Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
I’m not sure what to say about an animated superhero film that starts with the Serenity Prayer followed by the murder of Barry Allen’s mother (Grey DeLisle). There’s an early establishment of the theme, “if only I’d run a little faster”, as Barry’s driving force, unhelpful as it is. (There’s no point in anyone’s life dwelling on “if only”.)
Aside from the quick, awkward emotional beats that start Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, there’s plenty of action. In the first fight scene, the Flash (Justin Chambers) faces off with his rogues’ gallery, leading to the involvement of the Justice League. (That’s the scene shown in the third clip here.) Unfortunately, several of the heroes are drawn so excessively that their heads are too small for their over-muscled torsos, giving a pinhead look. I’m not sure anyone watches these movies for the art style, though.
This is almost the New 52 Justice League, with the classic big-name heroes — Superman (Sam Daly, taking over from his father Tim), Batman (Kevin Conroy), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), Aquaman (Cary Elwes) — accompanied by Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan) and, strangely, Captain Atom (Lex Lang). They’re voiced better than they’re drawn, with sometimes stiff movement, odd expressions, and awkward designs.
We quickly cut to a Flash-less Barry Allen waking up in a more violent world where everything’s changed (drunk Batman with stubble!) and his mom is alive. The main heroes are Cyborg (on the side of law and order, given authority by the President), Batman (Thomas Wayne here, voiced by Kevin McKidd), Wonder Woman and the Amazons (who have conquered the UK), and Aquaman and the Atlanteans (who have been attacking Europe).
This is not a movie to watch if you like Wonder Woman, since she kills lots of people (and seems to enjoy it). On the other hand, I’m sure there’s a segment of the audience who are thrilled she’s such a “badass”. The Batman we see is a torturer who similarly relishes causing pain and death. I don’t enjoy such negative alternate universes, but that came from the source material, so I knew what we would be facing going in.
My cynical side speculates that the point of Flashpoint is to shut up those complaining about how dark and grim the DC Universe has become by showing them that it could be worse. We could have a bunch of murderers running around in supersuits. Compared to this world of destruction, the current status quo isn’t supposed to look so bad.
Anyway, this is a good adaptation of the comics, streamlining them into a tale that holds together in its 81 minutes. It’s aimed at the core audience of existing fans and readers — why else would the queen of the Atlanteans be wearing a bikini to a state function? — since it requires knowledge of the existing characters to grasp the details of the alternate versions, although several of the key change moments are told in a flashback section.
The main thread is a series of battles (which is probably a key factor in why this story was selected to animate), first with the core characters trying to rescue Superman, than more with the war. Although since this is superheroes, the war boils down to Wonder Woman and Aquaman whaling on each other. (Let’s not think about how all this world destruction is because Arthur couldn’t keep it in his pants. Or how eager Flash seems to smack people who used to be his friends.) Then “heroes” start killing each other. It’s a grotesque summary of what superhero comics have become, destruction porn that provides its entertainment through watching characters get offed in gory ways.
My favorite part of the film was Dana Delany as Lois Lane, resistance fighter. In the midst of all this chaos, she’s still trying to do her reporting job and fight for justice. Also, I don’t know who voiced the Canterbury Cricket, but I like him, even if he was created just for this story. I did wonder why Green Lantern was so fond of saying “crap” (and something harsher), but I guess they wanted that PG-13 rating.
Ultimately, I’ll return to the Serenity Prayer. I can’t change the DCU, so the wisest thing for me to do is read and watch other things until there are superheroes who are more in keeping with what I think they should be. Younger fans, on the other hand, seem to be enjoying this film a great deal.
“A Flash in Time: Time Travel in the Flash Universe” (22 1/2 minutes) — Starts off very philosophically: “Time. Since humble beginnings, man has pondered its mysteries.” I don’t think it’s meant to be a Hitchhiker’s Guide parody, but I felt like I’d fallen into one. Takes 4 1/2 minutes to mention comics, at which point they call the Flash the perfect hero to blend science and imagination. Then Geoff Johns shows up to justify ramping up his powers to immense extent. People who made the movie talk about the cosmic treadmill, alternate universes, nostalgia, and the butterfly effect. Anyone who’s thought about this subject or science fiction are likely already familiar with the content and will find it boring. (I’d like to see a real, non-company-focused exploration of nostalgia in comics, though, since it’s driven SO many decisions over the decades.)
“My Favorite Villain!: The Flash Bad Guys” (19 minutes) — “A story is only as good as the villain in confrontation with the hero.” I don’t think I agree with that. Sherlock Holmes, for example, had a LOT of forgettable villains, and Moriarty only appears in a very few stories. Anyway, this is an excuse to talk about Captain Cold, who is a “blue-collar worker”, leader of the Rogues, an “everyman” who’s just about getting his job done; the Mirror Master; Heat Wave; the “insecure” Weather Wizard; Captain Boomerang; and the Reverse-Flash. Lots of “in the new 52”, which is used to explain who the characters are now. Brian Buccellato, Flash co-writer, comments with Geoff Johns and Alan Burnett.
A sneak peek at Justice League: War (8 minutes), the next original DCU animated movie. It promises to tell the New 52 origin of the Justice League. “These are not the characters you think you know” is the promise; neither are the voices, apparently. The interpersonal dynamics are described as “vastly different”. I guess pitching it as “new to you” is appealing to those who feel left out, but how many of those want to watch one of these movies? Bless Mike Carlin for pointing out that even a fresh start has been done before and that Darkseid wasn’t a new threat.
In War, Michelle Monaghan will voice Wonder Woman. Jason O’Mara is Batman. Christopher Gorham plays the Flash. Justin Kirk is Green Lantern. Alan Tudyk plays Superman. Shemar Moore voices Cyborg. The movie is due this winter.
On the Flashpoint Paradox Blu-ray, there are also four cartoon episodes, an ad for cancelled DC cartoons on DVD, a trailer for Superman: Unbound, and a digital comic teaser for Flashpoint #1. The audio commentary is by James Tucker, producer; Jay Oliva, director; Jim Krieg, screenwriter; and Geoff Johns, comic writer. I couldn’t sit through the movie again, so I didn’t listen to it. (The studio provided a review copy.)