Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is the movie based on the comic book event that changed the shape of the DC Universe as we know it, by causing an unprecedented universe-wide reboot. As such, there is a lot of pressure to make the movie adaptation as good as, if not better than the book itself. Luckily, with a fantastic line-up of talented voice actors, and some tweaks to the story to make it more accessible to audiences who don’t read comics religiously, Flashpoint Paradox brings this vital part of DC’s history to life and makes it one of the best animated movies that DC have produced.
After thwarting a terrorist plot from The Rogues, Barry Allen (The Flash) wakes up in a world that doesn’t feel right. His mother is alive, and he has lost his powers. Not only that but the world is in the midst of war. Aquaman and the Atlanteans are battling furiously against Wonder Woman and her Amazons. The battle has already claimed Europe, with the rest of the world soon to follow. This sets the tone perfectly for the entire film, which has a glim, desperate feel. Cyborg, on the bequest of the President of the United States is trying to round up as many heroes as he can in order to take the fight to both Aquaman and Wonder Woman before their conflict destroys the world.
After realising that something is not right in Kansas, Barry heads to find the one man who he knows is smart enough to help him – Batman. However, when he arrives at Bruce Wayne’s mansion, he finds a Batman that is more ruthless, more aggressive, and more unrestrained than the one he knows back home. After ascertaining why this Batman is not the “James Bond of Superheroes,” that he remembers, the two form an uneasy partnership when it is made clear that Reverse-Flash altered the past to create this universe.
The story unfolds and Flash, along with Batman round up their own set of heroes in order to stop Reverse-Flash and rectify the world. This puts them at conflict with not only the US government, but the Amazons and the Atlanteans too. As the movie progresses, it becomes steadily more dark and violent, showing scenes that you wouldn’t imagine in an animated movie. This includes a beheading, with Wonder Woman holding up the head of Queen Mera (Aquaman’s wife) to her soldiers, as well as the murder of the Shazam Kids.
The story is a near perfect adaptation of the book, and in many ways improves upon the source material. It is written in such a way that it removes all the clutter and necessary prior-knowledge that the book itself requires, meaning anyone can sit down and watch the story and still know exactly what is going on. However, this also has the slight side-effect of simplifying the ending. It still fits perfectly with the context of the story, but I feel that they they could have done a little bit more.
This “It is good, but we could have used that little bit more,” thought popped into my head a few times while watching the movie, another notable example is when Wonder Woman is saved by Grifter and his gang. Even some die-hard comic book fans will have no idea who Grifter and Etrigan the Demon are, and they are given no backstory or plot development aside from their brief conversation with Lois.
Another well done part of the story is that includes some minor details about the universe that originally were only collected in the side stories. One of these is the brief scene where the Paradox Universe’s Joker comes to fruition, which is an emotional and gripping scene on its own (the side-story that features The Joker was one of the better parts of the Flashpoint storyline, and it is slightly disappointing that we didn’t get the see more of it, but what we got was more than enjoyable.
The movie is also filled with a heap of twists and turns to keep you guessing. As soon as you have figured out the story, it changes drastically. This gives the movie a real authentic comic-book feel, where at the end of every chapter we are given a plot twist or a cliffhanger to keep us hooked. Some may find the plot twists to be too over the top and too numerous, but they really do keep you guessing as the movie progresses.
The animation for this film is.. Interesting to say the least. Some of the characters are drawn outstandingly, and really bring their personalities and characterisations to life on the screen. However, there are some characters, especially Aquaman who just look like a muscle-bound thug. Some of the faces, especially the mouths and jaws of these larger, burly male characters are really downright ugly, and can detract a lot from the viewing experience.
While some of the characters are less than perfect, the setting and backdrops are a lot better. The whole universe is dark and gloomy and this is portrayed with a lot of dull colours and greys. Gotham City is always dreary, but here in Flashpoint it is downright depressing. You really get a sense of the trouble that the world is in just by looking at it. The animations of many of the super-abilities are also pretty impressive to look at, even though they are drawn a lot differently than many people may be used to. Superman’s heat vision for example is a lot more transparent than usual. This difference in art style really helps make Flashpoint Paradox its own.
The voice work here is absolutely outstanding. Flashpoint Paradox is a veritable who’s-who of famous voice actors, anchored by returning DC Animation veterans Kevin Conroy (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Nathan Fillion (Hal Jordon) and Dana Delaney (Lois Lane), who’s voices have become synonymous with their respective characters. Aside from the three recurring roles, the rest of the cast are filled with prominent voice actors lending their talents to characters for the first time, like Steve Blum who voices Lex Luthor (taking over for long time Lex voice actor Clancy Brown), or Dee Bradley Baker playing Etrigan the Demon.
No matter if they are old timers, or newcomers to the DC Universe, everyone here gives it their all and brings to life these characters that we usually only see on printed page. Since Flashpoint Paradox takes place in an alternate universe, some characters are voiced by two separate and distinct actors to help differentiate between their voices. The best example of this is Batman, who is voiced by Conroy in the beginning main-universe setting, but in the Paradox universe is voiced by Kevin McKidd. The two Batman are very different characters, so having different voice actors portray them really helps define each of them individually.
Special mention goes here to Justin Chambers, who takes on the leading role of Barry Allen/The Flash. The Flash has always lacked a recurring voice actor, typically portrayed by different people in every incarnation. As such there has never been a definitive ‘Flash’ voice in the same way that there is a ‘Lex’ or a ‘Batman.’ However, Chambers’ gives a sense of character and humanity to the Flash, and before the movie is out you will find yourself believing he IS Barry Allen. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Chambers will be returning to the role in the near future, so as great as his portrayal of Barry is, don’t get used to his voice behind the red spandex mask.
As far as additional extras go, Flashpoint Paradox is quite bare bones. The only extra on-disc is a preview for Justice League: War, which is the next DCU Animated Movie. It is being based on the first story-arc from the New 52 wave of comic books, and as such means it takes place almost directly after the conclusion of Flashpoint Paradox. The movie will show the formation of the Justice League, as they face one of the most powerful beings in the universe; Darkseid.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox takes one of the most important pieces of DC’s history to date, and brings it to life for fans everywhere to see. It does this in such a way as to eliminate a lot of the clutter and confusion that the less than religious fans would struggle with. A stellar voice cast really bring these characters to life, and the world feels as dark and desperate as it is described to be. The only thing holding the movie back are some unusual character designs. While some will feel that the violence is too over the top for a Justice League cartoon, this movie isn’t meant for kids, and the violent acts these ‘heroes’ perform just adds to the despair, and shows how far they have fallen in this new universe. All in all, Flashpoint Paradox makes its mark as one of the best animated movies that DC have produced, and it makes me excited for the future of the DCAU franchise.
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