Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (DVD)

Fight the future.

The DC Comics graphic novel Flashpoint is notable mostly because it served as an ending to several decades of continuity what fans call the post-Crisis years, so the company could reboot its entire line with its New 52 continuity. Confused? Don’t be. Just know that this direct-to-video animated movie has the Flash involved in time travel craziness.

Barry Allen (Justin Chambers, Grey’s Anatomy) is the Flash, fastest man alive and member of the Justice League. After a run-in (heh) with arch-rival Thawne (C. Thomas Howell, Southland), the Flash discovers reality has changed all around him. On the plus side, Flash’s mother is now still alive. In the negative column, the rest of the world is totally messed up, with the U.S. fighting a war on two fronts, one against the Amazons led by Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall, Supernova) and one against the Atlanteans led by Aquaman (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride). To make sense of this predicament, the Flash seeks help from Batman (Kevin McKidd, Rome), only to discover this alternate version is different from the Batman he once knew.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is, if I must be honest, a mess. After the stock opening in which we see the Justice League in action, we’re quickly dropped into the alternate reality, and a swarm of exposition about the new versions of the Leaguers, as well as the political situation regarding who is at war with whom. The movie constantly throws new characters at the audience. First we have the alternate reality versions of the well-known DC characters like Batman and Wonder Woman, then there are known-only-to-comic-book-geeks such as Etrigan and Captain Atom, to genuine obscurities like Grifter, Lady Godiva, and some cockroach-lookin’ guy I’ve never even heard of. If handled well, cameos like these can be fun, but in this movie they’re a detriment, needlessly overstuffing the story. We’re supposed to be following the Flash on his adventures, so why keep cutting back to Grifter?

With all these superheroes and all this world building, the movie is almost entirely plot, with very little character development. This is a missed opportunity. We begin with the Flash mourning the death of his mother. Then, in the alternate reality, he discovers she’s still alive. He just barely has time to react to this, though, before dozens of other DC characters show up to introduce their many subplots. The mom doesn’t figure into the story again until the finale, in which the Flash must decide whether to time travel and undo what’s been done. The thing is, he’s seen this messed-up world torn apart by war and violence and corruption, so there’s no choice. Of course he wants to go back and fix things. Where’s the realization that doing so means he can’t save his mom? Where is their teary goodbye? Where is the moment of doubt where he questions what’s really right versus wrong? The movie skips a lot of this human drama in favor of a bunch of other DC characters punching each other.

The best thing about Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is its treatment of Batman. That’s great news for Bat-fans, but it’s unfortunate because the Flash is supposed to be our star. Nonetheless, the alternate universe Batman is a great reveal, with a fascinating backstory. I wanted an entire series of movies and/or comics exploring just this character. The payoff the Batman’s arc is the only time the movie goes any emotional dramatic impact. Again, this is great for ol’ Batty-boy, but not so much for a Flash-centric adventure.

Enough talk about drama and emotion. This is a superhero cartoon, so how’s the action? It’s merely okay. Heavily inspired by anime, the action scenes transition from hand-to-hand combat to missile-launching and explosions. That’s all well and good, but it’s not that these characters are super-powered, but they have a variety of super-powers, which can be used in all kinds of creative ways. We get a sense of this during the opening, in which each of the Justice Leaguers gets a moment to show off his or her powers. After that, though, there’s a ton of action, but it feels repetitive.

The visuals are mostly blue and grey, representing a darker, harsher world, but these muted colors are nonetheless represented cleanly and clearly on this DVD, with smooth, fluid animation and deep black levels. The 5.1 sound is good as well, with no distortions. The only extra is an extended preview for the upcoming follow-up movie, Justice League: War. There is also a trailer for other Warner Bros. and DC Universe releases.

Many consider the Flash to be a lower-tier member of the Justice League because he lacks the raw power of Superman or the coolness of Batman, but his everyman nature makes him instantly likeable. I’m totally in favor of a Flash movie, but Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox comes with so much DC Comics baggage that poor Barry gets lost among it all.

The Verdict

Guilty. Better travel back in time and try again.

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