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JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX
(***)
Reviewer:   Jim "JR" Rutkowski
Director:
Jay Oliva
Writers:
Jim Krieg, based on the graphic novel by Geoff Johns & Andy Kubert
Starring the Voices of:
Justin Chambers, C. Thomas Howell, Michael B. Jordan
Length:   81 minutes
Released:   073013-direct to dvd
Rating:
PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout
“The Flashpoint Paradox is a lot of dark, violent fun but not much else..." 
Count yourself among Flash's loyal legion of fans? You'll have a blast with The Flashpoint Paradox, and walk away with a few complaints. Love all things DC Comics but consider Flash a peripheral hero to your little slice of the DCU? You'll have a blast, and walk away with a few complaints. Rarely pick up a DC comic book but greedily gobble down any films or series populated by the denizens of the DC universe? You'll have a blast and... detect a pattern? The latest DCU original animated movie has something to offer DC fans of all stripes, speedsters and non-speedsters alike. And the reason is simple. For better or worse, The Flashpoint Paradox is a Justice League movie first, an Elseworlds tale second and, trailing at a distant third, a solid Flash story last. Fortunately, the alternate timeline heroes and villains -- each one more deliciously dark than the last -- help make up for the unintended slight until, by movie's end, Flash narrowly inches ahead and proves he can hold his own in the race. JLA or no JLA.

After capturing the Rogues and stopping the Reverse-Flash, 25th Century madman Professor Zoom (C. Thomas Howell), from leveling Central City, card-carrying JLA member and resident super-speedster Barry Allen (Justin Chambers) makes the decision to go back in time to his childhood and prevent his mother, Nora (Grey DeLisle), from being killed. Little does he know, though, that such a seemingly harmless act will create such a wildly alternate future, one in which Batman isn't Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) but Thomas Wayne (Kevin McKidd), the still-grieving, gun-toting father of a murdered boy; a future where Superman (Sam Daly) is nowhere to be found; where Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion) never stumbled across a spacecraft piloted by a dying alien; where a cold-hearted Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) and her Amazonian warriors are locked in a bitter war with an unforgiving Aquaman (Cary Elwes) and his Atlantean armies; where Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan) is struggling to become America's Man of Steel; where six foster siblings become Shazam with a word; and where virtually every hero and villain of Barry's universe has been affected by his single act of compassion.

The fun of The Flashpoint Paradox is in checking off familiar and not-so-familiar DC faces as they come and go (or die, as is more often the case), and in seeing how radically different each one is from his or her traditional incarnation. Everyone from Lex Luthor (Steve Blum) to Lois Lane (Dana Delany), Deathstroke (Ron Perlman), Etrigan (Dee Bradley Baker) and even Jim Lee's Grfiter (Danny Jacobs) earns a memorable moment or two, so much so that the movie sometimes feels like a cameo parade. An emaciated Superman and a truly twisted, all too brief take on the Joker take the cake on shocking but wickedly effective variations, although it's Wonder Woman and, yes, Aquaman whose gripping and tragic conflict is the most engrossing, and really the force that propels the entire movie along. Flash, on the other hand, spends far too much time dealing with the loss of his powers (a tiresome subplot that pops up far too often in comic book movies and series), and even more time out of the mix, working his way toward the war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman at a snail's pace. The upside is that The Flashpoint Paradox clocks in at 81-minutes, rather than the standard DCU 75. And while that doesn't sound like much, director Jay Oliva and screenwriter Jim Krieg spend those six minutes frugally, fleshing out the alternate world just enough to prevent the movie from devolving into an episodic action-fest.

The downside to it all is that The Flashpoint Paradox is a lot of dark, violent fun but not much else. Thomas Wayne, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Lois, Superman... each one demands their own Elseworlds animated movie. And yet a necessary evil quickly reveals itself: each hero and villain is shortchanged as the script hurries from character to character, often blazing past more fascinating storylines in pursuit of a rather standard fare right-the-timeline nail-biter. More distressing, at least to Flash fans, will be poor Barry, who's a key player to be sure, but one who doesn't come into his own until the final minutes. Even then, notice that it's Batman, not Flash, who makes it possible for Barry to patch up the universe; Batman who eliminates the final obstacle in Barry's path, meaning all Flash has to ultimately do is run really, really, really fast down a road cleared for him by other heroes. Paradox is Flash Lite (zero pun intended). If the wonderful wizards of the DCU want to give Flash the stage, then they need to give the man room to work. Let Flash show himself a hero worthy of his own original animated movie; one who can stand on his own, face a formidable foe and save the world, or all of reality, with only the skills at his disposal.

As a Justice League actioner, The Flashpoint Paradox works, and works with brutal, and I mean brutal, tenacity. (This is easily the most bloody, hard-hitting PG-13 fare Warner Premiere has churned out. Arrows through the neck, bullets to the brain-pan, disintegrations, dismemberments, decapitations, impalements... parents of young children beware.) As for the animation, the same problem that plaqued the recent Superman: Unbound returns here. That is, the some of the character models border on the grotesque. Particularly Aquaman. This proves to be a distraction during some of the films key scenes. As anything more character-driven, though, particularly as it pertains to Barry Allen, Paradox is just that: a paradox.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox isn't the definitive, be-all end-all animated movie Flash purists have been patiently waiting for, but JLA junkies with a soft spot for Elseworlds-esque tales will enjoy all the alternate timelining, from its deviously dark heroes and villains to the climactic battles to the death that litter the fray. Terrific voice casting and performances, and a smart adaptation of Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert's "Flashpoint" comic crossover event further overshadow the movie's problem areas, making Paradox an entertaining but flawed entry in the DCU animated canon. The Flashpoint Paradox is an easy one to recommend to DCU fans, shortcomings and all.
 


JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX  © 2013 Warner Premiere Home Video
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2013 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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