JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX Movie Review
So, it has come to this.
With DC Entertainment‘s long and very successful run of direct to DVD/Blu-Ray adaptions of comics straight off the rack onto the small screen, it was only a matter of time till they made an animated feature of their continuity resetting event from 2011, Flashpoint. Written by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, the mini-series was used as a jump-off point for the companies New 52 comic reboot.
I just want to quickly preface this review of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox by saying that it still feels like the Flashpoint comic series gets a little bit of a bum rap since it carries the stigma of being the death of the old continuity and the sterile bridge to the new. What Johns and Kubert wrote was very, very good. Yes, watching this took me back to that bitter sweet moment when my beloved post-crisis continuity was washed away. Yes, the cynical comic book nerd in me that resists change was a little white knuckled knowing that, now too in the animated universe, we were moving into the New 52 (if you haven’t heard they are preparing an animated film for Justice League: War, an adaption of the first arc of Johns and Jim Lee‘s New 52 era Justice League), but this little cartoon about men in tights is also very good. Damn good even.
Warning: There are spoilers for both this film and the comic series ahead.
So here is the basic plot, Barry Allen aka The Flash finds himself in an alternate reality – a dark and bleak twisted world where everything is wrong. Batman is a brutal gun wielding vigilante, Europe is ravaged by a fierce war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans. Cyborg is a government sponsored protector of American interests and Kal-El’s rocket actually crashed into the middle of Metropolis, devastating the city and leaving the infant last son of Krypton locked away in a crypt/research facility. Moments after his arrival, Barry sets out to write whatever wrong has created this new time line. The only issue is, he’s powerless. The Flash doesn’t exist here.
What follows over next 90 minutes is a very well done adaptation. It’s not an exact retelling of the comic of course, some corners were cut to fit the runtime, but the animation is as high caliber as one would hope.
The voice talents of Justin Chambers, Kevin McKidd, Vanessa Marshall, Michael B. Jordan, Cary Elwes, C. Thomas Howell, Nathan Fillion, Danny Huston, Ron Perlman, Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany and, Sam Daly are phenomenal to say the least. Honestly, if you are even remotely interested in the DC Universe (past, present, or future,) The Flashpoint Paradox is a much watch. It continues DC’s amazing run of animated features and solidifies the quality one expects from them.
A huge treat in this dark and bleak version of the DC Universe is the level of two fisted action contained within. The Flashpoint Paradox takes this alternate universe and plays dirty with it. Batman (spoiler, it’s not Bruce) is a big brutal bastard to a level that would make Frank Miller wince. The Atlantian/Amazonian war’s devastation is fantastically represented, as well as the resistance toiling against it. Deathstroke gets a wonderfully action packed slice of screen time, hell, even Clayface and Shazam/Captain Marvel are treated well and they are basically background characters. This film earns it’s PG-13 rating here, and the film’s finale, Flash vs Zoom/Reverse Flash, is nothing short of spectacular.
The Flashpoint Paradox does fall a little short in a few areas compared to its source material, though. Most of the emotional highs and lows have been ground down to a more palatable medium. The Batman tale this universe had to tell is regulated down to a few points of interest as we are swept away with the course of the story. The missing Superman from this universe is more of a footnote in the plot until needed, lessening his impact since Earths greatest protector was never allowed his time in the sun (literally.)
The organic flow of the story, the emotional bonds that are created by these recognizable yet totally new characters, and the basic plot development, seem a bit rushed and oddly paced, especially since the comic book source material is a story that took 5 months and multiple issues to tell and here, it is shoehorned into an hour and a half of animation.
That being said, The Flashpoint Paradox counts as one of DC’s better animated offerings. It’s story is tight (though a little rushed in places), it’s a very accessible movie for those who are not huge fans of DC Comics or even comics in general, but it retains the darkness of the comic series, while deftly handling the shocking revelation about Barry Allen reveal that it was, in fact, Barry’s one selfish act that caused all of this. Beyond that, the film also dramatically corrects that act with the suspense and the tension that it deserves.
If (and I say if because there are so many pre-New 52 stories that would make great animated features,) we are moving into the current DC Comics continuity as far as these direct to DVD/Blu-Ray releases go Justice League: The Flashpoint is a sign of good things to come.
Oh… one last thing, in the comics, as the story of Flashpoint was laid out to us readers, Booster Gold was rather closely tied to the story. He was the only other person in the new timeline that remembered the previous one. Would it have been so hard to work him into the film? Booster deserves some animated love too, damn it.