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Animation

‘Legion of Super-Heroes’ 4K UHD (review)

Produced by James Krieg
Written by Josie Campbell
Directed by Jeff Wamester
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Matt Bomer,
Meg Donnelly, Harry Shum Jr.,
Darren Criss, Jennifer Hale

 

The new animated DC Universe Movie, Legion of Super-Heroes, is an entertaining installment in DC’s recent slate of young-adult oriented feature-length DVDs. Jeff Wamester, director of recent DC Universe Movie releases Green Lantern: Beware My Power and Justice Society: World War II, helms this latest entry in this animated take on the DCU. Darren Criss, Jensen Ackles, and Matt Bomer briefly reprise their roles from earlier films as the voices of Superman, Batman, and The Flash respectively.

This is as much a Supergirl story as it is a Legion story.

Kara Zor-El escapes the destruction of Krypton as a teenager, but due to being knocked off course arrives on Earth decades after her baby cousin, Kal.

Homesick and heartbroken, Kara struggles to control her newfound superpowers as her now adult cousin Superman tries to mentor her. Realizing a different approach might be more effective after an encounter with Soloman Grundy results in extensive property damage, Superman brings Kara to the 31st century, home of the Legion of Super-Heroes, who run an academy for young people learning to use their superpowers. After some initial skepticism, Kara agrees to join the Academy and meets others like herself who are dealing with awkwardness and alienation.

Soon enough, Supergirl and her new friends are caught up in a centuries-spanning conspiracy to steal a powerful weapon from the Legion’s vault.

A franchise as robust and venerable as the Legion can be challenging to jump into for viewers and creators alike after 65 years, countless reboots and retcons, and a cast of dozens. The creative team demonstrates a firm grasp of their source material in their careful selection of characters from the Legion’s rich lineup.

Kara’s fellow trainees include Brainiac 5 (Harry Shum Jr.), Dawnstar (Cynthia Hamidi), Phantom Girl (Gideon Adlon), Bouncing Boy (Eli Henry), Triplicate Girl (Daisy Lightfoot), Invisible Kid (Zeno Robinson), and Arms-Fall-Off Boy (Ben Diskin), characters who are each struggling like Kara with awkwardness and alienation.

The story takes a bottom-up approach to the Legion by keeping the action focused on Supergirl, her fellow trainees and their handful of mentors while most of the Legion is away on a mission and mysteriously out of contact. This perspective introduces the scale of the Legion in digestible chunks without overwhelming the viewer or diluting the characters. Josie Campbell’s script provides each of the Legionnaires with a unique voice and distinct personality for the actors to bring to life.

Extras include several short featurettes and two previously released episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, both focusing on Supergirl.

The animation team brings the story to life in the same crisp style on display in director Wamseter’s other recent forays into the DCU. The character designs take their visual cues from the recent Brian Bendis and Ryan Sook run of Legion comics, and Legion of Super-Heroes renders its titular heroes in the clean lines and bright, flat colors that reflect the freshness and optimism of the best of classic DC.

 

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