JUSTICE SOCIETY: WORLD WAR II Interview: Director Jeff Wamester Explains His Fresh Take On The Golden Age Team

We recently caught up with Justice Society: World War II director Jeff Wamester to discuss balancing action-packed fights with character-driven moments, putting a fresh spin on classic heroes, and more...

Justice Society: World War II arrives on streaming platforms on April 27th, 2021, and hits 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray on May 11th, 2021. This next entry in the DC Animated Universe sees The Flash thrust into the midst of an epic battle between Golden Age DC Super Heroes the Justice Society and Nazis for an adventure which definitely doesn't play out the way you might be expecting. 

Picking up with Barry Allen in the present day, prior to the formation of the Justice League, the Scarlet Speedster discovers he can run even faster than he imagined, and that milestone results in his first encounter with the Speed Force. Arriving in World War II, he finds himself teaming up with a Golden Age team (Wonder Woman, Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor, and Jay Garrick).

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with director Jeff Wamester to discuss finding the right balance between blockbuster action and character-driven storytelling in Justice Society: World War II, putting a fresh spin of familiar faces, and his hopes for more stories involving these characters.

Before taking the helm of this movie, Wamester has worked as a storyboard artist on titles like Justice League Dark: Apokolips WarSuperman: Man of Tomorrow, and Batman: Soul of the Dragon.

Check out the full interview below, and keep checking back here for much more about this movie.
 

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Looking through your credits, you’re certainly no stranger to the DC Universe, but what led to Justice Society: World War II being the movie you made your directorial debut with?

Well, it’s a long story, but I’ll give you the shortest version of it! I was doing lots of storyboards for DC, and I got recommended to be the next "up and comer" to direct movies specifically by [producer] Butch Lukic. I was also super psyched to do this particular movie because it’s a World War II setting and I grew up watching old movies from that time period. My mom was a huge fan, and she still to this day watches movies from that era. I’m always watching them whenever I get chance, and I do enjoy watching them with her; also, my grandfather was a WWII veteran. So, I got to explore that world and share my respects to my grandfather. 

As this is a new, and still very young, DC Universe following the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, did you feel that gave you a little more freedom to do something new with these characters? 

Definitely. I don’t think we’ve seen these characters much in film, so we got to express some new ideas with the characters that are different to what we’ve seen [before]. We have the main DC characters, but this finds them in the larger index of what they are, and being able to express that on film was an absolute blast. 

I feel like the way the Flash’s powers are portrayed here both in terms of visuals and his actions are so different to what we’ve seen on screen before - was that important to you for this project? 

I think we tried to do that with everything. The look of the film, the decisions about the characters...it’s pushed in a different, new creative direction. It’s just such a different take from what we were doing before to now. 

The fights scenes in this movie are insanely good, but when you’re working on an animated feature like this one, what are some of the challenges that come with those? I’m sure there will be some people out there who think, ‘Oh, it’s animated - they can do whatever comes to mind,' but what's the reality?

Yeah, there’s always limitations. Well, there isn’t and there is. There are no limitations in terms of what kind of fighting you can do, but there’s always scale you have to think about in terms of how much you destroy. In animation, you destroy something, you have to keep track of that if you’re in the same spot the whole time. That becomes tough because it’s not like a live-action set where it's always going to be there. You have to come back to that and make sure it’s in the same spot and make sure you’re tracking that. With animation, tracking can become difficult and becomes too big. Also, the other part of it is if you have armies fighting armies, that’s nearly impossible. It’s just too much to animate, so you have to make sure you keep it insular. 

When you’re dealing with a different timeline and reality as you are in this film, is it fun to explore those different versions of characters whether it’s Aquaman or other members of the Justice Society?

I loved it. I always like to find new interpretations of stuff without losing who the character is themselves. That’s always a really fun challenge. I love challenges like that, and you probably saw in the movie that we were trying to do that. 

Definitely. However, I couldn’t help but notice some parallels to the Wonder Woman movie’s "No Man’s Land" scene here when Diana leaps into action; was that a deliberate nod on your part? 

It is a little bit of a nod to that! I think everyone enjoyed that entire part of Wonder Woman, and I think it was the most close to what we should see from her which is being a super capable all out warrior. She’s not just a superhero. She’s not like Superman who goes out on the street and brawls dudes, and he’s big and he fights. This is a trained warrior. She’s not gonna straight up fight a guy and have fisticuffs. She has a specific style to the way that she fights because she’s been trained to be that way since she was a kid. I think expressing that in those scenes was really important, and the live-action scene is probably closest to what it should be.
 

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For me, Black Canary and Hawkman’s dynamic was a standout part of the movie, but what did you enjoy most about exploring their dynamic?

What was most enjoyable is that each one had a different idea of what their relationship was and what they each wanted. Hawkman was mourning for his wife the entire time, but these two were so close because they’re both warriors too and have that commonality. She wanted more. I think we never originally, when the script was first written, intended on that, but it just came out. We said, ‘This is exactly what would happen between these two.’ It built as we built the movie, and we realised what it is. It’s one of those things where sometimes you’re making the movie go in a certain direction, but sometimes, the movie makes that decision for you. With them, it was very exciting to see that within the story and then express it. 

Whether it's the two versions of the Flash, or Black Canary and Hawkman, the relationships in this movie are clearly key. Which of them did you find most satisfying to explore, though?

I like them all for different reasons. The idea that Hawkman and Black Canary were so close but on slightly different tracks with how they thought about each other was a super interesting interaction. It was fulfilling for me, especially that moment in the cellar, I think was really great. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I also enjoyed the classic Wonder Woman relationship with Steve Trevor and how hesitating to grab stuff in life how heavy a price you can pay for that. That was also exciting to me. 

When it came to the roster of the Justice Society, were there any characters you wanted to include, but couldn't? 

Me, personally? No, I think it’s one of those things where I don’t want to add more because I want to make sure that whatever characters we do add, they all have a story in the whole. I think if you add too many characters, it gets to be too much. There are other characters who would have been cool in it, but I think this story...these characters are meant to be in this story to get to the conclusion we did. 

The Justice Society is very underrated in some ways, but between Stargirl and Black Adam, they’re finally getting their chance to shine. What do you think is so special about the team?

I don’t think they all follow the usual archetypes. Usually in comic books, you have a big guy, a femme fatale...you know what I mean? There’s a set of what they’re like, but I think the JSA go a little counter to that. I think that’s really cool, and their interactions are a little different than the usual archetype for a superhero group. 

After watching the movie, I’m desperate for a sequel; I know it’s too soon to say if one might happen, but if it does, do you have any ideas where you’d like the team to go next? 

Yeah. I’d like to see more of the fight against the Nazis and maybe a new enemy they’ve brought up. This movie never really brought enemy "superheroes" to the conflict; it never intended to. If the team were to actually fight what the Nazis ended up recruiting, and we see them actually fight, and what that would lead to, I think would be really fun to see.
 

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