“As we anxiously await the debut of Justice League, DKN celebrates the release of the live-action film with reviews of the DC Universe Animated Movies starring ‘The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes.’ Our third review is Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.”
Director: Jay Oliva
Writer: Jim Krieg
Starring: Justin Chambers, Kevin Conroy, Kevin McKidd, Michael B. Jordan, C. Thomas Howell, Vanessa Marshall, Cary Elwes, Sam Daly
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was an extremely ambitious undertaking. Based on the highly popular Flashpoint crossover, written by the prolific Geoff Johns and illustrated by Andy Kubert, the story merged three separate universes and resetted it into what is now known as the New 52 reboot. Similarly, this movie was meant to create a consistent universe in which DC Home Entertainment could tell stories. Prior to this movie, the direct to home media line of movies were based on different stories, scattered across different universes. The Flashpoint Paradox allowed them to reset their movies in order for them to logically begin telling stories in the same universe whilst also being able to adapt a wicked storyline.
In the present, Barry Allen is the Flash (Justin Chambers), we find our hero investigating a break-in at the Flash Museum. He finds several of his rogues have collaborated for this effort. Of course, the mastermind behind this team-up is Eobard Thawne, otherwise known as Zoom (C. Thomas Howell). With the help of the Justice League (Kevin Conroy as Batman, Sam Daly as Superman, Vanessa Marshall as Wonder Woman, Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg, Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern, and Cary Elwes as Aquaman), The Flash is able to thwart Zoom once more. Zoom eventually gets the last word when he alludes to the Flash’s deceased mother. Visibly rattled, The Flash does what he does best and runs off.
In the next scene, Barry wakes up to find that the world is completely different. It seems fine at first because his mom is still alive. However, he soon finds out how much worse things are. The accident which gave him his powers never happened and the world is on the brink of apocalypse as Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war with their respective mythological armies. Unsure, he seeks the council of Batman, who in this world is Thomas Wayne (Kevin McKidd), as Bruce was the one shot that fateful night. In the attempt to explain himself to the more violent Batman, Barry discovers that in his ring, nestled Zoom’s suit. Fearing that Zoom had changed the past somehow, Barry attempts to replicate the accident that gave him his powers in order to help combat the looming war and possibly undo the damage. With his powers intact, he teams up with Cyborg and Batman in the attempt to stop the war between the Altlanteans and the Amazonians. On the battlefield, Zoom appears and reveals to the Flash that this altered universe existed because of his doing. The world changed because Barry went back in time to stop the death of his mother.
Let’s cut to the chase, I love this movie. It is by far one of the strongest entries into the DC Animated Movies line-up… that wasn’t a Batman movie. I often find myself revisiting this movie, sometimes a couple times a year. The animation is rich, the action is thrilling, and the acting is incredible. Kevin McKidd provides a wonderful, gruffer-than-Bruce take on the Batman, while still being able to fully emote his sense of loss over his son. Though Michael Rosenbaum will forever be etched in my brain as the Flash, Justin Chambers stands as one of my favorite portrayals of the Flash. There’s a lot to love about this movie.
Multiple Plots and Multiple Characters
Upon this viewing, I discovered that part of the reason why it works is because it juggles so many plots and so many characters almost flawlessly. It’s obvious that the Flash and even Thomas Wayne are the stars of this movie, but being that it’s based on a Crisis-level crossover, it does very good job in covering a good portion of the DC universe and all the major changes to the world, most of which is done through flashback. We also get a pretty cool cameo from a Wildstorm character. Not every character contributes largely to the story, but a good portion get their moment to shine, however brief it may be.
The movie managed to do all of this and I never once felt confused or felt like the plot was too convoluted. And there was a lot to explain whether it be the cause of the Atlantean/Amazonian war or the death of Bruce Wayne. None of the flashbacks ever felt like it was haphazardly tacked on or out of place. Everything flowed logically and throughout my multiple times viewing it, the movie has never lost me.
Losing your Loved Ones
Of course, being that the movie is centered primarily on the tragic characters of both the Flash and Batman, there was a emphasis on loved ones, most notably their parents. And it never felt forced. The film begins with a flashback of one particular outing between Barry and his mom. Nora attempts to instill a lesson, “Accept the things you cannot change. Have the courage to change the things you can. And have the wisdom to know the difference.” It was an obvious theme that was echoed at the end of the movie as Barry was forced to finally accept his mother’s death once and for all. Which for anyone who has ever lost a loved one, it’s no easy feat.
But being the Batman and Kevin Conroy fanboy that I am, my favorite moment came at the very end of the movie. As the world was literally dissolving before their eyes, Thomas implores Flash to undo this world and hands him a letter to give to Bruce. After Flash is forced to see his mother murdered, the world has presumably reverted back to normal. Flash is in the Batcave, recanting the events of the other timeline to Bruce. Before he leaves, he hands the letter to Bruce, who instantly recognizes his father’s handwriting. A few tears are shed as he reads the letter, before he offers a heartfelt thank you. It makes me cry every single time. Kevin Conroy… he can literally turn me into a messy ball of tears and snot with one well-delivered line.
The movie is bookended by the characters’ love for their parents. You guys should call your parents sometime.
Tackling the grief over losing a loved one is nothing new or original. People need stories to help cope with that sense of loss and mourning. This movie does just that and beautifully. Even more so, it did it with superheroes. Everything is better with superheroes.
Now, I do have a few gripes with the movie, but it gets into nitpicky territory. As I said before, the movie does a hell of a job juggling so many characters and plotlines with precision. However, with so many characters, at least one or two have to be snubbed in order to maintain focus and cohesion. Though the character of Hal Jordan does die with honor, it was a huge underutilization of the beloved Nathan Fillion. Nathan Fillion is Hal Jordan and should play the character from now until the end of time. And with such an immense talent at your hands, you know you have to give him… something to work with. Hal Jordan likely has less than 3 pages of dialogue to work through, which was thoroughly disappointing. It was such a waste! There are other characters who were snubbed like Lex Luthor, but I believe that Hal Jordan’s was the most egregious one.
Violent as Heck
Cartoons are often immediately labelled as children’s entertainment. Not because of content, but because your average moviegoer simply cannot pay attention or relate to animated characters. And this cartoon was definitely not for children. At the time, it was likely the most violent DC Animated Movie yet.
When it reached the war, characters were dying every few seconds. Though most of the deaths were not gratuitous in the slightest, some deaths were a little graphic. A lot of the more gorier scenes were strategically cut so that your imagination could fill in the blanks. However, it didn’t quite shy away from them either. Though it was real fun watching all the action sequences, there were three particular moments that were a little too much for me and likely would be too much for the squeamish. They involve a head, a heart, and a child. If you’ve seen it, you’ll likely be able to pinpoint which scenes. I still shudder at times thinking about them.
Here’s the skinny: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was an extremely ambitious adaptation that succeeded in becoming one of the best DC Animated Movies so far. The film mostly manages to juggle multiple storylines and characters to tell a beautiful story of overcoming the grief of losing a loved one. Bolstered by fantastic performances and some of the sharpest animation in the DC Animated Movies at that point in time to easily become one of my favorite movies in the line-up. Though it has missteps in representing certain iconic characters while juggling so many and at times, may be a bit overwhelming to someone with a weak stomach, it doesn’t take away from the brilliant adaptation. But that’s just one man’s opinion.
That’s all for this week, but don’t miss our review on the next DC Animated film: Justice League: War.