A worthy buy for any fan of the material (or the characters), and a good film for even casual fans (or those curious about the potential for future live-action films) to check out.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is DC Universe’s feature-length animated adaptation of the DC Comics Flashpoint crossover event of 2011. In the story, The Flash/Barry Allen (Justin Chambers) awakens in an alternate reality, in which he has no powers, there is no such thing as superheroes, and his friends from the Justice League are all skewed and non-heroic versions of themselves.
The closest thing Barry can find to an ally is the alternate version of Batman (Kevin McKidd), who is skeptical at first, but quickly reveals his own reasoning for wanting Barry’s crazy story to be true. However, their plan to restore the timeline to its natural state has many hurdles – including the machinations of the Reverse-Flash (C. Thomas Howell), a lack of allies to pull off the plan, and the small matter of an ongoing war between Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) and Aquaman (Cary Elwes) that is quickly pushing the entire world to the brink of Armageddon.
Flashpoint was a fairly well-received crossover event, thanks to the writing talents of Geoff Johns. While the DCU animated feature doesn’t have the freedom to explore some of the more fascinating corners of Johns’ Flashpoint Continuity, it is still a solidly cinematic and exciting adaptation of the core Flashpoint storyline. In keeping with the increasingly synergistic nature of DC’s comic book/TV/Film properties, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (as its title clearly implies) serves as a suitable vision of the entire Justice League, while still managing to propel The Flash to the forefront. That’s to say: this movie is a good example of why Barry Allen is both a rich and complex enough character to sustain his own live-action film, and is a character who can bridge the shared continuity of a Justice League movie universe.
Director Jay Oliva has been responsible for some of the better DCU animated works of the last few years (Young Justice, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Parts 1&2) so it’s not really surprising that he’s able to capture the darker and grittier look and tone of the Flashpoint continuity so well. Gripes about animation style aside, the film is definitely designed to be enjoyed on Blu-ray hi-def in a home theater setting. The visuals and sounds are crisp and have the feel of a blockbuster animated feature – rather than the aesthetic of an extended TV episode, which you get with some of these animated films from DCU (see: Superman Unbound).
Unfortunately, Flashpoint Paradox continues in the disappointing transition away from the golden-era styles of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s Batman: The Animated Series, moving further into the animation style and aesthetic of modern anime. While Batman and Flash still look good enough (Flash’s running posture is a bit strange), other characters like Wonder Woman and Aquaman are simply designed in ways that don’t vibe with the tone of a DC Universe. Aquaman should have a neck… just saying.
On the plus side, the action sequences are pretty epic and adult oriented (read: PG-13 violent), and there plenty of nice Easter egg nods to other characters in the DC Universe, most of whom have been given a nice “Flashpoint” twist. The voice acting is pretty on point, as well: Chambers and McKidd are a good team for the odd-pairing of Batman and The Flash; Chronicle star Michael B. Jordan is good voice for Cyborg; and there are plenty of winking fan-favorite appearances from DCU icons like Kevin Conroy (as the “regular” version of Batman), Dana Delany (reprising her longtime role as Lois Lane), Nathan Fillion (‘the people’s Hal Jordan’) and even some legacy casting in Sam Daly (as in son of iconic Superman voice actor Tim Daly), who steps in to voice the Flashpoint version of Superman! How could any longtime DCU fan NOT love that?
While there is plenty of refreshing material to enjoy in Flashpoint Paradox (alternate universe tales are often some of the most enjoyable in comic book lore) there is also the sense that we are only scratching the surface of a rich universe worth exploring further. It’s a problem that some would say also plagued the comic book version: the Flashpoint continuity was so interesting that a brief tromp through it before DC’s milestone “New 52” reboot felt like wasted opportunity. The animated feature keeps its focus on the core storyline most of the time, but interesting tangental scenes exploring the human resistance to the Atlantean/Amazonian war – or the altered history of Flashpoint Batman – certainly tease the viewer with intriguing material that the comics explored in more depth, but the animated film never does. Great incentive to go out and pickup the Flashpoint graphic novel for a read; but as far as a self-contained movie goes, it’s untidy storytelling.
Still, wanting to know more than you’re getting is a minor complaint when it comes to big movies. There are precious few DCU films that feature second-tier characters like The Flash, and this is certainly one of the best. A worthy buy for any fan of the material (or the characters), and a good film for even casual fans (or those curious about the potential for future live-action films) to check out.
Blu-Ray Special Features
- Audio Commentary: Producer James Tucker, director Jay Olivia, screenwriter Jim Krieg and comic writer Geoff Johns discuss Krieg’s adaptation of Johns’ original comicbook story, the differences between the two, and everything from the Studio 4°C animation to the character designs, voice casting, action beats, favorite scenes and more.
- A Flash in Time: Time Travel in the Flash Universe (HD, 22 minutes): “The Hero’s Journey” author Phil Cousineau outlines a brief history of time as interpreted in stories by the Greeks and other cultures, followed by an overview of the manipulation of time as conceived and implemented in the Flash universe. It’s a rather dry doc, though; overly serious and rather tangential to the animated movie and the Flash mythos.
- My Favorite Villain! The Flash Bad Guys (HD, 19 minutes): Flash fans will enjoy the disc’s second documentary much more. The Rogues are front and center — chief among them Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Heat Wave, The Weather Wizard and The Reverse Flash — and their origins, personalities and roles in the DC universe are dissected by the filmmakers and other talking heads.
- Sneak Peak at Justice League: War (HD, 8 minutes): A look at the next DCU animated movie, Justice League: War, an adaptation of “The New 52” origin story of the JLA. War features fresh versions of the characters, new voice actors, a quippier “buddy movie” tone, and the first battle between Darkseid and the JLA in the New 52 universe, and is set to arrive on Blu-ray sometime in early 2014.
- From the Vault (HD/SD, 89 minutes): Four DCU animated TV series episodes are included — “Requiem for a Scarlet Speedster!” from Batman: The Brave and the Bold and “Flash and Substance” from Justice League: Season Two are presented in standard definition, while “Legends, Parts 1 & 2” from Justice League Unlimited is presented in HD.
- Flashpoint #1 Digital Comic Excerpt (HD): An 8-page excerpt of Geoff Johns’ Flashpoint #1.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, (Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack), VOD, Digital Download and on iTunes.