What would happen if you could change something in your past? What would be the ramifications, both personal and in the grand scheme of things? This is what Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox asks. Based of the Flashpoint event by Geoff Johns that jumpstarted the New 52, it is mainly a tale of one man: Barry Allen, the Flash, fastest man alive. It’s the tale of him trying to correct the most horrible day in his life, and the ramifications of his actions. Given that the Flash is no stranger to time travel, you’d think Barry would know better than to mess with certain fixed points in time…and mucking around with timey wimey stuff. What happens is a race against time to stop the end of the world, and perhaps gain some closure not only for Flash, but for some of his fellow heroes.
Barry’s worst day was the day he came home as a little boy and found his mother had been murdered on her birthday. Now a grown man and the Flash, Barry is still searching for the killer; he also wishes he was faster in getting home that day so he could have done something. However, he is called into action when a number of his Rogues attack the Flash Museum. Led by Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, they intend to destroy the museum, and Flash with it. Of course, Zoom is not above placing a few bombs on his fellow villains. Thanks to the timely arrival of the Justice League, the bombs are disarmed and Zoom is stopped. However, Zoom taunts Flash over his mother’s death. Batman tells Flash not to let Zoom get to him, but Flash speeds off to calm down…only to wake up as Barry Allen, CSI for Central City. To his further shock, he doesn’t have his powers or costume, Citizen Cold is patrolling Central City, and Atlantis and the Amazons are in a war that has already destroyed half of Europe. The war started due to Wonder Woman killing Queen Mera when she found out Diana and Aquaman were having an affair (Apparently Aquaman was loyal enough to his wife to start a war of revenge against his mistress). To Barry’s pleasure, his mom is alive. However, he cannot shake the feeling of unease about this reality. He is surprised to find there is a Batman, who we then meet fighting the Flashpoint version of Harley Quinn…and killing her. Cyborg, a government agent, tries to draft Batman into joining a possible mission to stop the war; but Batman refuses. When Barry arrives at Wayne Manor in search of help, he finds the manor is deserted, and both the manor and Batcave is a drunken mess. Barry knows something is wrong from the lack of equipment he is used to, the weaponry, and the photo of the Wayne Family on the desk. When Batman attacks him, Barry realizes that this Batman is Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father. In this reality, Bruce died, Thomas became Batman, and Martha went insane with grief and became Joker. Barry asks Thomas to help give him his powers, only to be horribly burned as a result. As Barry recovers, Aquaman kills Deathstroke and Lex Luthor, Lois Lane is saved by the Resistance from the Amazons, Cyborg’s mission is rejected, and Hal Jordan is given an alien craft. When Barry awakes, he realizes his memories of reality are changing. He makes a second attempt restores his powers which suceeds, but the presence of Zoom somewhere in this reality prevents him from going back to his own reality. Cyborg, whose plan no longer has government backing, approaches Batman and Flash in trying to free Superman, who in this reality crashed into Metropolis when he was an infant and was raised in a government installation. However, this Superman is pale, scrawny, and can barely speak. His first use of his powers freaks him out enough for him to fly into space. The trio then team up with Billy Baston and the Shazam kids as Hal Jordan fails in a last ditch kamikazi attack on the Atlanteans – whose most powerful weapon is powered by the captured Captain Atom. The final conflict soon begins in the ruins of London; but our heroes are outmatched by the Atlanteans and Amazons. Captain Thunder, this reality’s Captain Marvel, is killed by Wonder Woman, Cyborg is killed by Aquaman, Wonder Woman kills Aquaman, and Batman is seriously wounded. Superman finally returns, only to cradle the remains of Cyborg, who he calls “Friend”. As Flash runs across the battlefield, trying to stop any more death, Zoom injures him in the leg. Zoom reveals that this timeline was Flash’s fault– that Flash tried to stop his mother’s murder from happening and thus created a “time boom”, altering and distorting reality–reality that is soon to end, as Aquaman’s death has triggered his superweapon. As Zoom mocks Barry, Batman kills him so that Flash can go back and fix things. Batman, with his strength fading, gives Flash a letter to give to Bruce, saying he’d rather Bruce live than himself. Flash runs faster and faster and stops himself before the Flashpoint universe can exist. However, this triggers the New 52 universe, where Barry doesn’t realize there have been changes. Thomas’ letter gives Bruce some closure while Flash, now having some closure himself, speeds off to save the day.
This is probably one of the best DC Animated Originals in a long time. The story keeps you at the edge of your seat and is a very taut thriller. You sympathize with Barry and with Thomas, even when the latter is a murderous alcoholic. It is also one of the darkest films in the DC movie library and is not for kids; there is plenty of blood, broken bones, gore, and death. The voice performances are quite excellent. Justin Chambers is an excellent Barry, who is heroic, earnest, and wanting to do what is right. Kevin McKidd is gruff and sad as Thomas Wayne/Batman. C. Thomas Howell is wonderfully villainous and crafty as Zoom, who has less screentime than the secondary villains of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, but whose influence is felt throughout the story. Cary Elwes and Vanessa Marshall bring aggressive, violent, and ultimately tragic life to Aquaman and Wonder Woman respectively. Fan favorites Ron Perlman, Dana Delaney, Kevin Conroy, and Nathan Fillion return as their fan favorite roles Deathstroke, Lois Lane, Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Hal Jordan respectively. Two voices I have to criticize though are Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg and Sam Daly as Superman. In Jordan’s case, it is (much like in the case of the Nolan films) a case of sound mixing as the “digitization” of Cyborg’s voice is distracting. Sam Daly, being the son of Tim Daly (the voice of Superman for Superman: The Animated Series and various DC projects), is disappointing. Even when Superman is a scrawny twig of what he should be, the sound of his voice sounds wrong; way too breathy and monotone. However, it does not prevent the fact that this is the first time father and son have played the same role in DC Animation (and leading to this hilarious video as well).
As for the animation, the action sequences are jammed pack and the movements are fluid. However, as you might tell from the stills here, the character models for the male characters are overly muscular, even for a superhero cartoon. The neck muscles alone would make Mr. Olympia jealous. It also doesn’t make sense for some characters–Flash, being a speedster, shouldn’t be built like Superman (who in the main reality looks WAY too big himself). As a civilian, and surprisingly more when he’s a burn victim, Barry looks the right build. Yet when he puts on the suit, it’s like he gains fifty pounds of muscle. Some of the faces, such as Thomas Wayne’s (when not in the mask) and Aquaman’s, look too blunt, while Superman’s is much too angular. However, in the grand scheme of things this is a wonderfully animated movie and such cosmetic issues are more subjective to the individual–with the exception of the body models. Much to my amazement and delight, the character models of Garth, Tula, and Kaldur from Young Justice were reused as their Flashpoint selves, who serve as Aquaman’s young proteges and lieutenants. The ending animation is particularly fun and crisp and makes you feel like you’re running alongside Flash. The animation and voice acting talents really can capture the audience’s attention.
Overall, as stated at the beginning, this is one of the best DC Animated movies in a while. And with Justice League: War announced as the next project, it seems we will be seeing more New 52 stories made into film (the announcement of Batman and Son being turned into a film as well shows that DC will be diving into its pre New 52 work as well). Barry’s biggest adventure may be over, but a whole new universe is just on the horizon.
9 out of 10
PS: Stay after the credits for a hint of what is to come…..