Movie Review – Justice Society: World War II (2021)

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Justice Society: World War II, 2021.

Directed by Jeff Wamester.
Featuring the voice talents of Matt Bomer, Stana Katic, Armen Taylor, Chris Diamantopoulos, Elysia Rotaru, Omid Abtahi, Matthew Mercer, Liam McIntyre, Geoffrey Arend, Ashleigh LaThrop and Keith Ferguson.

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SYNOPSIS:

Barry Allen – prior to the formation of the Justice League – discovers he can run even faster than he imagined, and that milestone results in his first encounter with the Speed Force. The Flash is promptly launched into the midst of a raging battle – primarily between Nazis and a team of Golden Age DC Super Heroes known as the Justice Society of America. Led by Wonder Woman, the group includes Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor and the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. The Flash quickly volunteers to assist his fellow heroes in tipping the scales of war in their favor, while the team tries to figure out how to send him home. But it won’t be easy as complications and emotions run deep in this time-skipping World War II thriller.

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For years in DC animation, whether it is their features films or television series, the Justice League have gotten the most attention as the premiere superhero team for DC. Despite their popularity, however, they weren’t the first superhero team created in comics as the League’s predecessor was the Justice Society of America, a team of heroes from the Golden Age created shortly after Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman who began their adventures by fighting in World War II for the Allies. Now it is the JSA’s time to shine in DC’s latest animated film Justice Society: World War II. Directed by Jeff Wamester from a script written by Jeremy Adams and Meghan Fitzmartin, the film is a great spotlight on some of comics’ oldest characters with an exceptional cast that embodies the spirit of each JSA member.

The film follows Barry Allen as The Flash who ends up running so fast he accidently sends himself back to France in WWII, meeting the Justice Society led by Wonder Woman with Black Canary, Steve Trevor, Hawkman, Houman and the original Flash, Jay Garrick, on the team. As the JSA fight to uncover the Nazi’s latest scheme to win the war, they must also find a way to send Flash back to his time without screwing up history any more than it already might have been.

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One of the most compelling aspects to this film is the cast. With a fairly big ensemble it can be easy for some characters to be pushed to the side or for an actor to outshine others, but Justice Society balances out everyone really well. Flash and Wonder Woman lead the film, but there is still plenty of development for the other Society members, particularly with Hawkman and Black Canary. Matt Bomer makes an impressive Flash, capturing Barry’s sense of levity, intelligence and determination through his performance while Stana Katic conveys Wonder Woman’s integrity and compassion as the team’s leader mirrored with her seriousness during the film’s many battle sequences. Omid Abtahi channel’s Hawkman’s sage wisdom with all the lives he has lived while Elysia Rotaru captures Canary’s youthful spunk and strong attitude, but also opens up a more vulnerable side as Canary questions their purpose and relevance. Like Bomer, Armen Taylor is light-hearted as Jay Garrick while Matther Mercer’s Hourman is calm and collected during most scenes, but then flies into a near-rage whenever he takes his super-serum.

Despite not recording in the same booth, the cast does really well together. The chemistry between pairs like Wonder Woman and Chris Diamantopoulos’ Steve Trevor, Flash and Jay and Hawkman and Canary show how this is a team that really understands one another and trusts each other unconditionally. Wonder Woman and Trevor’s romance is also a high point of the film as Katic and Diamantopoulos give really great performances where they allow their character’s guards to drop a little bit as they flirt with each other and ponder over what to do when the war is over. Their relationship is in many ways the heart of the story and Diamantopoulos really delivers an old school charm while conveying how ahead of his time Steve is. Even Liam McIntyre gives a memorable performance as Aquaman for the little screentime he has, displaying the underwater king’s regal nobility, stoicism and warrior nature very well. It all amounts to a very impressive group of actors giving life to some of DC’s oldest yet not as well-known heroes by today’s audiences.

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The story is fast-paced, but does not lose sight of its characters as Wamester, Adams and Fitzmartin know exactly when to slow things down to allow for character introspection or raising the stakes as the JSA continue the fight and find new ways to send Barry back home. The balancing act the film does between the character development and action make it a much more rounded superhero adventure with a ton of heart to it. This is definitely one of DC’s strongest character-driven films that should make JSA fans quite happy.

When it does come to the action, though, it doesn’t hold back as there are some terrific set pieces throughout the whole movie. As mentioned, the stakes are continuously raised as the JSA march on with each fight given its own individual sense and focus. Nothing feels repeated as the environments, tactics and goals are all different. You’re definitely not going to be bored or think the film is just more of the same action scenes even compared to other animated projects. Even the brutality feels different as the film’s violence can be fairly graphic, whether it’s showing a torture victim, Wonder Woman fighting through German soldiers or something Black Canary does in the final act that is sure to leave fans’ jaws on the floor. As expected with a title like World War II, the film doesn’t necessarily shy away from how violent and brutal WWII was while trying to keep it as PG-13 as possible, but the production team definitely push the envelope as far as they’re allowed to deliver stunning and dramatic action.

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As for the animation, this is one of the best looking DC films Warner Animation has produced. The fight choreography is very rich and detailed in the action scenes, particularly when it comes to showing off Barry and Jay’s speed, Wonder Woman’s combat skills or Black Canary’s sonic blast. It makes sure to give each hero their moment to shine during the battles and creates very vivid imagery. The background work, the atmosphere of the colours and the movements of the characters are all very well done. Even the quieter scenes where the JSA plan their next move or express their feelings are given just as much attention to detail as the action. The expressiveness of the characters faces is definitely felt when Wonder Woman smiles or Black Canary and Hawkman share a tender conversation about their views on the war. There is plenty to enjoy just by looking at the film’s images.

Justice Society: World War II acts as a great primer for anyone unfamiliar with the Justice Society of America. The spirit of the characters are captured pretty well in no small part to the writing and the cast. The action is exciting and the animation densely detailed while the story moves at a nice pace, but never loses its sight on the characters journeys. It is definitely a great DC film and has quickly risen to be one of their best.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.

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