Thursday, September 22, 2016

Waking Nightmare: Why Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Endures!

The Good: Good themes, Clever character twists, Decent construction and edits from the source material
The Bad: Some less successful edits, Simplistic resolution, Packed with multiple flat supporting characters
The Basics: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a clever adaptation of the Flashpoint crossover event in movie form!

This month is shaping up to be a pretty intensive month for me with reviews of Marvel Comics-based works. To balance that, I figured I should seek out some DC Comics-based works. In advance of the third season premiere of The Flash and with a fascination for the more adult-oriented works coming from DC Animation that I discovered by watching Batman: The Killing Joke (reviewed here!), I figured that it was a good time to take in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is an animated film adaptation of Flashpoint (reviewed here!) and while it has been quite some time since I read that crossover event and its various volumes, I recalled it well enough to look forward to both the animated film and the new season of The Flash.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a work that bends the traditional DC Comics Universe and offers a glimpse into one of the most provocative alternate universe scenarios that DC Comics ever created. The animated rendition of Flashpoint does a generally good idea of portraying the complexity of the graphic novel crossover event while minimizing the less successful subplots of the books.

Opening with a flashback to Barry Allen's backstory in his childhood with his mother before her murder, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox leaps back to Barry Allen's adulthood. On his mother's birthday, Barry Allen is called to action when the Flash Museum is attacked by the Rogues, who were hired by Professor Zoom. When Eobard Thawne uses the Rogues to carry the bombs he wants to use to destroy the Flash Museum, the Justice League arrives to stop the bombs from detonating. With the Rogues detained and Zoom being sent to S.T.A.R. Labs for containment, The Flash's success is undermined by a remark from Thawne, so he tries to run off his frustration.

Barry Allen wakes up at his desk at Central City Police Department where no one recalls The Flash and he is devoid of his powers. Outside the CCPD, Barry Allen encounters his mother and he is shocked that she is alive. From Nora, Barry learns that the world is on the brink of war and the only superhero she seems to know about is Batman. In Gotham City, Batman is briefed by Cyborg on the impending war between the Amazons and Atlanteans in the ruins of Europe. Batman refuses to join the war effort and when Barry Allen visits Batman, Allen discovers that in this reality, Thomas Wayne is Batman and Bruce Wayne is dead. As the world falls into carnage as various elements get caught between the building armies of the Amazons and Atlanteans, Allen is convinced that the only way to right the world is to find and thwart Professor Zoom, whom he believes is responsible for the destroyed world on the cusp of war. To find Zoom, Allen enlists Batman's help in recreating the accident that made him The Flash, with initially disastrous results. But in attempting to save the world, Barry Allen becomes deeply embroiled in saving the darkened reality!

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox does a decent job of illustrating how important Nora Allen was to Barry Allen in order to set up the premise of the film. As well, while the initial incident in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox seems somewhat pointless, it is enough to sell Barry Allen's assumption in the altered timeline. The Reverse Flash is a time-traveling meddler who seeks to undo all of the heroism of The Flash, so when Allen wakes up without powers in a darkened present, Eobard Thawne is a reasonable suspect from the available evidence.

Flashpoint was an incredibly complex crossover event in the DC Comics books, so condensing it down to seventy-five minutes necessitates cutting quite a bit of material. As one who generally enjoyed the book series, the most glaring and frustrating omission comes in the form of leaving out The Joker. Because Thomas Wayne has such a significant presence in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, that his search for the Joker is treated as a very minor tangent and dropped after only the second allusion to the Joker is somewhat disappointing.

What is not disappointing is the quality of the animation. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is one of the more consistently well-rendered DC Animation projects and given the scope of it, that is no small task. The character designs are distinctive enough that the bulk of the characters are instantly recognizable in every frame in which they appear and that helps the flow of the film stay tight and taut.

It is worth noting that Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is very much intended for adults; the on-screen kill count is exceptionally high and several of the character deaths are fairly graphic (as is Barry's first attempt to regain his powers!).

The voice acting in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox quite good. Led by Justin Chambers as Barry Allen, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox might be a world-bending war story, but the portrayals of Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne make the film far more relatable and present some more universal themes. It is a bit disappointing, based on the clarity of the voice acting and the themes of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox that no one seems to recognize that Barry's grandmother was simply reciting the Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous. That said, that is not a fault of the actors and their clear, emotive, performances help to create the world of the Flashpoint reality as well as the animators.

Ultimately, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a gruesome exploration of what one man's grief can create and it is well-rendered even if it has to gloss over some of the complexities of the source material.

For other animated films based on DC Comics books, please check out my reviews of:
Wonder Woman
Watchmen: Tales Of The Black Freighter
Batman: Gotham Knight


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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