Justice Society: World War II Review – Casablanca with Superheroes

If you love World War II movies and have ever thought to yourself, "This needs more capes and masks," then WB Home Entertainment has what you need to scratch that itch. Since Barry headed off at the end of Justice League: Apokolips War, WB Home Entertainment has released two movies in the DCEU, Superman: Man of Tomorrow and  Batman: Soul of the Dragon, and we have seen nary a vibration of the Scarlet Speedster.  As it turns out, The Flash has been speeding across time to help a DC Golden Age superhero team in Justice Society: World War II. Led by Wonder Woman, 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. With Justice Society: World War II, WB has a picture that makes the spine tingle and the heart take a punch.

I was intrigued to see how the modern Flash in a World War II setting would pay off onscreen. Justice Society: World War II  does a fantastic job of creating an epic war-torn universe for this story. Huge, exquisitely executed action sequences are juxtaposed by heavy emotional gut punches that you absolutely will not see coming. Equal to the action is the writing. Each hero has a journey in this story. We are not just running with one character and seeing the story entirely through their eyes. We are getting to see each of the Justice Society have a realization, a moment of Eureka, and grow as a hero.

Warner Bros. Animation Releases First Look at Justice Society: WWII
Justice Society: World War II Image. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The story of Justice Society: World War II begins as circumstances force Barry Allen to run faster than ever. He finds himself tossed through time into a World War II battle between Nazis and the titular Golden Age heroes of the Justice Society.  Leading the team, Wonder Woman quickly enlists The Flash to assist his fellow heroes in tipping the scales of war in their favor while trying to find him a way back to his own time. Little details accent a variety of moods, action, suspense, comedy, and drama. For example, when Barry is overanalyzing the blanket placement in the park and later to show the passage of time, we see bits of sunlight play on the characters through the trees. Subtle but rich minutiae such as this separate this movie from other animated features. 

The biggest challenge in a story like  Justice Society: World War II is to make sure each character has a beginning, middle, and end to their own story, and that story plays into the whole. My expectations were exceeded by the strength of these relationships and the real emotional beats, and I found myself very moved by the characters in the film. No one is used as a prop. As an example, the round table scene at Justice Society headquarters is a masterpiece of writing and pacing. Each one of the characters' dialogue advances the story and is natural. Not one line or character is thrown away.

Justice Society: World War II Review – Casablanca with Superheroes
Justice Society: World War II Image. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Teamwork onscreen and off is what makes the movie a success. Co-writers Jeremy Adams and Meghan Fitzmartin deliver a script with a level of sophistication that I wasn't even prepared for. The interconnectivity of the ensemble and how they all work and relate to each other are seamless. Supervising Producer Butch Lukic and Director Jeff Wamester worked closely with Voice director Wes Gleason to add a dimension of depths to these characters that will really connect with the viewer. The nuanced performances of new takes and iterations of well-tread characters such as the Flash, Hawkman, and especially the Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor dynamic are a welcomed change of pace.

Stana Katic's exploration of Wonder Woman features what should be an obvious choice but is still somewhat surprising. At the request of Wes, her take on a Skifian, Illyrian, Thracian-like warrior accent sounds vaguely Amazonian and immediately sets Stana apart from previous incarnations. Chris and Stana's banter as Steve and Diana is more impressive when you learn that none of the cast had met during the recording. The visual chemistry that those two characters have on screen is sweetened by their very unusual swordplay, inspiring many arcs in this story. 

Chris Diamantopoulos imbues a bit of roguish charm in his performance by mixing stoic Humphrey Bogart with Gary Grant's witty repartee to connote that his Steve Trevor is from a bygone era. Not afraid, he understands that tomorrow may not be here and that carries into Barry's story. 

What I love about Matt Bomer's "caffeinated calm" take on Barry Allen is his sense of humor and how it bolsters him through some very tough circumstances. These different rhythms in the character and cadences that are really unique to him. You see the sparkle in the eyes even though all you're hearing is the voice, and it comes through in his performance. Omid Abtahi's voice is completely unrecognizable behind Hawkman. His performance stands out because it's not the voice that I would think in my head. But hearing that subdued version now, there is little doubt that he has been reincarnated multiple times. His relationship With Elysia Rotaru's Black Canary grounds opens her up to an emotional range that she might not discover independently. Elysia's performance matches Canary's growth throughout the film.

Justice Society: World War II Review – Casablanca with Superheroes
Justice Society: World War II Image. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Justice Society: World War II  features something for multiple generations of comic book fans. The staggeringly powerful imagery of Wonder Woman destroying Nazis tanks serves as a backdrop for Steve and Diana to have their playful banter while Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick discovers the mysteries of the Speed Force with Barry.  What DC has done is create a film that kids can watch with their parents. A charming throwback that will not alienate younger audiences that may not be familiar with the Golden Age. These fight scenes are well-timed and executed, and sprinkled with heavy emotional beats that will take you by surprise. My only minor quibble would be the animation design. It is not bad; however, as a fan of hand-drawn animation, it will take some time to get used to the heavier outlined animation style that reminds me of flash animation. 

This combination of superb performances, engrossing story, and groundbreaking direction work in harmony to create an epic superhero journey wrapped in a nostalgic Casablanca-esqe blanket.

Justice Society: World War II stars Stana Katic (Castle, Absentia, A Call To Spy) as Wonder Woman, Matt Bomer (Doom Patrol, White Collar, The Boys in the Band) as Barry Allen/The Flash, Elysia Rotaru (Arrow) as Black Canary, Omid Abtahi (American Gods, The Mandalorian) as Hawkman, Chris Diamantopoulos (Silicon Valley, voice of Mickey Mouse) as Steve Trevor, Armen Taylor (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind) as Jay Garrick/The Flash, Liam McIntyre (The Flash, Spartacus, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) as Aquaman, and Geoff Arend (Madam Secretary, Batman: Hush) as Charles Halstead/Advisor alongside director Jeff Wamester (Guardians of the Galaxy TV series), co-screenwriters Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, DC Super Hero Girls) and Jeremy Adams (Supernatural, Batman: Soul Of The Dragon), and supervising producer Butch Lukic (Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Constantine: City of Demons). 

Behind the Scenes with the Makers of 'Justice Society World War II'
Justice Society: World War II Cover. Credit: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated "Justice Society: World War II" will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

About Jimmy Leszczynski

Jimmy Leszczynski has been blurring the line between comics and reality at SDCC every year since 1994, and was a nerd long before Lewis, Gilbert, and the Tri Lamdas made it cool. Middle aged father of 2 that REFUSES to grow up, lifelong Bat-Fan, and he thinks he's pretty funny.