Legion of Super-Heroes
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Runtime: 83 minutes
Release Date: 4K UltraHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Digital – February 7, 2023
Synopsis: Welcome to the 31st century and the Legion Academy, where a new generation hones their powers with hopes of joining the Legion of Super-Heroes. Devastated by tragedy, Supergirl struggles to adjust to her new life on Earth. Taking her cousin Superman’s advice, Supergirl leaves their space-time to attend the Academy. There, she quickly makes new friends, as well as a new enemy with old ties: Brainiac 5. But a nefarious plot lurks in the shadows – the mysterious group known as the Dark Circle seeks a powerful weapon held in the Academy’s vault. Find out if the budding heroes can rise to the challenge!
Meg Donnelly and Harry Shum Jr. lead a star-studded cast as the voices of Supergirl/Kara and Brainiac 5, respectively. Darren Criss, Matt Bomer and Jensen Ackles, reprise their roles in this ongoing Justice League continuity as Superman, The Flash and Batman, respectively.
The remainder of the robust Legion of Super-Heroes cast features Cynthia Hamidi as Dawnstar, Gideon Adlon as Phantom Girl, Ely Henry as Bouncing Boy, Robbie Daymond as Timber Wolf & Brainiac 4, Yuri Lowenthal as Mon-El, Eric Lopez as Cosmic Boy & Chemical King, Darin De Paul as Brainiac & Solomon Grundy, Ben Diskin as Arms Fall Off Boy & Brainiac 2, Victoria Grace as Shadow Lass, Jennifer Hale as Alura, Daisy Lightfoot as Triplicate Girl, and Zeno Robinson as Invisible Kid & Brainiac 3.
Jeff Wamester directs Legion of Super-Heroes from a screenplay by Josie Campbell. Producers are Jim Krieg and Kimberly S. Moreau. Butch Lukic, is Supervising Producer. Sam Register is Executive Producer.
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By James Harvey
A spirited adventure into the future, Legion of Super-Heroes is a bold entry into the DC Universe Movie line, making some interesting changes to the source material and keeping the suspense up until the final battle, though some of these changes might ruffle a feather or two. Unfortunately, Legion of Super-Heroes eventually ends up a little scattershot and can’t quite pull itself successfully together by the end credits. Still, the movie ends up an interesting take on the beloved DC hero team, and teases something bigger on the horizon.
Legion of Super-Heroes finds Supergirl struggling to live on modern-day Earth, still haunted by Krypton’s devastation and deeply missing her futuristic homeworld. Superman offers her a chance to find her place by sending her to the 31st century to train at the Legion Academy. Supergirl quickly falls for her new home and teammates, though is suspicious of fellow Legion trainee Brainiac 5. But, when a mysterious group known as the Dark Circle seeks a powerful weapon held in the Academy’s vault, Supergirl and her fellow Legion trainees must stand-up to stop their world-ending threat.
As usual, spoilers will be kept as light as possible, though a few specific scenes will be covered in this review.
Out of the gate, while the movie is called Legion of Super-Heroes, a more accurate title might be Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. From the film’s opening moments, it’s immediately clear we’ll be following Supergirl’s journey from a survivor of Krypton’s destruction to the Woman of Tomorrow. And, trust me, that’s a good thing. While her character and personality might jump around a little, she’s no less captivating and interesting as our guide to the DC Universe Movie interpretation of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
While Legion of Super-Heroes might make some of Supergirl’s struggles feel forced, or even a little confusing (such as in an early mall attack sequence where she’s perplexed by the lack of technology that she should already know doesn’t exist), her story never-the-less remains an engaging one. A woman thrown back into the past – essentially, but not technically – she struggles to adapt to our modern times. But, in a move similar to her fate in Justice League Unlimited, she starts to find a home in the 31st Century with the Legion’s young superteam. But, as these tales go, things go sideways pretty fast.
Speaking of “fast,” Legion of Super-Heroes‘s biggest problem is its quick pace. This movie tries to cover a significant amount of time in its 83-minute runtime and, as a result, most events and some characters really don’t have time to settle in before the next development arises. The film’s creators make a valiant attempt, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough room to let the movie breathe. We get plenty of time with members of the Legion, but time constraints result in the threat at hand being a little under-cooked.
