This piece has a unique concept; other films have explored the “what if” scenario of the Nazis having won World War II, but never with superheroes. What makes The Ray stand out, though—even among its other animated superhero competition—is its attention to the contemporary environment and times in which it was made.
The Reich that Ray and his companions battle against aren’t just sequel-teasing baddies, but a collective jab at the current political climate.
The character of Ray Terrill, himself (voiced by Russell Tovey; The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), is compelling. The first openly-gay superhero in pop culture is a big deal, for a lot of folks. Maybe we’ll even get to see that happen on the big screen, someday soon. Normal origin story stuff—less-than-desirable home life, reluctant superpowers, training montages, et cetera—but it never drags. Tovey’s voice acting is commendable, but the whole cast have a few good one-liners, as well. Getting Melissa Benoist (The CW’s Supergirl) to voice her Earth-X Nazi counterpart was neat, and lent to the whole story being brought full-circle.
Where the continuity ends with the animated DC movies—whether they branch into TV’s Arrowverse or the movies—I’ve no clue, but it’s really not important; what I like about all of these is their self-containment—each has enough story to be its own, independent entity, but not so much as to feel cumbersome or like we need an encyclopedia out during viewing. During the opening credits, an artistic montage gets us up-to-speed on Earth-X’s timeline. The Multiverse is a pretty self-explanatory concept, but, again, something that could translate onto the big screen well, and even make everything there more cohesive.
Jabs at other DC properties are present. I’m glad that Warner can let loose and laugh at themselves, sometimes, too. Seems a bit rushed, at certain points, but it’s not a rollercoaster of pace; once the action gets going, it stays going—all the way up through the climactic superhero battle at the end. Animation is solid—brutal, at times, but I’ve come to expect that level of grown-upness from these pieces. Matte designs are atmospheric and well-done, and voice performances, in general, are believable and characteristic to each hero. Sad we didn’t get to see more of the Earth-1 heroes, but…maybe in that hopeful sequel I mentioned earlier.
The score is complementary—I especially liked the Ray’s theme. Triumphant, goosebump-inducing. Original—I could hum it. The overarching themes, as I said in the beginning, are all contemporary—battling tyranny through teamwork and self-belief, although against the twisted, dark backdrop of an alternate, Nazi-controlled Earth. Wait…
Showing, rather than telling, is key—especially comic book movies, where the source material is practically all “show”. All the new-ish (to me) heroes that are introduced are shown using their powers, rather than them being explained. There’s team chemistry there, too. The piece’s macguffin kind of gets lost in all the spectacle, but that’s why they call it a macguffin—the audience isn’t supposed to care what happens to it.
Overall, The Ray is a fresh concept that isn’t trying to be subtle with its messages. Satire and commentary, aside, it’s still an entertaining 70 minutes of superhero beat-em-ups.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: 8/10. Hope to see more of the Freedom Fighters in the coming months.