Freedom Fighters: The Ray
Out on Tuesday, August 28, is the home video version of the DC animated movie Freedom Fighters: The Ray. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray for this review.)
As previously announced, they’ve expanded the animated content that ran on the CW Seed into a 72-minute movie. It’s a spinoff of the DC CW TV shows to give a promising character more attention, as they did with Vixen last year. This one is set against background for the “Crisis on Earth-X” TV crossover, where the superheroes fought evil Nazi versions of themselves.
It opens with the Freedom Fighters — the Ray (Russell Tovey), Black Condor (Jason Mitchell), Phantom Lady (Dilshad Vadsaria), Red Tornado (Iddo Goldberg), and the unspeaking Dollman — battling the bad versions of the DC CW TV heroes, Overgirl (Supergirl, Melissa Benoist), Blitzkrieg (the Flash, voiced by Scott Whyte), and Black Arrow (duh, voiced by Matthew Mercer). The good guys get their butts kicked, with some pretty violent scenes of, for example, Overgirl holding down and torturing Red Tornado. (The movie is unrated, but given the destruction shown, it’s not for kids.)
That leads to our Earth, specifically Tulsa, which is where much of the movie takes place. Ray Terrill is working for fair housing, trying to help veterans, those of different religions, and members of the LGBT community have their rights protected, when an uncaring politician shuts down the organization. He’s also uncomfortable about not yet having come out to his parents. They want him to go into the military, as his deceased older brother did.
Then the Earth-X Ray lands in his backyard, giving him light powers and the Maguffin of the piece, Red Tornado’s neural cortex, which contains important information about the resistance movement. Earth-1 Ray has to learn how to use his new powers, which he takes to quickly, and he starts dating a cutie named Jacob (Sunil Malhotra).
Meanwhile, the Nazi superheroes are still looking for the cortex. Cisco/Vibe (Carlos Valdez) shows up to help (although the Earth-X version of him isn’t smart enough to realize you can’t run away from a Flash). We also get an appearance from Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) from the Arrow show, and a superhero team-up battle interlude with Arrow, Flash, and Vixen (Megalyn Echikunwoke).
There are many elements of this movie that are predictable, but the episodic nature of the original source means that there are plenty of rewarding bits along the way, such as Ray’s dates. The ending isn’t what I expected, either. (Continuity fans, I suspect, will appreciate the tying up of loose ends.)
Particularly if you’re interested in ground-breaking moments of diversity in superhero fiction — the Ray is the first gay superhero to get his own movie — this isn’t a bad diversion. Aside from the various fight scenes, the movie kept my attention, in large part due to the good-hearted lead character and the corresponding performance by Tovey.
There’s a short (two minutes) special feature described as an interview with Russell Tovey, the voice of the Ray, but it’s really him explaining the character, with some clips of him doing voice recording.