REVIEW: Justice League – The Flashpoint Paradox
REVIEW SUMMARY: A decent offering marred by an art style so grotesque as to be horribly distracting.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: After battling a menagerie of his enemies, The Flash (Barry Allen), wakes up to find the world has changed. Atlantis is at war with the Amazon’s of Themyscira, who have destroyed Europe, and claimed the United Kingdom as their own. In this alternate world, it’s up to Barry Allen and this world’s version of The Batman to set things right again, or die trying.
PROS: Decent story; nice to see Barry’s version of The Flash in an animated feature; this Batman is interesting (not all alternates have been); another fun romp through the ‘what if’ catalogue of stories.
CONS: The physical representations of the heroes (the art) is weird, grotesque and distracting; even without having read the original comics, the twist was predictable.
BOTTOM LINE: As a fan of the animated movies DC has been pumping out, this one is much better than the previous few and well worth your time.
The Flash is an interesting part of the DC Universe. There’s been a few different versions, including the original Jay Garret, the Silver Age Barry Allen, and later, Wally West. Barry once sacrificed himself to save everyone (Crisis), paving the way for Wally to take over. Eventually, as all heroes do, Barry returned. Somewhere along the way, DC decided to explain where the speed came from. Enter the Speed Force, an enigmatic energy well The Flash and others like him, drew upon in order to go fast. This Speed Force also appears as a physical plane The Flash can cross, and offers up the ability to see alternate realities and travel through time. Enter Eobard Thawne, aka “Professor Zoom” and “Reverse-Flash”, who traveled back in time from the 25th century and became one of The Flash’s enemies.
In the opening moments of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Barry and Iris Allen are visiting the grave of Barry’s mother, Nora, who died when he was a child. They are interrupted by a break-in at the Flash Museum. (Yes, this exists.) Several of The Flash’s enemies are there, including Captain Cold, heat Wave, Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang, and Top. They battle, and The Flash is trapped. When his enemies close in for the kill, Reverse-Flash appears. He has placed future-tech bombs on all the villains and The Flash, enough to kill Central City citizens for miles around. With his free hand, The Flash uses the same goop keeping him pinned to a wall, to pin Reverse-Flash to a pillar across from him, and tries to force the Reverse-Flash to disarm the bombs. He refuses, but the maneuver also buys time for the Justice League to arrive. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Captain Atom, Aquaman and Cyborg all arrive and either disarm or move the bombs where they can’t hurt anyone. After, Reverse-Flash makes a quip that the Flash can’t save everyone, can he? Particularly poignant on the day he has visited his mother’s grave, this upsets Barry and he decides to ‘run it off’.
He wakes to a different world. Citizen Cold is Central City’s resident hero, Iris is dating someone else, Superman doesn’t exist, Wonder Woman is Queen of the Amazons and is waging a world war against Aquaman and the forces of Atlantis, Barry’s mother is alive, Bruce Wayne is dead, Thomas Wayne is a gun-toting Batman with no qualms about killing, and there is no Flash – Barry is powerless.
WARNING! Spoilers from this point on – for both the DVD and the original comic run!
This is a very interesting addition to the DC Animated Universe. Fan favorites Kevin Conroy (Batman), Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern), and Dana Delaney (Lois Lane) return, however briefly, which is always a nice nod to the previous animated efforts. The plot itself is lean and quick, appropriate for a Flash tale (pun intended). We get little glimpses into the broader changes of this alternate universe; Bruce Wayne is murdered, his father becomes The Batman, his mother (it is implied), becomes The Joker. There is no Flash, or, apparently, any other speed-based heroes or villains – no Kid Flash, Impulse, etc. Thomas Wayne is an alcoholic running a profitable casino business and taking to the streets at night to clean up Gotham. Superman came to earth, but wasn’t found/raised by the Kents – he simply disappeared. Abin Sur crashed to earth and was taken by the government, his ring didn’t choose Hal Jordan or anyone else on earth, but shot up into space upon his death.
In the comics, this mega-crossover Flashpoint event was the precursor to launching The New 52. I am not a fan of the mega-crossovers. I have made this clear multiple times on the podcasts, complaining about how, among other things, Marvel once made me purchase a copy of Power Pack because it tied into an X-Men crossover story. Still haven’t forgiven them for that. DC has been mining such stories for their animated features, and Flashpoint is no exception. Like previous movies, this one focuses in on the central themes of the story, and leaves a lot of the extra stuff in the pages of the comics.
Examples – The Flash, Booster Gold and Kid Flash are the only ones who know the timeline has changed in the comics, but neither Booster Gold nor Kid Flash appear in the movie. The political intrigue is also gone from the movie – there’s no traitor among Cyborg’s heroes, no hidden Amazon agents working against him. And when The Flash enters the Speed Force to set things right, he doesn’t see the three different timelines – DC, Vertigo and Wildstorm – shown in the comics (which launches The New 52). The only indication we have at the end of the movie that The New 52 is coming, is a change in The Flash’s costume.
I mentioned the art above. Grotesque is the best description I’ve been able to come up with. DC animation has always done this thing where the male characters have these big barrel chests and broad shoulders on top of paper-thin legs. If anything has changed in Flashpoint, it’s that now they have skinny, elongated waists and massively thick necks too. Wonder Woman, an Amazon and Queen of the Amazons to boot, still has no muscles. The distinction is beyond distracting. Aquaman and Superman look like Hulk-esque monsters. I just don’t get it.
Overall, if you can get past the choices on physical depictions, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a fun, wild ride.
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