Harley even if she isn’t used fully, in action.

The Riddler – Riddler is small character but his conversations with Waller and Killer Frost are great. This is a character who is all about the puzzles and they capture that decently here.

Amanda Waller – Waller should have been so much more badass. She was voiced by the actress whose voiced her in the Justice League (C.C.H. Pounder) and she’s amazing. Sadly here all her plans don’t end up going well and she isn’t shown to be a good villain this is a shame as she starts strong by killing KGBeast and Frost’s betrayal.

Joker – Joker breaks out during the Suicide Squad assault when Harley tries to kill him but it makes it so he can escape. He’s good but doesn’t do anything super memorable. He survives the impossible but his plan isn’t all that deep or funny…so he was good but not great.

Batman – Kevin Conroy voices Batman! To me he’ll always be the best Batman (the one in Season 1 of “Batman: The Animated Series,” and in this we see his detective work as he figures out where Joker’s bomb is and what the Suicide Squad and Waller are up too. He solves everything so it is good Batman, though I wish he’d lost this one.

Okay: Black Spider – Ninja on Suicide Squad who dies fast, at least his clash with Deadshot was interesting but brief.

Deadshot – The guy has a daughter and is presented as a rogue Mercenary. He wins every situation though and is the main character of everything. He was the definition of a Gary Stu/Mary Sue. He had no real weaknesses. He was okay at least, but not good.

The Cons: kGBeast – Waller blows off his head. He is just kind of there.

Boomerang – This guy is annoying, he seems to only exist to clash with Deadshot and is a punk. So surprised this guy wasn’t the one they chose to kill off. He seems to only exist to make Deadshot look good by comparison.

The Ending – Waller doesn’t win and Deadshot is targeting her with his Sniper Rifle…I never wanted to root for Deadshot, i was rooting for Waller and Harley…this was annoying and ruined what could have been a great dark film showing the danger of Waller.

    For a film that features the Suicide Squad I was hoping they’d actually win. It is okay for Batman to lose sometimes but it implies he doesn’t since Deadshot does what Batman can’t and even if he doesn’t kill Amanda Waller, at least defangs her a for a while. This is a shame as even within the games her organization was a perpetual threat behind the scenes, it is hard to take the threat seriously after this, Batman will just solve it on his own. There were some good things in this though…Harley Quinn and the Joker for one as well as C.C.H. Pounder returning to voice Waller, she had some great moments in the beginning even if they failed to have it payoff.

Final Score: 7.6 / 10