Alternate reality stories are nothing new in comics. Although not originally designed for that purpose, Flashpoint became a major storyline in DC Comics to help the publisher transition from the established DCU continuity to that of their New 52 reboot. Spanning more than 75 issues the story centered around the Flash finding himself trapped in a darker version of the world he knew with heroes similar, yet different, from those he called friends, and a war between Atlantis and Themyscira threatening to destroy the Earth.
The results of Flashpoint were mixed at best and I certainly wasn’t expecting much when I heard DC had chosen the project for their latest straight-to-DVD feature. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is actually pretty good and arguably the best animated feature the company has put out over the last couple of years since Batman: Under the Red Hood.
The movie streamlines and condenses most of Flashpoint arc to keep the focus on the Flash (Justin Chambers) and his struggles with adapting to the new reality and finding a way to set things right. Fans of the original comics will notice the mentions of some of the various side-stories and characters, but although many characters such as Etrigan (Dee Bradley Baker), Grifter (Danny Jacobs), Deathstroke (Ron Perlman), and others all gets some screentime, make no mistake this is a Flash movie through and through. As a longtime fan of the character I was very happy to see the Flash get a chance to carry and entire movie. And, once he gets his chance, he runs with it.
The other major characters in the movie are the Flashpoint versions of Batman (Kevin McKidd), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), Aquaman (Cary Elwes), and Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan). We do also get the Flashpoint versions of Captain Marvel, although without his Battle Cat version of Tawky Tawny, Superman (Sam Daly), and of course several members of the Flash’s Rogues, most notably the Reverse-Flash (C. Thomas Howell).
The fact that the moral of the Flashpoint storyline can be boiled down into a relatively simple concept about understanding what you can change and excepting what you cannot should make the narrative easy to follow even for those with no experience with the comic. Despite its harsh themes, and rather brutal final act, the plot has a message of hope that our main character continues to champion throughout the film.
My only real complaints with the movie are the levels of violence, particularly during the climactic battle between the Amazons and Atlantians, and the movie’s epilogue that made me squirm when the universe was reset into the current New 52 style (complete with the unnecessary yellow piping of the Flash’s costume which looks ridiculous when the character is standing still). I also thought the animation for some characters, particularly the Reverse-Flash, had an abnormally long abdomens in some scenes. These, however, are relatively minor complaints for a pretty darn good film based on a trainwreck of a mini-series that got too ambitious for its own good.
The movie is available on a mostly barebones single-disc DVD and a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack which includes audio commentary by producer James Tucker, director Jay Olivia, screenwriter Jim Krieg, and Flashpoint architect Geoff Johns. The Blu-ray also includes a sneak peek at the next project Justice League: War (an adaptation of the first New 52 Justice League arc), the first few pages of Flashpoint #1, a pair of featurettes on The Rogues and the idea of time travel (the first is more interesting than the second), and four DCU animated episodes including the Flash-centric “Requiem for a Scarlet Speedster!” and “Flash and Substance,” as well as “Legends parts 1 & 2” in which the Justice League are trapped in an alternate dimension. (Sadly, “Speed Demons,” featuring Flash and Superman’s first race and another of the Rogues, isn’t included).
[Warner Home Video, Blu-ray $24.98 / DVD $19.98]