Digital Release: April 27, 2021
Physical Release: May 11, 2021
WRITTEN BY: Meghan Fitzmartin and Jeremy Adams
DIRECTED BY: Jeff Wamester
Stana Katic as Diana/Wonder Woman
Matt Bomer as Barry Allen/The Flash
Omid Abtahi as Carter Hall/Hawkman
Darren Criss as Superman, Superman/Clark Kent/”Shakespeare”
Chris Diamantopoulos as Steve Trevor
Matthew Mercer as Rex Tyler/Hourman
Elysia Rotaru as Dinah Lance/Black Canary
Armen Taylor as Jay Garrick/Flash
Liam McIntyre as King Arthur/Aquaman
Keith Ferguson as Doctor Fate
Geoffrey Arend as Advisor
Darin De Paul as Franklin D. Roosevelt (credited), Brainiac (uncredited)
Ashleigh LaThrop as Iris West
Reviewed by: Michael J. Petty
POTENTIAL SPOILERS TO FOLLOW…
Rating – 4/5: “Justice Society: World War II” is a pleasant surprise hit from Warner Bros. Animation based on the DC Comics characters of the same name. It’s a clever period-piece that does its best to not only travel through time in the story itself, but also the presentation, with “classic Hollywood” titles on both ends that make you nostalgic for true classics like “Casablanca” and “Notorious”.
The story unfolds through the lens of Barry Allen aka The Flash. Barry, having been The Flash for years, and his girlfriend Iris West travel to Metropolis for some much-needed R&R. Of course, in true superhero fashion, their plans are foiled, and Barry must suit-up as The Flash to help Superman fend off an attack from Brainiac. In the process, Barry runs at lightspeed to catch a Kryptonite bullet before it hits the Man of Steel and ends up back in the past. A classic comic book story if I ever saw one…
Upon realizing he’s in World War II Poland, he meets the Justice Society of America, which includes Wonder Woman, Jay Garrick aka The Flash, Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor, and their war correspondent “Shakespeare”. It’s a great lineup, but Barry’s never heard of them before (they’re “Top Secret”), and eventually it’s revealed that Barry isn’t in the past… He’s on another world (Earth-2). This world is different than his, and throughout their journey they meet a mind controlled Aquaman and his Advisor (the antagonist of the film who just won’t stay down), a mentally unstable Doctor Fate, and eventually the Superman of Earth-2!
One thing “Justice Society: World War II” does incredibly well is its overall theme, and it’s a simple one to be sure, but one that we often forget: “tomorrow is promised to no one”. These words are uttered by Steve Trevor near the end of the film, but are echoed throughout… By Iris, by Barry, by Hawkman, and others too… This theme of loss and “limited time” stretches to each character in the film.
Barry is afraid that he’ll lose Iris if they were to be married because of his superhero life, and Diana is afraid of the same with Steve. Hawkman has already lost his spouse and works to help Black Canary find hope in life Post-War (Larry Lance just isn’t doing it for her I guess). Hourman and Flash’s (both Jay and Barry) powers are quite limited throughout the film, and even the mind-control performed on Aquaman is technically temporary.
Each character, in his or her own way, must come to terms with these themes of limited time and what they choose to do with the time they have. It’s kind of brilliant.
Even Superman isn’t immune to these themes of loss or limited time. On Earth-1, he is limited by the Kryptonite that Brainiac has to de-power him, proving that he needs The Flash’s help. On Earth-2, he has limited time with Jonathan and Martha Kent, who, as we learn, died in a car accident when he was three; not to mention, his powers themselves are limited since Earth-2 Superman can’t fly! He does sport some great comics-accurate classic Superman tights though, which makes the “no flights” worth it.
While the story is brilliant, fans of recent DC Animated Movies such as “Superman: Red Son” or “Batman: Soul of the Dragon” might note that the art style of the film is more in line with the most recent Superman feature: “Superman: Man of Tomorrow”. In fact, Superman actor Darren Criss reprises his role as the Man of Steel, thus connecting “Justice Society”‘s continuity with that of “Man of Tomorrow”. Personally, I was a little underwhelmed with the art style (Wonder Woman’s head looks consistently odd to me throughout the film), but it seems that a new DC Animated Universe is being built in these upcoming direct-to-video productions, so I guess it’s here to stay!
Overall, “Justice Society: World War II” is a really fun tale with a lot of heart and some more adult themes that are certainly worth exploring. It’s nostalgic and full of exciting world-building, lots of action, and real drama that keeps the story, characters, and audience engaged throughout.