“Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” is an average adaptation that chooses to exercise pushing its PG-13 rating so hard in the final act that there’s little left to enjoy by the times the film ends.
Violence in superhero cartoons is to be expected and this is not, by any means, a condemnation of film violence. However, “The Flashpoint Paradox” goes to great lengths to bring the horrors of the strange reality presented in this DC Universe animated production. People are shot down, limbs are sliced off, there are vivisections, soldiers have half their bodies melted, there’s a beheading, and finally, one character has his brains blown out. Not all of his brains though. We know this because the hole in the victim’s head is clear enough to see the shooter though the other side.
If the filmmakers had shown a little restraint, and shortened the bloodbath that is the final act of “The Flashpoint Paradox”, they may have fixed the parts of the film that feel disjointed and incomplete as a result of the amount of story that is forced into the confines of an 81-minute film. “The Flashpoint Paradox” is the adaptation of the 2011 mini-series “Flashpoint” and, to a smaller extent, the inclusion of elements of a handful of the fifteen or so mini-series that tied into the event.
The movie opens and seems free of the confines of adaptation as the Justice League face-off against Professor Zoom and the Flash’s Rogues Gallery: Captain Cold, the Mirror Master, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerang, and the Top. The latter tells a joke that still doesn’t sit well with me, though it would have worked perfectly on “Robot Chicken”. After the League prevents a devastating attack on Central City, everyone goes their own way and Barry Allen is left feeling sullen about the death of his mother. This day would have been her birthday and Professor Zoom has gotten under the skin of the hero, reminding him of the one person he was unable to save.
In the following scene, Barry Allen awakens from his sleep and right into a nightmare. Barry no longer has his powers. In fact, he’s never had them. The Flash does not exist in this world. Neither has Superman, Green Lantern and any other number of costumed heroes from across the DC Universe. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are around, but they and their armies are at war with another and they have laid waste to much of the planet. There is a single bright sport for Barry: his mother is alive in this severely perverted timeline.
Certain that Professor Zoom has put things wrong in this universe, the Flash enlists the aid of Batman to help restore his timeline and end this lost reality. From this point on “The Flashpoint Paradox” begins its race across the DC Universe as the two heroes confront alternate versions of familiar heroes who too often act in unheroic ways.
The middle act of the film, from the point where Barry wakes up, tries to touch on the best parts of the “Flashpoint” series and its myriad tie-ins. This could have worked if the film ran longer, but there isn’t enough space to fit all of the story that director Jay Oliva and writer Jim Krieg want to share with their audience. The result is a lot of great bits in the middle of the movie that deserved more room to breathe and develop. Unfortunately, once characters such as Deathstroke, Lex Luthor and Clayface briefly appear, the film begins to feel like a series of “Best Of” moments.
While the original series was not limited to being a Justice League story, this film happens to be billed as such. The film would have benefitted from pairing its cast down to the members of the League to prevent from overwhelming the story with characters. For example, Oliva and Krieg choose to include a pivotal scene from the mini-series “Batman: Knight of Vengeance” that just doesn’t fit in the film. Sure, it’s a great twist on a Batman villain, but its inclusion is ill-timed.
Though the second act is muddled with story, it’s in the final act that “The Flashpoint Paradox” truly falls flat with an overly long finale that becomes an orgy of unnecessary violence. Let’s return to the scene where a hero shoots a villain in the head. It’s a repulsive execution, for a comic book adaptation, but it is made more ineffective because the music employed in the scene is sweeping as if the act was one of indisputable heroism. However, there’s nothing heroic about seeing a man framed by the bloody brains of the villain he just shot dead. I’m not disputing that the villain needed to be stopped, even killed, but it was handled with flat-out ineptitude.
Aquaman, Superman and several of the male characters in the film are given overly muscular necks that don’t fit their tiny heads. Steroid-reminiscent characters aside, the animation is generally pleasing and the animators have created strong characters designs throughout. Certainly the final act was unsatisfying, but Oliva does demonstrate a knack for directing strong action sequences.
C. Thomas Howell is the standout as Professor Zoom, a villain whose voice is cold and matter-of-fact but he never becomes a one-dimensional snarling nasty. Justin Chambers as the Flash is also fine, but it’s a real kick to have Nathan Fillion as wiseass Hal Jordan, Dana Delaney as Lois Lane, and Kevin Conroy as Batman (during the opening and closing scenes).
“Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” is an unsatisfying story in which its makers needed to demonstrate discipline in their approach to adapting the expansive universe of DC’s crossover event. And they could have pulled a few punches too.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Writer: Jim Krieg
Voice Cast: Justin Chambers (The Flash / Barry Allen), C. Thomas Howell (Professor Zoom / Eobard Thawne), Michael B. Jordan (Cyborg / Victor Stone), Kevin McKidd (Batman / Thomas Wayne), Kevin Conroy (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Sam Daly (Superman), Dana Delaney (Lois Lane), Cary Elwes (Aquaman), Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern / Hal Jordan), Vanessa Marshall (Wonder Woman)
Studio: Warner Premiere
Release Date: July 30, 2013