When deciding on my first column for Revenge Of The Fans, I realized that I wanted to give more love to the DC Animated Films. At a time when their live-action output is so beleaguered, some serious admiration needs to go towards their animated films. So, why not start with one of my favourites? With that, I chose to do Justice: League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
I chose The Flashpoint Paradox not only because it’s one of the best animated films from the line, but because it’s one of my favourite comic book event stories of all time. Also, the fact that the live action film for The Flash in the DCU, is rumored to be some sort of adaptation of this story. I know Season 3 of The Flash TV series did a two-part version of this but I’ll save my thoughts on that for a different review. The comic book version of Flashpoint, in my mind, was a Barry Allen story, featuring extended cameos of the Justice League. In the animated film, it’s as much of a Justice League film, as it is a Flash film. Though, Flash is at the center in both versions. The crux of the story is Barry Allen’s decision to run back in time to stop the Reverse Flash from killing his mother and the consequences that spring out of that decision. That’s also true for the TV adaptation.
Unlike the TV series’ take on this story, The Flashpoint Paradox explores those consequences fully and my oh my, are they dire. I loved seeing the cohesiveness of the main universe Justice League team working together. Add to that classic returning voice actor Kevin Conroy as Batman and Sam Daily anchoring the team as Superman, there was a happiness and familiarity to these scenes for me. This was clearly done on purpose, to hook casual viewers and long-time DC Animated fans into this story, before the jarring consequences of The Flash’s decisions take shape.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox starts off by adding material, not seen on the printed page. The Flash is trying to stop all of his rogues after breaking in to The Flash Museum. The entire gang, a who’s who of Flash villains, have managed to immobilize Flash. Meanwhile, the Reverse Flash has played them all, planting mini bombs on everyone in the museum. The blast will level a good portion of Central City, which would kill many and in Reverse Flash’s mind, tarnish the legacy of The Flash forever. Thankfully, before anything catastrophic happens, the Justice League arrives, saving Flash and assisting him in rounding up the rogues and disarming the bombs.
After the rogues get taken off to prison, you can see Barry Allen is pensive, introspective, blaming himself for the near disaster with the rogues and not being there to save his mom, even though Iris rightfully points out that he was a kid, without any abilities. He runs off, back in time, stopping the Reverse Flash from killing his mother. This act is the catalyst for the timeline known as Flashpoint. While the desired result of Barry saving his mother is achieved, the rest of the changes are catastrophic. The Flash has lost his powers, and World War 3 between villainous iterations of Wonder Woman and Aquaman is on. Wonder Woman and her Amazon’s have conquered and taken charge of Great Britain, while Aquaman and the armies of Atlantis, have sunk most of Europe.
Other major changes include Superman’s ship didn’t land in Smallville and he wasn’t raised by the Kents. Instead, his ship crash landed in the heart of Metropolis, along with a meteor shower, killing thousands. The government confiscated the ship, and sequestered baby Kal-El in a top secret lab, keeping him under the rays of red sunlight, running tests on him for the last 30 years. The result is a Kal-El that is skinny, frail, fearful, having no understanding or control over his powers. As for Batman, in this timeline, Bruce Wayne died that night in Crime Alley, while his parents survived, meaning Thomas Wayne is the Batman of this world. Another one of Barry’s teammates, Hal Jordan never came in contact with Abin Sur, therefore never becoming Green Lantern.
Trying to save the world, is a resistance led by Cyborg, along with several secondary characters, including Enchantress, Grifter, Etrigan the Demon, Element Woman, Sandman, and Canterbury Cricket. Aside from Cyborg, the only recognizable DC heavy hitter is SHAZAM. After telling Thomas Wayne, that he can change things and reset the timeline where he and Martha die but Bruce lives, Thomas agrees to recreate the accident that gave Barry his power. After the second successful attempt at the experiment, The Flash and Batman join forces with the resistance, and head full on to World War 3, where Barry must eventually out run an atomic bomb torpedo from a submarine, ward off the Reverse Flash, heads into the speed force and stops himself from saving his mother, thereby restoring the original timeline.
The reasons some of these changes throw viewers for a loop is because you don’t flat out see The Flash saving his mother. He runs off, a title card appears and when we rejoin the film, Barry Allen awakens in an altered world. The great thing about how this was handled is that those who haven’t read the book, discover all the horrific changes along with our film’s protagonist. I really enjoyed the fact that Flash’s moment of selfishness had world shattering consequences for the entire DC Universe, instead of just being localized to his corner of the DCU in Central City.
While Flash may not be one of the most physically strong JL members, his powers and the influence he has in the universe, are among the strongest. For the record, while selfish, I don’t judge The Flash for saving his mother, despite the negative aftermath, If I had The Flash’s ability, there’s no doubt in my mind, I’d try to change events so a particular family member or loved one wouldn’t die by murder. The story conceit for the war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, was a moment that had me pause and say….Holy Smokes! Wonder Woman and Aquaman planned to join their armies to rule the world together. They planned to do this through marriage. However, the night before the marriage, Mera, in a jealous rage, attacks Wonder Woman. Queen Diana responds by killing Mera, which ends the union, and sets the war in motion.
