Review: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

Based on “Flashpoint,” by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert

Directed by Jay Oliva, Screenplay by Jim Krieg
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Release Date: 30 July 2013
Running Time: 75 minutes

The Plot: An alteration of the timeline for the superhero, The Flash, creates ripples that disastrously alter the Universe. The Flash must team with other heroes to restore the timeline while the Earth is ravaged by a war between Aquaman’s Atlantis and Wonder Woman’s Amazons. (via the Internet Movie Database)

justice league flashpoint paradoxReview:

This is the latest installment in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, and, compared to the other titles featured under that banner, it’s quite good.

Parts of it are unsettling, and parts of it are just flat-out weird, but, overall, if all you’re looking for is a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I can say that this movie is a solid 75 minutes of superhero action and adventure, well worth the cost of a DVD.

One thing that this movie continues is the trend of late, where DC’s focusing more and more on staying true to the source material from which it’s based; in this case, this is an incredibly faithful adaptation of “Flashpoint,” by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert.

If you remember, Flashpoint is the last major crossover in the Old 52. Its fallout led everything screaming into the New 52. To say that it was a huge event for the DC Universe is fitting, as is the title of the series in describing its impact on the company’s overall direction for the past two years.

So, let’s talk about what works in this little flick.

Just to make it clear right from the start: I’m going to go fairly easy on describing any plot points. This review will be spoiler-free, as the movie hasn’t been released in the United States yet.

That being said, if you’ve read the comic on which it’s based, you know everything that’s going to happen, down to the letter. Ironic spoiler alert!

Now, what works here? For starters, I’m really enjoying the fact that DC’s animated movies are now including more members of the Justice League than ever before.

If you recall, back when this brand started out, way back in 2007, with the abysmal Superman Doomsday, one of the major problems was that Superman was attacked by an enemy with world-destroying abilities, yet there was no mention of any potential Justice League intervention.

Back then, it was just Superman left to his own devices.

Now, in addition to The Flash, this movie has Superman, Batman (more than one!), Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and countless other heroes thrown into the mix (like Etrigan the Demon and Grifter!), which makes perfect sense.

If there’s a threat that’s about to change the very fabric of existence, you’d expect all of the Earth’s mightiest heroes (no, not the Avengers) to be participating somewhere in that fight.

Another thing I really appreciate about this movie is the voice casting. Kevin Conroy reprises the role of Batman in the non-Flashpoint timeline. Dana Delaney returns as Lois Lane, Nathan Fillion comes back as Green Lantern, and Ron Perlman even returns to his Teen Titans role of Deathstroke. Also, in a cool nod to Superman: The Animated Series, Superman is voiced by Sam Daly, the son of the original voice of Superman in this universe, Tim Daly.

Granted, there’s still an odd quality about the voiceover work in this movie, just like all of the DC Animated movies, where it sometimes comes across as flat and lifeless and boredom-inducing cold, but at least the voices are recognizable for most of the characters. It’s kind of cool to have that level of identification for each of the main players.

The only one that really doesn’t work is Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg. You might remember him as Wallace, from the first season of The Wire. In this, he’s the only voice actor that sounds like he’s reading his lines straight from a script. It doesn’t help that he’s relegated to delivering almost all of the movie’s exposition, but still.

To switch gears, though, my main complaint about the movie is, as is almost always the case with these animated movies, its level of maturity.

When I was growing up, I watched Batman: The Animated Series on Fox Kids. It was an amazing show that took its subject matter very seriously. One such instance was with the story of Mr. Freeze’s origin. They took a man with good intentions and showed what could happen when injustice led him to vengeance. It was easy to see how close Batman could have come to turning into an evil character, showing the audience the differences between vengeance and justice.

There wasn’t any foul language, and we weren’t shown any real acts of violence (Broadcast Standards and Practices back then even forbade characters from punching one another). Instead, the maturity came from the way they handled the storytelling. The themes of the show were mature, and, at its best, it never talked down to its audience, in spite of the fact that audience was mainly comprised of ten year-olds.

This movie, on the other hand, has plenty of foul language, as well as some extreme acts of violence, including a beheading.

These things in and of themselves don’t bother me; I’m not a prude. But the problem is that this movie, like all of these movies, somehow confuses violence and swearing with maturity, which is a shame.

Still, it’s filled with enough small character moments that, in this one case, it’s able to rise above that mistake and still come across as fairly mature storytelling. Thematically, it’s empty, but it retains a couple of moments from the comic, where, if you’re familiar with that story, you could conceivably feel there’s more to this thing than exciting action sequences animated beautifully.

Overall, it’s better than the rest of the pack when it comes to DC’s animated fare, but it’s still not at the level of the Batman and Superman cartoons from a decade or two ago. A definite step in the right direction, though.

Grade: B+