Warners Bros. are back with a brand new instalment in the fan favourite DC Universe Movies series, following the fun of the martial arts nostalgia of Batman: Soul of the Dragon. Following the grand reset of the universe in 2020’s Justice League Dark: Apokolips War dramatic conclusion, writers have had more creative freedom to explore original instalments, sparked by Superman: Man of Tomorrow. With no Batman in sight, the focus is instead spotlighting some of the DC’s oldest comic book iteration, harking back to the Golden Age of heroes with the Justice Society of America.
Directed by Jeff Wamester, Justice Society: World War II centres on an inexperienced but learning Barry Allen (Matt Bomer), who accidentally discovers he can run faster than he thinks, ending up catapulted into the midst of World War II by the Speed Force. The rookie speedster bumps into the Crimson Comet aka Jay Garrick (Armen Taylor), another speedster who’s part of the a group of super heroes known as The Justice Society of America. Led by Wonder Woman (Stana Katic), the group also consists of Hourman (Matthew Mercer), Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru), Hawkman (Omid Abtahi) and Steve Trevor (Chris Diamantopoulos), as they try and help the shift the tide against the Nazis and end the War.
As this is primarily a Barry Allen/Flash flick, you can guarantee from the outset you know what you’re going to be in for. Barry does what he does best and accidentally travels through time (and the multiverse!) in a fun and action-packed romp based in the DC Golden Age, bumping into Wonder Woman and the classic heroes of the Justice Society along the way. However writers Jeremy Adams and Meghan Fitzmartin have much more in-store for the narrative, with a surprisingly emotional journey complete with a couple of twists and turns (and surprising cameos) along the way.
By having Barry travel through the multiverse, Adams and Fitzmartin have freed themselves from the shackles of continuity, allowing for a fresh and original entry, much like 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and the more recent Batman: Soul of the Dragon. Thanks to a typical Speed Force mishap, the action primarily revolves around the Justice Society attempting to stop Hitler’s nefarious plot to track down artefacts in a very Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque turn. There’s also something very satisfying about seeing the Justice Society taking down Nazis during the WWII conflict.
As per the previous animated DC outings, the characters are engaging and hugely likeable. Bomer’s young and still inexperienced version of the Scarlet Speedster makes for a perfect entry point for the audience, and he’s just so effortlessly charming. I particularly enjoyed how the Doom Patrol actor managed to capture the goofier, bumbling side of the man (once again) out of time, whilst also incorporating the science smarts of the character. The rest of ensemble cast, predominantly consisting of the Justice Society, are all also afforded well-rounded arcs; Black Canary struggles with opening up to the affections of Hawkman, while Hourman grapples with his self-worth when his strength only lasts for an hour. However it’s the charming central romance between Diana and Steve Trevor which really steals the show, as Adams and Fitzmartin capitalise on the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s take on the characters. Darren Criss also makes a brief but welcome return as the Man of Steel, connecting the dots between the two new instalments.
If there is one main let down in the new animated flick, it’s the somewhat disappointing villainous turns. Ranging from an all-too-brief inclusion of Brainiac, to a disappointingly generic Golden Age Psycho-Pirate mind-controlling a misunderstood Aquaman which draws away from the JSA battling the Nazi troops.
The character development is also nicely paired with plenty of fast paced action, as the JSA intercept Nazi coded messages, battle plenty of German soldiers and even go up against a full-scaled Atlantean army, complete with giant Trench creatures. There’s also a certain brutality to proceedings owning to the War setting, with some action sequences dipping their toes into fairly graphic scenes. The animation is very much in the same style as Superman: Man of Tomorrow, using thick-lines drawing from the more original comic book styles.
Justice Society: World War II is another fun and fast-paced outing from the DC Universe Movies series, with Matt Bomer’s take on Barry Allen a real charming highlight. While this instalment features a nice nod to the adventures of Indiana Jones, the central dynamics lead to a surprisingly emotional instalment, set in the wonderful golden age of heroes.