Sure, the title says “Justice League,” but that’s probably just to sell a few extra copies out of fear that there aren’t all that many Flash fans out there. The Flashpoint Paradox is a Flash movie through-and-through and if there weren’t that many Flash fans before then I think there definitely will be now.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is an animated adaptation of the 2011 crossover by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. It is directed by The Dark Knight Returns‘ Jay Oliva and written by Jim Krieg who has scripted episodes for Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Ben 10, and several episodes of the early 90’s Spider-Man animated series. Flashpoint Paradox tells the story of Flash Barry Allen, who has been transported to an alternate earth that is being torn apart by a war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman.
I never read all of Flashpoint, but it’s pretty apparent that this is a very condensed telling of that pre-New 52 DC event. What results from squeezing as much of this saga into a 75-80 minute movie is something ridiculously exciting, but also a tad overwhelming. Midway through, the action had grown so intense that I actually had to pause it and take a breather. It was sensory overload with so many characters, fights, and exposition. However, while it was a bit too much to handle on a first viewing I can definitely picture this film as being very rewarding upon repeat viewings. In fact, I know so because I watched the movie again later that night but with the audio commentary on and I noticed quite a few things that hadn’t caught my eye before. Not only did the character moments resonate more, but I could finally appreciate how director Jay Oliva really seems to have fun hiding Easter eggs in his animated features.
Something that needs to be made absolutely clear is that this is not a kids movie. I would even go so far as to say that it’s even darker than The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 2 and that’s really saying something. The alternate timeline allows the storytellers to do whatever they like and essentially present a really twisted world where beloved characters can truly perform the irredeemable. You will be shocked by some of the imagery in the film’s final scenes and much of the bloodshed can be called gratuitous. The level of violence is something I can definitely see dividing fans. However, even though it’s a gory and sometimes disturbing epic, it does not end on a downer so don’t think that this will be a depressing picture. It actually closes on a high note that had me wanting more Flash movies and soon. When I said in the intro that the movie could make more Flash fans, I meant it. I know I have a greater appreciation for the character after watching this along with the informative bonus features that came with it. After all, seeing Flash race across water to dismantle Gatling guns as they are still being fired is enough to make anyone ask “Why the hell has there not been a live-action movie of this yet?”
I think the story itself is good, but has a few problems with pacing and structure that are inevitable when it comes to squeezing in so much plot in a short time span. On the surface it appears to be a typical hero/villain slugfest/battle-of-wits featuring Flash vs. Professor Zoom but it goes much deeper than that as we deal with the core of Barry Allen’s character. On top of that plot there is the war story of Aquaman and Wonder Woman that is given more than enough attention and, lastly, the element that Batman News readers will be most interested in– Flashpoint Batman. The creators of the film tried to allude to the Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso tie-in Flashpoint: Knight of Vengeance as much as they could because it is such a rich story, but by breaking it down and tossing the scraps wherever they could I don’t think it was all that effective. In the audio commentary the producers discussed how much they wanted to tell that entire story alongside Flash’s journey or even save it for a short film to be included with this release but the money simply wasn’t in the budget. A real shame because Knight of Vengeance is one of the best Batman stories of 2011. If you’re curious, you can read a recently released black and white version that also includes several other Azzarello/Risso tales.
Like any alternate timeline story such as Injustice: Gods Among Us, there will be plenty of characterchanges that will make some fans mad but just keep in mind that it is a parallel universe/alternate timeline thing and it’s no longer the same character you remember. Flash comes out of this story looking fantastic, but it’s understandable why those who love Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and others could be disappointed.
One of the major complaints that I’ve seen many fans voice on Twitter and the comments here at Batman News is in regards to the character designs and after seeing the movie I have to agree. Many of the characters look great and overall I’ll say that this is the best animated picture that DC has released yet. But! The designs for characters like Aquaman or Superman just look absurd. They are far too musclebound and their heads are so tiny and their features are so squished together that it can be downright laughable (oddly enough, even with all the muscles stacked on high throughout the cast, Wonder Woman is drawn very skinny and dainty. It just didn’t look right for Wonder Woman). Fortunately, the hulk-like figures aren’t on screen nearly enough for it to harm the film as much as many feared.
While the movie doesn’t look much at all like Kubert’s artwork, I thought that there were some really beautiful scenes. The Japanese animation studio gave it all a more fluid, anime style of action and there was noticeably a lot of deeper, darker shadows than usual. One of the scenes that most caught my eye was the Gatling gun scene I mentioned earlier. The waves on the water, the glare from the sun, painted skies… there were so many great elements there as our heroes stood by the shore that I found myself getting lost in the details. Something new that director Jay Oliva tried out was a trick he learned while working on this summer’s Man of Steel. You have to really be paying close attention, but many (if not all) of the scenes in which Flash is running are only hand-drawn from the waist up while the rest of Flash is CG.
The voice cast was really impressive. With The Dark Knight Returns I had complaints here and there about how a few actors had a portrayal that didn’t quite fit the look of their character or the tone of the scene, but I found this cast to be spot-on. It was also a real treat to hear so many familiar voices reprising their roles even though their appearance in the film was short-lived. Nathan Fillion is back as Hal Jordan, Ron Pearlman is Deathstroke, and even Kevin Conroy is playing Batman once more. However, while I didn’t have any problem with the voice actors I did feel that the cast was too big. There were too many characters, many of whom felt unnecessary and were just there for fan-service.
Note: There is something after the credits
Best bonus features so far.
Audio Commentary– For once we have some audio commentary and it’s a pretty great group doing the talking. You’ll hear pertinent insights from the creators of both the comic and the film as producer James Tucker, screenwriter Jim Krieg, Director Jay Oliva, and Geoff Johns discuss Flashpoint as you watch it.
My Favorite Villain! Featurette-– 18 minutes or so of various comic book creators talking about how great Flash’s rogues gallery really is.
A Flash in Time Featurette — 20 minutes of scientists and comic book creators chatting about time travel, parallel universes, and more.
4 Bonus Cartoons — Episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Justice League Unlimited.
Sneak Peek at Justice League War — You don’t see any actual footage but this 10 minute short features Jay Oliva, the producers, and members of the voice cast discussing the New 52 story Justice League: Origins and how it is being adapted for the screen. You’ll see a few brief shots of early storyboards and even learn that one character not featured in the original story will play a big part in this retelling. And with New 52 stories finally getting the DC Animated treatment I honestly don’t see The Court of Owls being too far behind since Jay Oliva told me himself that he was interested in the project last September when I interviewed him at the Dark Knight Returns premiere.
Flashpoint #1 Digital Comic — It’s there, but I don’t recommend reading it. Get an actual digital comic for your phone, laptop, or tablet, or buy a real hard copy at a comic shop. Reading a comic suing a remote control and your TV is awkward.
Value: Full Price!
It’s a DC Animated film that can be watched over and over again. A very high replay value I would say, especially with all the bonus features and audio commentary to sift through plus an extra DVD and Ultraviolet copy. I don’t think you would regret spending $24 bucks on this but Amazon is offering it for $13.99 and I think that’s a really fantastic deal.
It might have a little too much going and too many characters to keep track of for such a short film, but I thought this was a really enjoyable Barry Allen movie that’ll please longtime Flash fans and even make a few new ones. The animation is constantly improving from one DC Animated film to the next but the musclebound character designs of some heroes can be a little distracting. The violence will also be too much for many viewers but if you can handle it you’ll see some really well put together fight scenes. I liked it so I’m giving it a 7.5 or 3/4 stars or however you want to look at it. These scores at the bottom are pretty arbitrary so just know that I recommend you check it out.