You’re in luck, sports fans! There’s no required reading to “get” this movie!
“But Cam,” I hear you saying, “then why is this section titled ‘The Source Material’?”
Calm down, I’m getting there. I wanted to talk about how much I appreciate the narrative freedom that comes with original movies like this. Just like its recently released cousin Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Justice Society: World War II still feels like a comic book movie should, but it’s not bogged down by comparisons to source material, and I think that’s what allowed me to fully sit back and enjoy the ride. I know we’re getting a Long Halloween adaptation later this year, and it looks promising, but I really hope we see more original stories like this in the future.
First, a synopsis: The Flash ran 80 years back in time, and finds himself surrounded by… Nazis?!? Where is he? How does he get home? Who are all these strange heroes running around, and, more importantly, why doesn’t he remember them?
A Man Out of Time… Again.
So, we need to be upfront about this. This movie begins with Barry running too fast, and accidentally sending himself through time. It’s a solid premise, and an easy explanation for why he’s in this movie. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that “The Flash runs so fast he accidentally travels through time” is just a tad overplayed these days. Not necessarily a negative thing for the movie, but it does feel a little tired at this point.
Other than that, though, the story is fantastic. It’s a wonderful thrill-packed adventure full of humor, intrigue, and, of course, some sweet sweet Nazi-punching action. The film plays out almost more like an Indiana Jones tribute than a superhero story, and I love it for that. Not to mention the fact that it manages to introduce an entire new super-team and really make them feel like real characters.
Speaking of that team, the cast for this movie is fantastic. Matt Bomer headlines as Barry Allen, and he does a wonderful job. He really nails the goofier side of Barry while still believably remaining intelligent and capable. It’s honestly the first time I’ve seen a Barry Allen Flash done right in a long time. He’s absentminded and funny, sure, but he never loses his penchant for science, babbling off scientific explanations the whole movie. It’s a wonderfully charming performance, and really helps cement Barry as the core of the story here. Other shout outs go to Stana Katic as Wonder Woman and Chris Diamantopoulos’ Steve Trevor. Their performances were genuinely great, and command your attention whenever they’re on screen. Darren Criss returns as Superman for this film, and while we don’t see the Man of Steel for a large portion of the movie, he’s just as great as ever.
That’s probably my favorite thing about this movie, to be honest. It manages to be about both Barry Allen and the Justice Society without letting either one outshine the other. I was extremely worried when I saw that Barry was a large part of the movie, but my fears cleared up by about the second act. Barry gets a decent amount of screen time and plot, but this really does feel like the JSA’s story. That being said, the JSA’s story is not without problems…
Between the intro with Barry and Iris, the fight with Brainiac, the romance subplot between Steve and Diana, introductions and character arcs for a full team of new characters, resolving the World War II era conflict, and Barry completing his own arc, a LOT happens in this movie! And with it only being an hour and a half, the narrative can be overwhelming. There’s not enough time to give everything the attention it deserves, and while none of the film is BAD per se, there are a couple threads that feel awkward coming to their conclusion. Barry’s relationship problems that are present in the beginning of the film, for example, get wrapped up very abruptly at the last possible second.
Another pretty glaring flaw is the dialogue. There are several scenes that either needed a second look over the script or were edited very poorly. For example, during the second act, Barry meets someone he recognizes from right before he disappeared, and he starts asking a bunch of questions: How did they end up here? Where are they? Do they know how to get back? etc. All standard time travel stuff, until [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] replies with “Stuck? What are you talking about?” and then you rewind the film because you’re pretty sure you didn’t hear Barry say anything about being stuck, and when you watch the scene again, he definitely didn’t, and then what could have been a really cool scene is kind of ruined for you. There’s another detail in that same scene that REALLY doesn’t make sense to me, but if anyone out there can answer this question for me, I’d be extremely grateful. This detail is in the spoiler tags because it’s a MAJOR plot twist in the film. If you care at all about not being spoiled, DO NOT CLICK!!!