Continuing from Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths of the DC Animated Universe is yet another great animated feature, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which is actually quite relevant given my recent interest in The CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Of course, in some way I think that much of these four show’s success comes from the success of Smallville, which lasted a decade on television, making such live-action television series something truly worthy of investment. In any case, the opening of The Flash Season 3 will feature a smaller version of the Flashpoint Paradox.
According to the IGN review:
For those in the comics know, the Flashpoint comic event was more of a means to an end to launch the New 52 than a definitive alternate reality story, but Warner Bros. Animation has outdone its source material by making Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox a fully fleshed out and cohesive tale featuring the Flash. The sleek and hard-hitting anime-influenced style works perfectly for this much more mature and action-packed story. And when I say mature I mean it: this is the most bloody, violent, and downright hardcore DC Comics animated film to date.
Whether that violence is too much or not is your decision. One character gets an arrow through the head. Another, after his helmet gets broken open, gets a face full of bullets and all we see is the blood splatter out. Someone else gets decapitated and we see the severed head. These gratuitous deaths of countless soldiers, favorites making a cameo, and even main characters have that Die Hard sense of fun about it, but it takes a depressing turn at the end. The brutality reaches the tipping point where its not so enjoyable anymore, most notably when a child gets straight up killed and we see his body flop to the ground with unblinking eyes.
But what’s the reason that a Justice League movie is showcasing such gore? After a clever and unique opening scene featuring Flash taking on his villains with the help of the Justice League, Flash wakes up in a strange yet familiar world. He doesn’t have his powers, Cyborg is the world’s greatest hero, and a feud between Wonder Woman and Aquaman is about to cause World War Three. There are a great deal more twists, but to detail them would spoil the fun of this movie. There’s an excellent flashback scene that shows how small changes in a hero’s origin can have huge ramifications down the line. As a newspaper headline proclaims, this is a world on the brink of Armageddon and the threat of death is real for everyone.
Flash carries this film well. He uses his powers in impressive ways that are visually striking, while the script features a heartfelt story about his relationship with his mother and the way he deals with both grief and responsibility. Voice actor Justin Chambers does a superb job adding emotional weight and heroic conviction to his lines, although there’s one scene near the end where he’s beaten and broken yet he doesn’t sound weary in the slightest. He is opposed by the Reverse Flash, who has his same powers, a yellow version of his costume, and a pair of haunting red eyes. Voiced by C. Thomas Howell with a deep and chilling tone, he fills every moment of his time on screen with an unnerving dread.
While Flash does a great job, it’s Batman that is the real gem of the movie. Again, I’m going to try and dance around spoilers, but suffice to say that this isn’t your granddaddy’s Batman. When he doesn’t get his way with a villain, he chucks them off the roof with no intention of catching them with a grappling hook at the last second. He wields dual-pistols and aims for the head. And, consistently earning a laugh throughout the film, he often likes to take a big sip from his flask. The story explains this succinctly, which makes it okay to enjoy this gun-toting, alcoholic Batman without reserve.
One flaw that the movie shares with the comic is that we don’t get enough time with the main villain, the big war, or any of the other supporting characters aside from Batman. You’ll see all of your favorite heroes and villains from Green Lantern to Lex Luthor to Lois Lane, but their role in the story amounts to nothing more than glorified cameos. A lot of them are fun, especially Ron Perlman’s Deathstroke, but they do little to add to the story and instead just exist to serve fans who want to see their favorite character make a quick appearance. Those kinds of cameos are always neat, but it’s hard to ignore that entire scenes spent introducing more and more new characters end up meaning little in the long run.
That said, the coolest of them all is when we see Black Manta, Kaldor, Tula, and Garth show up for a high-octane fight scene. They weren’t in the comic, but were beloved characters in Young Justice. One need only look at the involvement of Young Justice’s Phil Bourassa as character designer to see why that is.
Bourassa’s presence can be felt in the clean cut character models, while director Jay Oliva uses them to execute brutally impactful fight scenes. The choreography is top notch here and will have you on the edge of your seat with each reversal. As I’ve said, this is a world where no one is safe from dying, so the tension of each fight reaches astronomically higher levels than any DC animated movie we’ve seen before.