If you’re a diehard fan of the Arrowverse, then odds are that you’re well aware of how it’s transcended live action television. In recent years, not only has it expanded into novels and comic books, but it’s also spilled over into the realm of animation by way of Vixen and Constantine: City of Demons.
Actually, there’s one very important offering sandwiched in between those two, and that’s Freedom Fighters: The Ray. Like its sister productions, it originally aired as a web series on the CW Seed streaming service, but has now been seamlessly cut together as a feature-length movie.
At face value, this appears to be a prequel to last fall’s DC TV crossover event, “Crisis on Earth-X,” which it essentially is, but it’s also so much more. As you may have figured, the central focus is placed on the Ray himself, who’s voiced by Russell Tovey, the very same actor who played the character on the small screen.
Long story short, Ray Terrill starts out as a guy who’s pretty mild-mannered, somewhat resistant to conflict, and has yet to admit to his parents that he’s gay. But over the course of the flick, he comes into his own once his dying Earth-X doppelganger grants him the powers he needs to be all that he can be. Yeah, the origin is kind of trippy.
Funny enough, the Ray’s cooler and much more powerful here than he appeared in “Crisis,” where he didn’t get to showcase his abilities nearly as much, perhaps due to budgetary constraints. In fact, he’s able to go toe-to-toe with Overgirl (Melissa Benoist), Supergirl’s Nazi counterpart.
Speaking of which, now would be as good of a time as any to say that the titular hero gets drafted into the war taking place in that godforsaken parallel dimension. Over there, he joins forces with the likes of Black Condor (Jason Mitchell), Phantom Lady (Dilshad Vadsaria) and Red Tornado (Iddo Goldberg).
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But before we arrive at the explosive third act, Terrill teams up with the Arrowverse’s major players we’ve come to love – and that’s where continuity gets very messy.
As you may recall, 2017’s “Crisis on Earth-X” was the first time the A-squad had even met or heard of the Ray, yet he fights alongside Green Arrow (Matthew Mercer stands in for Stephen Amell), the Flash (Scott Whyte does likewise for Grant Gustin) and other favorites before showing the New Reichsmen what’s what. Furthermore, there’s no explanation for why there’s a Nazi Barry Allen here, when the TV special swapped him out for Earth-1’s Reverse-Flash.
If that weren’t enough, it’s somewhat harder to place this on the timeline because the costuming is all over the place. Though my better judgment says this story is supposed to go down months before “Crisis,” Mr. Terrific (Echo Kellum) dons his Arrow season 5 threads, with the Emerald Archer himself suiting up in his season 4 gear. The Flash, meanwhile, can be seen in his OG attire from his first season, so you can see why I became a bit distracted by this aspect. My best guess is that this animated endeavor was plotted out far in advance of the crossover itself, but it’s odd that Freedom Fighters: The Ray has so many glaring continuity errors that Vixen simply did not possess.
Despite my gripes just listed, not a one of those oopsies actually detracts from the quality of the film itself. In my view, it’s best to just take in the piece as a standalone so that you spare yourself any headaches. I’m not going to mention how the ending plays out because I tend to avoid major spoilers in my reviews whenever possible, but just know that it also contradicts “Crisis” in a significant way.
If there’s to be any letdown here, it’s in the supplemental content department. For some reason, the only bonus feature to be found is that of a brief interview with Russell Tovey that was over before I could even finish a bowl of chili. I’m being serious.
Had it been up to me, I’d have included at least a couple bonus cartoons for good measure, just as most other DC animated features have done. Or, perhaps even the first chapter from the Constantine: City of Demons web series as a teaser of what’s to come, though WB probably wants to save anything from that for its own respective home video release.
Getting back to the main presentation, I very much recommend checking out Freedom Fighters: The Ray on Blu-ray as soon as possible. Not only does it serve up a good-hearted superhero that you can root for, but there’s also the chance to see Black Arrow, Blitzkrieg and Overgirl in animated form. I’m hoping that we’ll one day receive a full-on Arrow production of this sort, but these tales focusing on lesser known characters are quite enjoyable nonetheless.
Like Vixen before it, Freedom Fighters: The Ray proves to be a worthy animated addition to the Arrowverse - just don't expect any sense of continuity with "Crisis on Earth-X."