Friday, September 20, 2013

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

I’ve always wondered why the direct-to-video DC Universe animated films have always fared better than the Marvel ones (like Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2). Basically any animated DC property turns out to be pretty bad ass now that I think of it. I have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with Bruce Timm, the genius behind Batman: The Animated Series and every single animated incarnation of a DC character since. He knows what works and exactly what needs to be done to make these shows/films as awesome as they can be without losing their core fanbase.

The newest of these animated films is Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, based on DC's all-encompassing comic book miniseries “Flashpoint” from a couple of years back.
When The Flash (voice of Justin Chambers) uses his powers to travel back in time to change a pivotal event in his history he inadvertently alters the future in ways he could not have predicted. He never received his speedster powers, Aquaman (voice of Carey Elwes) and Wonder Woman (voice of Vanessa Marshall) command vast armies that have declared war upon the general population, Thomas Wayne (voiced by Kevin McKidd) is an alcoholic gun-toting Batman, Superman (voiced by Sam Daly) is a government prisoner and Cyborg (voiced by Michael B. Jordan) is their puppet. Can The Flash find a way to return reality back to normal before it’s too late?

The alterations to reality cooked up for this story are pretty rad. I loved the fact that Superman has never seen the sun and is oblivious toward his superpowers, Bruce was the one shot in the alley instead of his parents, Hal Jordan was passed over by Abin Sur’s Green Lantern ring and Shazam is comprised of a group of children instead of just Billy Batson. Seeing Steve Trevor killed by Wonder Woman was a complete shock! This alternate reality is a total WTF and I loved it.
I’ve always had a problem with this kind of plot device because the basic premise is cliché in the extreme. Every single story that uses time travel in this manner always ends badly. Why can’t we see one where history changed for the better once in a while? Probably because the story would be pointless and no conflict would be present. I’m not really complaining as this is just an observation.

The Flashpoint Paradox is one of the better examples of this device, the story is engaging in amazing ways and I really wanted to find out how The Flash was going to solve this epic pickle he created for selfish reasons. Writer Jim Krieg (Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold), who adapted the story from Geoff Johns’ original story for “Flashpoint”, keeps things interesting and constantly moving forward. I have yet to read the actual comic series (I recently purchased it) so I can’t comment on how close to the source material the final product is, but usually these DC films stay on target for the most part.
I also have to say that out of all these direct-to-video projects this one is the most brutally violent. I don’t know if it came from Johns’ story of Krieg’s alterations, but this flick should have been rated R for the sheer amount of bloody carnage on screen. I never thought I’d ever see someone take a barrage of bullets to the face in one of these flicks, but here it is. The story is dark, dreary and depressing; awesome and shocking at the same time. DC continues to show that it has big brass balls the size of North Carolina. 

Director Jay Oliva (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Parts 1 and 2) has a great eye for animated spectacle and makes this one of the more visually unique films in the series. However, I do have an issue with his choice of animation style. It’s an odd looking mix of anime, Saturday morning cartoon and anything by Peter Chung (Æon Flux). At times it looks decent, other times it looks hideous. Regardless, he knows to keep the film moving at a steady clip and entertaining to the max in order to compete with Marvel.
The selection of voice actors is a little baffling. Every male actor chosen has a non-threatening voice and doesn’t seem to fit their character all that well. Sure Justin Chambers (Grey’s Anatomy) works as The Flash, but C. Thomas Howell as his nemesis Professor Zoom is kind of a joke. The same goes for Kevin McKidd as Batman and Cary Elwes as Aquaman. They come off as prissy boys for some reason and sound nothing like the archetypical “hero” at all. I can understand the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg since the character is supposed to be young, but even Steve Blum as Captain Thunder (Shazam) is underwhelming. Although hearing Nathan Fillion once again playing Hal Jordan, Kevin Conroy as the real Batman and Ron Perlman playing Deathstroke put a geektastic smile on my ugly mug.

A couple of rough patches didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. It’s a fun and suspenseful ride of an animated flick if there ever was one, and it is about damned time The Flash was shown a little love in the DC animated universe outside of being the comic relief. It’s not nearly as good as Justice League: The New Frontier or Green Lantern: First Flight, but it’s now #3 on my faves list right behind those two. With a runtime of 75 minutes with end credits I only wish it were longer …

4 out of 5

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