Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
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DCU: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (DVD)
We all wish for the chance to go back in time and change the things, for The Flash, that coveted chance is within reach. He traverses time to right a violent, decades-past crime against his mother, but the ripples of his good intentions prove disastrous, as a fractured, alternate reality now exists in place of the familiar one. Stumbling through this twisted reality where even Superman is nowhere to be found, The Flash seeks the trusted wisdom of Batman, only to find a grittier, more violent Dark Knight in his place. Together with the help of Cyborg, they race to restore the continuity of Flash's original timeline while this new world is ravaged by a fierce war between Wonder Woman's Amazons and the Atlanteans, led by a battle hardened Aquaman. With breath taking action and an all-star voice cast featuring Kevin Conroy, C. Thomas Howell and Dana Delany, it's a bold, emotional vision that will forever change the landscape of the DC Universe!]]>
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(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
We’ve all been there, wishing we could’ve done something differently. Which of us hasn’t wanted a chance to go back into the past if only to tweak some singular small event in order to offer us a greater chance at happiness in the present or the future? The loss of a loved one cuts deeply enough to leave a scar that’ll last a lifetime, and that’s what Barry Allen decides he wants to fix about his past: he wants to be there to stop his mother from dying at the hands of some cruel assailant. Because he’s The Flash – because he has the ability to maneuver in and out of the time stream – he decides to do just that … and, little did he know, he tears apart the very fabric of the DC Universe!
This is a brilliant tale, the kind of which didn’t used to exist when I started reading the monthlies back in the 1970’s. Why? Well, it’s necessarily dark, and it’s quite darker than most of the usual fare I’ve read in The Flash’s books. In part, that’s because the greater entity – DC Comics – wanted to use this tale as a dramatic springboard with which to reboot their entire catalogue of heroes, villains, and superheroes. In case you haven’t heard of it, DC rebooted its various worlds in 2012; while its may’ve been a source of new life for some books, I haven’t seen the rewards in others.
That story – FLASHPOINT – has now been adapted by the ongoing DC Universe Animated Original Movie lines, and – so far as this critic is concerned – they’ve done it justice. All of the adult themes are there (mark my words: this is probably NOT one for the kids due to the heavy nature of violence and torture throughout), and, despite serving up the usual ‘slightly better than Saturday morning fare’ animation this one is draped in glorious somber tones and hues.
Still, there are some pieces of the overall story that don’t ‘mesh’ as well as they could, and I think that’s largely because this is essentially an 80-minute feature. The time needed to plot out all of this so that it made perfect sense to newcomers would probably be more like an animated miniseries – suffice it to say, there’s a world war going on, but it’s primarily being waged by fallen superheroes and the minions they command; and, despite it being front-and-center in the conclusion, it really gets short shrift in the first half. It gets introduced briskly with The Flash’s memories being changed so that he better understands this new universe he’s found himself a part of, and I think it could’ve been handled better than what we get here.
Time travel stories are pretty universal – even folks who don’t much care for sci-fi narratives tend to enjoy a good time-travel-yarn – so THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX is most definitely worth a view even by those who aren’t drawn to comic book properties. There’s enough in here that gives the story greater depth as well (i.e. Barry’s desire to see his mom alive again; Thomas Wayne’s desire to give his son a second chance at life; Wonder Woman’s wishes to be free of a marriage she doesn’t want, etc.), and I think that there’s probably something for everyone.
But – and I’m only harping on this because I think it’s a realistic observation – this is NOT for kids. It’s pretty grim. It’s a very dark tale. There’s an awful lot of violence, and it isn’t the usual comic-book-style; it’s graphic and at time disturbing … such as what happens to Barry Allen in this world when he tries to recreate the accident that made him who he was in the original world. It’s rated PG-13, and I think even that’s mildly questionable in a few instances. So consider yourself warned.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Everything about this JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX is superior, from the voice direction, the animation style, right down to the thematic elements. This is miles and miles better than practically anything else being done in the direct-to-DVD market, and it’s the kind of story that probably appeals to old and new fans of DC’s titles alike. I will say – and I stress this very emphatically – this is NOT a tale for children as some of the other DC flicks have been; the subject matter is necessarily dark and grim, and the level of corresponding violence is indeed quite high. For mature comic’s fans like myself, this is a home run.
But this isn't just about the Flash, this is really a crazy version about what if you change something in your life. Does it effect other people around you, even your closest friends? Clearly, the answer is yes in this movie. This starts with Flash as he saves his mom from being murdered only to find the World on the brink of World War 3. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are main the antagonists here who use their empires to plunge the Earth into chaos. Superman also is found hidden away by the United States Government as a socially crippled man treated like some science experiment gone array. In this alternate reality of Superman, his rocket crashed in Metropolis that killed thousands, instead of crashing in rural Kanas where no one was hurt. Thus, from childhood, Superman is raised in a harsh government facility instead of the farm life of his loving adoptive parents, the Kents.
I don't want to ruin the movie for you, but reading up the Flashpoint comic book series would help understand some of these changes. I think the movie stayed on point and told an effective story, even better than the comic books. I would rate this as well done. I just wished than more detail would have went into the war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman. They really only briefly touched on the reasons behind the war, which in my opinion weren't enough of an explanation. Cyborg was a pleasant character who seem to be the most level headed hero in this world. The Thomas Wayne Batman was great, as a doctor turned crime fighter, with even a more ruthless moral code than his son Bruce who was murdered that night in the dark alley instead of Thomas and his wife, which the movie clearly hints as her being the Joker.
I also wish more time could have spent on Thomas Wayne's world since he was also a main character in this movie. Here, unlike Bruce Wayne who projected the playboy image, Thomas alter ego as casino tycoon was a bit more rough edged, since running a few casinos in Gotham City which put him at a greater financial pressure on his business and as a crime fighter. Thomas partially explained this on his Bat plane when he flew the Flash, Cyborg, and the Shazam kids to Europe, to confront Aquaman and Wonder Woman. The Batman Flashpoint comic books were fun to read. They could have used some of that material too.
The Reverse Flash is excellently portrayed in this film as the main villain. I don't think he really ever got his due on the screen until now. I really enjoyed the final scenes as Flash battled Reverse Flash. I think an origin story might have came in handy on the Reverse Flash but with so much going on, clearly there would have been no where to fit it. I would recommend this animated movie as a must see.