In 2011, DC Comics creator Geoff Johns penned the time-twisting, alternate reality comic book arc, Flashpoint, to mixed reactions. It was a universe-altering whirlwind of revenge and destruction that played on the notion of uncontrollable super humans. DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, and screenwriter Jim Krieg bring that complexity to the direct-to-DVD release, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Complexity, however, can seem like absurdity when the story assumes that its audience is made up of either die-hard fans of the original story, or viewers willing to set aside all preconceived notions of well-known superheroes. Despite its puzzling qualities, this animated feature does prove to be well worth the 80 minutes it takes to understand what actually happens.
The plot follows the Flash as he uses his super-speed to alter his past. The time stream tampering lands Flash in an alternate reality where Superman is a lab rat, a feud between Aquaman and Wonder Woman threatens existence of humankind, Thomas Wayne wears the cowl of a much darker, violent Batman, and no one has ever heard of the Justice League. Flash must convince what is left of the world’s heroes to stand against the world’s threats as he tries to unravel the mysteries of the time stream damage.
As with many stories that deal with alternate realities, the audience will most likely feel utterly lost as Flash wakes up to a completely unfamiliar world. The movie quickly glosses over the events that transpired between Aquaman and Wonder Woman to centralize more on Flash’s story. Through this focus, the movie becomes a journey for growth, rather than a standard good versus evil narrative. This allows the audience to connect more with Flash’s emotional turmoil.
While Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s feud is clearly secondary to Flash’s story, it lends a dark and violent component to the movie that is entertaining and unique, but also potentially problematic. Fans of DC Entertainment’s previous animated ventures, like the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoon series will be taken aback by the violence and cruelty throughout the movie. This is not a movie for children, and it earns it PG-13 rating. However, the brutality serves a distinct dramatic purpose as Flash watches his friends destroy each other.
When it comes to any comic book adaptation, animated or not, the depictions of each character are key to the film’s success. The cast of voice actors chosen for this film excels at interpreting the emotion of the story. Justin Chambers (Grey’s Anatomy) does an excellent job of portraying the Flash, a normally quirky smart aleck, as the conflicted, emotional focal point of the movie. Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy) also provides a gritty, revenge-filled Thomas Wayne that helps transmit the dark, cruel atmosphere of the film.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is as complicated as the story it is adapted from. While some may find it too confusing due to the baffling setup, and too mature due to its brutality, the emotional development brought to life by the actors make this a great film to watch on a lazy afternoon. It takes some time to understand, but by its end, fans of animated DC films will feel rewarded.