Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Justice Society: World War II

After some lean years where DC Animated had decided to explore the clusterfuck that was the New 52, things appear to be getting back on track. It's amazing how easily and well DC can do when they make the Flash (Matt Bomer) the heart of the story (see Justice League: The New Frontier and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox). And, thank god, the creators of the film knew enough to keep the character's gorgeous simplistic design rather than the eyesore DC has been pushing on readers for nearly a decade now.

While fighting Brainiac (Darin De Paul) with Superman (Darren Criss), the Flash accidentally races so fast he enters the Speed Force and winds up in Germany. During World War II. On an alternate Earth. On this world, alongside the Allied troops, a group of heroes is fighting off the Nazis including another Flash (Armen Taylor), Wonder Woman (Stana Katic), Hawkman (Omid Abtahi), Steve Trevor (Chris Diamantopoulos), Hourman (Matthew Mercer), and Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru).

Despite being skeptical about "Future Boy" as he's dubbed by the group, the Flash quickly proves himself by saving Trevor's life and works with the team on their latest mission while initially believing he's only traveled backwards in time and not also arrived on a different Earth. The movie is solid all around, and it's great to see these Golden Age heroes highlighted (although the absence of some of the classic JSA characters is certainly felt). The story also works as a lesson to the Flash about living for today and lays the foundation for our hero to consider a league of heroes on his own Earth to deal with threats larger than any one of them can fight off alone.

Stana Katic earns top billing here as the world's greatest hero. She and Bomer are the two stand-outs, and the movie makes the most of Diana's relationship with Trevor. I also liked the Rotaru's Canary and the unexpected, and unspoken, crush she had for Hawkman. The design of the characters also works well, even if a couple of them feel a bit too streamlined given the art style. The Superman callback was expected, but I was surprised we got so little from him once reintroduced (perhaps to stop him from dominating the second-half of the film).

While I don't think the story gets away from the movie as it introduces more characters such as Aquaman (Liam McIntyre) and an Atlantis subplot involving his Advisor (Geoffrey Arend), I would have preferred to see a bit more of the JSA on the front lines rather than fighting sea monsters. Still, the action is fast and fierce in these sequences and helps propel the lesson of the story home for both Diana and Barry Allen. There's also Flash's first action after returning home from war which I found shocking. I guess this can be rationalized by viewing Brainiac as nothing more than one piece of a larger cybernetic lifeform, but it's certainly hardcore for a character who doesn't cause any bloodshed over the rest of the film. The made-for-video animated film is available on Blu-ray, 4D, DVD, and for both rent or purchase on various streaming services.

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