After this point in The Flashpoint Paradox, it dove tales even more into Game of Thrones territory. By that I mean, the battle is intense and lots of people die. Aquaman literally rips Cyborg apart, piece by piece, exposing his heart, stabbing and killing him with his trident. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman forces Captain Thunder to say “SHAZAM!” turning him back into the adopted family of children, who comprise the superhero. Wonder Woman then chokes Billy Batson with her lasso of truth and then stabs him with her sword. I mean these scenes portray Aquaman and Wonder Woman as cruel and ruthless. This is why I love alternate timeline stories, you can go crazy with character portrayals, putting them under a different lens, where it’s understandable and accepted, without aggravating the fan base.
Speaking of going crazy, Thomas Wayne as Batman is more off the rails than Bruce, in The Dark Knight Returns. This Batman not only breaks bones, or in this case, Barry’s fingers, upon their first meeting. He also has no qualms about using a gun on a villain, or throwing his enemies off rooftops. The coolest part about this version of Batman, is his wife Martha. She snaps after Bruce’s death and becomes The Joker. My favourite aspect of the story no doubt, was the end. As the Reverse Flash is about to strike his final blow, Batman shoots him in the head and kills him. As he collapses from his own mortal wounds, he hands Barry a letter, which says “For Bruce.” He then begins to outrun the atomic blast, heads into the speed force and stops himself from saving his mother. When he awakens, he realizes he is in the DCU proper. He finds Wayne Manor and in the Batcave, is Bruce Wayne/Batman. Flash recounts his misadventures. He hands Bruce the letter, and as Bruce reads the letter, tears stream down his face and onto the letter. Bruce thanks Barry, who then speeds off into the distance for the end credits. I got as emotional with this scene, as I did for the “Martha” and “Death of Superman” scenes in BvS, as well as the scene where Bruce climbs out of the well, in The Dark Knight Rises.
In regards to the voice cast and animation, it’s top notch in The Flashpoint Paradox. Sam Daily sounds so much like his father Tim, that I actually believed that it was our former animated Superman. Then you add the legendary Kevin Conroy as Batman, and you are firmly placed within the DCAU. Even though Wonder Woman is played by Vanessa Marshall instead of Susan Eisenberg, the two sound so alike, you don’t even bat an eye. So when Barry changes things for the worse, we as long time viewers of the Timmverse DCU are desperately hoping Barry can fix things and return to it. Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne Batman was great. You believe he is a sad, bitter, angry old man who hates his life, the world he lives in, and misses his son and his wife terribly. He just wants to extoll vengeance for as long as this world has left. You can sense the change in him from the tone in his voice near the end of the film. He becomes closer to the hero we know his son to be. I’ve seen McKidd in other things, and never thought he could pull this version of Thomas Wayne off, yet he did. Cary Elwes plays Aquaman and is able to go from the straight up hero in the opening DCAU scenes, to the cold, vicious Emperor of the Flashpoint timeline with ease. It helps that I have no pre conceived affiliation to a vocal sound for Aquaman. The aforementioned Ms. Marshall had a tougher sell with Wonder Woman going in, because of Susan Eisenberg’s strong but calming and peaceful voice. This Wonder Woman was so sharp and forceful in her tone that when followed by her actions, you actually end up hating the Flashpoint Wonder Woman. Cyborg is played by Michael B. Jordan. Yes, before he appeared in the Fantastic 4 reboot or Black Panther, he was in a DC project. He plays Cyborg in a stoic, mechanical way, which is much truer to the character than that horrendous Teen Titans Go! Any performance that contradicts that travesty, is fine by me. Justin Chambers voices Barry Allen/The Flash, while C. Thomas Howell plays Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash. They are perfectly matched as opposites. I love the vocal confidence and levity Chambers gives to The Flash, but the sad, and self doubting tone he gives to Barry, whenever he thinks about his mother, or the changes he caused to the world. Howell plays Eobard Thawne as a self entitled, snarky sociopath, who you will instantly hate.
The animation is so dark, depressing and gritty, which is perfect for this story. I love the distinction between Batmen. In addition to costume alterations, Thomas Wayne is more bulky then his alternate timeline son. Also, it’s incredible how intense a severe 5 o’clock shadow will make one look. The animation takes different routes to solidify the villainous looks of Aquaman and Wonder Woman.
With Aquaman, in terms of physical look and hair style, he is essentially WWE’s Brock Lesnar, holding a trident. With Wonder Woman, it turns out adorning her in tons of armor makes her look pretty menacing. Superman’s appearance is most underwhelming, given that he is so skinny and frail. His role in the The Flashpoint Paradox was as lackluster as he looked, to be honest.
The Flashpoint Paradox is easily the most violent DC Animated film I’ve seen. We see blood, Cyborg’s exposed heart, missing limbs and oh, Wonder Woman holds Mera’s severed head in her hand. I mentioned Game of Thrones for a reason! I like the glare/smudged look to the flashbacks. It’s a great creative choice that differentiates these scenes from the main action. When The Flash runs, the animation takes on a Manga type quality to it, when dealing with The Flash’s speed. I think that style works really well with the power set of the character. When The Flash travels through the speed force, it’s reminiscent of the CW TV series.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is definitely one of the best DC Animated films since they started this line of films in 2007. In terms of a straight up adaptation, this film stands alongside Batman: Under the Red Hood, All-Star Superman, Justice League: New Frontier, Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, all of which I will cover at some point in this column. With this film, I feel there were no cuts that caused the integrity of the comic book story to suffer. In fact, this film added pieces to the comic book story that I felt were lacking. The Flashpoint Paradox definitely has me even more excited over the announcement of a potential live action adaptation While you wait for that and if you haven’t seen it yet, watch this because it’s great!
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