Justice Society: World War II (2021) poster

Justice Society: World War II (2021)

Rating:


USA. 2021.

Crew

Director – Jeff Wamester, Screenplay – Jeremy Adams & Meghan Fitzmartin, Producers – Jim Krieg & Kimberly S. Moreau, Music – Kevin Riepl, Animation – Edge Animation Co., Ltd (Director – Junsik Cho). Production Company – Warner Bros. Animation.

Voices

Matt Bomer (The Flash/Barry Allen), Stana Katic (Wonder Woman), Chris Diamantopoulos (Steve Trevor), Armen Taylor (The Flash/Jay Garrick), Darren Criss (Superman/Clark Kent/Shakespeare), Liam McIntyre (Aquaman), Elysia Rotaru (Black Canary), Omid Abtahi (Hawkman/Carter Hall), Matthew Mercer (Hourman), Geoffrey Arend (The Advisor), Ashleigh Lathrop (Iris West), Darin De Paul (Brainiac), Keith Ferguson (Dr Fate)


Plot

Barry Allen and Iris West are visiting Metropolis when the city comes under attack by Brainiac. Barry goes into action as The Flash to aid Superman. During the course of the fight, he enters the Speed Force and emerges to find he is in the midst of the European war zone during World War II. There he encounters the Justice Society of America, a team of superheroes led by Wonder Woman that was formed by President Roosevelt to fight Nazis. Encountering Jay Garrick, an earlier version of The Flash, Barry joins the Justice Society as they come up against Aquaman who has been swayed over to fight on the side of the Nazis.


The Justice Society of America, as it was originally called, appeared in All-Star Comics #3 in 1940. Nobody knew it at the time but it had the distinction of being the first superhero team-up in comic-books. The intent was to bring together various characters produced by DC Comics and others from All-American Publications, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the earliest incarnations of The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom and others. It was from here that all the other great superhero teams of comic-bookdom – the Justice League, The Avengers, the Teen Titans, the Legion of Superheroes, The Defenders etc – owe their origin.

The Justice Society ceased publication in 1951 after which DC created the modern versions of their characters and brought them together in a new team they named the Justice League of America in 1960 (later shortened to just Justice League). Not long after in The Flash story The Flash of Two Worlds (1961), which loosely forms the basis of this film’s story, The Flash crosses over into an alternate timeline (which was later named Earth 2) where it is World War II and the Justice Society are still active. The Justice Society have made regular appearances since and even gained their own comic-book title for several years.

The Justice Society has been occasionally seen on screen before in episodes of the animated Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-11) and in live-action in episodes of Smallville (2001-11) and Legends of Tomorrow (2016- ), while the Jay Garrick version of The Flash and brief glimpses of the world of Earth 2 appeared in episodes of tv’s The Flash (2014- ).

The Flash (Jay Garrick), Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Hourman and Black Canary in Justice Society: World War II (2021)
(l to r) The Flash (Jay Garrick), Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Hourman and Black Canary

This was the 41st of the DC Original Animated Movies. The others have included Superman: Doomsday (2007), Batman: Gotham Knight (2008), Justice League: The New Frontier (2008), Green Lantern: First Flight (2009), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009), Wonder Woman (2009), Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010), Superman & Batman: Apocalypse (2010), All-Star Superman (2011), Batman: Year One (2011), Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part I (2012), Justice League: Doom (2012), Superman vs. The Elite (2012), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II (2013), Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013), Superman Unbound (2013), Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), Justice League: War (2014), Son of Batman (2014), Batman vs. Robin (2015), Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015), Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015), Batman: Bad Blood (2016), Batman: The Killing Joke (2016), Justice League vs Teen Titans (2016), Batman and Harley Quinn (2017), Justice League Dark (2017), Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017), Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (2018), Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018), Batman: Hush (2019), Justice League vs The Fatal Five (2019), Reign of the Supermen (2019), Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019), Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020), Superman: Man of Tomorrow (2020), Superman: Red Son (2020), Batman: Soul of the Dragon (2021), Batman: The Long Halloween Part One (2021) and Batman: The Long Halloween Part Two (2021).

The DC Universe Original Animated Movies of recent have been using their headline acts – Superman, Batman and the Justice League – to stealth introduce lesser-known characters and groups – Aquaman, the Teen Titans, the Legion of Superheroes. The adventure here takes place through the eyes of the present-day Flash otherwise could be a standalone Justice Society film. This makes the story resemble something of The Flashpoint Paradox where The Flash travels through time and ends up in an alternate timeline (one where Aquaman was also at war with the rest of the world).

The complement is different to what it was in the original Justice Society line-up but all of the characters are conceived as they were back in the era with time given over to forgotten names like Hourman and Doctor Fate. It is nice to see Hawkman getting his original origin story as a reincarnated Ancient Egyptian prince before this was retconned into him being an alien from the planet Thanagar. The film gives us Black Canary the way she should be on the comic-book page, erasing the bad memory of Jurnee Smollett-Bell in the live-action Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020). The exception to this might be Wonder Woman who has been rewritten as more assertive – her running gag is that she is constantly rebuffing Steve Trevor’s proposals – than William Moulton Marston would probably have been happy with. Not to mention, this is a Wonder Woman who has been retconned to resemble the live-action Gal Gadot Wonder Woman with Stana Katic’s voicing specifically mimicking Gadot’s accent.

Wonder Woman, Black Canary, The Flash (Jay Garrick), Hawkman, Hourman and The Flash (Barry Allen) in Justice Society: World War II (2021)
(l to r) Wonder Woman, Black Canary, The Flash (Jay Garrick), Hawkman, Hourman and The Flash (Barry Allen)

Justice Society: World War II represents the first directorial outing for Jeff Wamester, previously a storyboard artist on various other DC Universe Original Animated Movies and assorted Marvel and DC animated tv series. He had previously directed episodes of the Guardians of the Galaxy (2015-9) animated tv series. Wamester proves a welcome addition to the DC Universe Original Animated Movies canon. He sets up and directs some immensely exciting action set-pieces, which are a welcome change from the passable to lacklustre ones in the films from Jay Oliva and in particular Sam Liu whose efforts have come to dominate the DC Universe Original Animated Movies.

Less enthusiastic is the film’s overall plot. It is not bad, it highlights the characters reasonably well. On the other hand, there is never too much to it other than having the various superheroes fight Nazis. The Nazis are hunting for occult artefacts where clearly the film is homaging Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – one of the photos even seems to be of The Ark. What the film needed was an actual villain to be fighting against where an Aquaman turned bad doesn’t quite fit the bill as you know with the character being who he is that he is going to realise the error of his ways.

It also seems to be a film that, as is the case with many of the DC Universe Original Animated Movies, rewrites or ignores continuity of the other animated films as suits its purpose. While The Flash has been a member of the Justice League since the first Justice League animated film, here he is required to operate without knowledge of the Justice League and has only just met Superman – indeed the end of the film has him inspired by his experience to suggest to Superman that they start a team.


Trailer here


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