Written by Josie Campbell, there’s plenty to like here in Legion of Super-Heroes as, all in all, it’s a respectful debut for one of DC Comics’ most beloved super-teams. That said, there are a few decisions made in service of the film’s story that may upset some of the team’s more hardcore of fans. No spoilers, of course, but even considering the film’s twists, Campbell’s story remains one that gleefully recognizes the Legion’s deep history and sprinkles in a few surprises, despite some of the very predictable aspects of its plot. Campbell’s work here is commendable, even if the film can’t seem to reach the heights she’s aiming for.
Similarly, Jeff Wamester does admirable work as the film’s director, employing the same style that served him well with Justice Society: World War II. Wamester keeps the camera firmly focused on the action, adding the odd flourish to enhance the film’s plethora of action beats. Even through the chaos he still manages to find the film’s quieter moments and makes them feel just as crucial as the big set pieces and plot twists. He does slick work here, helping to inch Legion of Super-Heroes close to the epic scale the film’s aiming for.
Helping to reach for those heights is the film’s cast, who unquestionably hit their marks time and time again. Anchored by a solid performance by Meg Donnelly as Supergirl, bringing plenty of angst and frustration to her character as the Maid of Might struggles to find her place in the universe. Even though her arc can be a little scattered, Donnelly makes it easy to root for Supergirl. The same can be said for Harry Shum Jr. as Brainiac 5, especially after a few plot developments shed a different light on Querl Dox. It’s really another strong cast all around, all giving solid performances under the eye of voice director Wes Gleason, though a few characters manage to shine a little brighter. Phantom Girl, Bouncing Boy, Timber Wolf, Mon-El and Triplicate Girl all make trong impressions among Legion of Super-Heroes‘s hefty cast.
On top of that, Darren Criss, Matt Bomer and Jensen Ackles reprise their respective roles as Superman, The Flash and Batman in Legion of Super-Heroes. Their appearances are brief but memorable, especially a later scene in the film between the two World’s Finest heroes.
So much about Legion of Super-Heroes works, and works really well. The majority of the characters are fun and interesting and the story holds a few legitimate surprises. Unfortunately, and similar to Justice Society: World War II, things seem to slightly spiral as the story heads into its last act, and then pushes itself along to wrap things quickly up before the end credits. There are so many moments that really soar (including a fantastic, quiet moment between Clark and Kara), especially in the first half of the movie, but those moments become more fleeting as the plot pushes itself ahead to the third act fisticuffs.
That said, the action beats are riveting and fun, with Legion of Super-Heroes giving nearly every member of it’s massive cast a moment to shine – even Arms Fall-Off Boy (well, Arms Fall-Off Man)! This is all helped along by some of the best animation these in-continuity DC Universe Movie titles have seen recently. These titles have never looked smoother or characters more expressive. While there are still some stilted or awkward character animations, or the odd scene which appears barely animated, the film makes for those very, very few instances with strong effort and attention paid to big set-pieces and nice, subtle touches for the little moments. Whether it’s a small smile from Superman as he comforts his cousin, or Supergirl’s near-palpable exuberance at Legion Academy, these do leave an impression.
Legion of Super-Heroes ultimately makes for a positive experience, but there are a couple aspects that may not sit well with viewers, including a twist similar to one in Green Lantern: Beware My Power. The film’s main antagonists also aren’t as well-defined as our protagonists, despite some helpful exposition, and leave more than a couple unanswered questions. Still, these missteps are easy to overlook thanks to the movie’s clear appreciation for the hefty history of this popular DC Comics team, including pulling costumes and design ideas from the Legion’s entire history, such as the recent Legion of Super-Heroes comics by Brian Michael Bendis, the Kids’WB! Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, and even from the team’s Silver Age era.
Supergirl leads the charge for Legion of Super-Heroes, another enjoyable entry of the in-continuity DC Universe Movie line that’s still plenty entertaining despite a couple setbacks. The under-developed foes and finicky third act cause the film to stumble a little, but a compelling Supergirl, the great cast and characters, sleek designs, good animation, plus another enjoyable score by Kevin Riepl, all result an animated adventure worth giving a spin. Plus, if you want a hint at what’s to come for these in-continuity titles, be sure to stick around after the end credits! Recommended!
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Please note that while Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment provided The World’s Finest with a copy of Legion of Super-Heroes to review, that had no bearing on the product’s final assessment.
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