Freedom Fighters: The Ray Blu-ray Review

Another Animated Arrowverse Spin-off

Producer Greg Berlanti’s successful line of DC television shows on the CW expands even further into animation with this latest Arrowverse spin-off. Coming out of last year’s big Arrowverse crossover event that aired across four shows, Crisis on Earth-X, we were introduced to a new superhero called the Ray. Played by actor Russell Tovey, the Ray lived on a parallel Earth where Nazis had won World War II and the superhero was a member in the resistance. He also happened to be an openly gay superhero in his fight for freedom.

Freedom Fighters: The Ray picks up the ball from that television crossover and runs with it, introducing a similar character here on Earth One, the dimension that has “our” Oliver Queen as Green Arrow and Barry Allen as The Flash. On the run from a ruthless Overgirl (voiced by Melissa Benoist) and her Nazi underlings, the Ray from Earth-X stumbles onto Earth One, passing along his light-based powers before dying to Ray Terrill. Terrill is a young gay man living in the closet with his conservative parents in Tulsa. He dreams of making a difference in the world with his new powers, looking up to a deceased brother who died serving in the military.

This movie is an origin story for the Ray, but it also clearly has a message for the LGBT community. Openly gay actor Russell Tovey is brought back from his role on the television crossover to voice the young superhero. The movie embraces Ray’s sexuality, introducing a boyfriend in the process and confronting Ray’s coming out to his parents. The outreach to the gay community is smoothly handled except in one awkwardly written scene. Quickly becoming a visible superhero around town with his flashy powers, the Ray saves a lesbian couple from a mugger making sexist cracks as the mugger robs them. It’s just one scene in a montage of Ray saving the day like all superheroes, but it comes across as awkward pandering.

Interestingly enough, Ray is not written as a perfect character without flaws. Ray goes through growth as a person learning his powers, like when he first bullies a politician into changing his policies. His close friend John chews him out for abusing his powers. Ray at heart is a good guy and the character is likable. He doesn’t have the gruff demeanor of a Green Arrow or the boyish charisma of the Flash. Ray is his own character, which comes out as he’s ultimately trained by those heroes to return to Earth-X and save the day.

The superhero dynamics and Ray’s personal life are fairly well balanced. Freedom Fighters: The Ray has great superhero action, especially when Nazi supervillains from Earth-X like Overgirl (think an evil Supergirl that runs the empire) are involved. There is an absolutely amazing scene when Overgirl goes to kill Red Tornado in battle.

… there is a real expansive quality to the wider superhero storytelling you don’t get from the weekly television episodes

Most won’t be familiar with Earth-X’s obscure heroes like Phantom Lady or Dollman. If there is a weakness to the movie, it assumes you have some familiarity with the Arrowverse and its characters. The plot throws you into the deep end right away, opening with a huge battle on Earth-X.

Vibe and Caitlin Snow will make an appearance without much of an introduction. Good luck if you don’t know who those characters are from The Flash. You better brush up on your Arrowverse characters if you want to get the full experience of this movie. Watching last season’s Crisis On Earth-X crossover that aired on Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow is not a guaranteed prerequisite but certainly helps fill in background details.

Some continuity issues with the live-action Arrowverse episodes do stand out. In other bad news, only star Melissa Benoist returns to voice her Overgirl character. Apparently Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell weren’t available to voice their respective roles for this movie. It’s not a huge loss here since the Flash and Green Arrow don’t have a lot of screen time.

Having started life as an animated web series of mini-episodes much like another Arrowverse spin-off, Vixen: The Movie, Freedom Fighters: The Ray flows surprisingly well as a single movie. Written by veteran staffers under Greg Berlanti’s umbrella of Arrowverse television shows, the Ray fits smoothly into that television universe. Unleashed by the freedom of having the ability to animate anything, there is a real expansive quality to the wider superhero storytelling you don’t get from the weekly television episodes. Having never seen Freedom Fighters: The Ray before this movie release, there are no real tells in the 73-minute film that it was originally episodic. It is smoother and more refined than Vixen when combining everything together.

Video

Freedom Fighters: The Ray largely resembles DC’s recent animated films on Blu-ray with a few caveats. It’s not quite as polished in technical animation terms as the DC projects shepherded under their mainstream line of established animation producers.

While the animation is bright and colorful, the character designs are all pulled from their looks in the Arrowverse. Barry Allen here has the same costume seen on the CW’s The Flash. In that regard, it’s identical to the design continuity established in Vixen: The Movie, another animated Arrowverse spin-off.

The movie is presented in crisp HD clarity at the standard 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Natively rendered at 1080P resolution, this digital transfer perfectly duplicates the source animation. The 73-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-25. A touch of banding is in several different scenes, which is more or less expected by now for regular customers of DC’s animated output. If you can overlook that flaw, the movie has decently pleasing video quality.

Audio

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack engages across the front soundstage with solid immersion and some depth. The rears have a few moments of action, albeit the bombastic effects are mostly left upfront. The audio is at its best whenever the superheroes are fighting someone, be it the Nazi soldiers or villains like Overgirl.

Dialogue is cleanly rendered without much trouble. The underlying audio design has fine dynamics in crystal-clear fidelity. Scored by the same people behind the various Arrowverse television shows, the music will be familiar to viewers.

Optional subtitles include English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin) and Spanish (Castillian). They play in a white font. Secondary audio dubs include Spanish (Latin) and Spanish (Castillian) in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Extras

This combo pack release from WB comes with a DVD and digital copy. The included HDX digital copy will give you both UltraViolet and Movies Anywhere rights if redeemed on VUDU. First pressings will have a regular cardboard slipcover.

Given the bonus features we’ve seen on prior animated DC releases, this is an incredibly skimpy set of special features. If you are looking for neat bonus features, look towards DC’s other animated productions. Produced in conjunction with producer Greg Berlanti’s vast array of DC television properties, it would have been nice to have a few soundbites from the CW actors.

An Interview With Actor Russell Tovey (01:55 in HD) – Having already played the Ray last year for the CW’s mega-DC television crossover event, Crisis on Earth-X, he naturally slips into the role voicing the character for this movie. Behind-the-scenes footage briefly shows him dubbing the voice and he discusses the character’s motivations. This featurette could have been more interesting if fleshed out a little.

Trailers (05:07 in HD) – Trailers for The Death of Superman, Batman Ninja, and Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay play in order.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray release was provided to us for review by the studio. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page to learn more about DoBlu’s editorial policies.

Freedom Fighters: The Ray
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

An interesting animated expansion of the Arrowverse continuity that returns to the Nazi Earth of Overgirl, introducing a new Ray and his adventures fighting the Nazis.

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User Review
2.5 (2 votes)

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