I’ve been looking forward to Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox since it was announced. While the Flashpoint comics didn’t do much for me, it was largely because they were broken up into so many mini-series that it was hard to see the whole story all at once. A movie solves that problem, weaving all the different narratives together. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but overall I thought it was an enjoyable film.
The basic plot of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is that someone has gone back in time and altered history so now the world is completely different. There are good changes, like the Flash’s mother being alive instead of murdered when he was a boy, but some seriously bad changes as well, like a war between Atlantis and the Amazons that has leveled most of Europe. Everything in this new universe is slightly different: Batman is Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father; Superman’s rocket was captured by the government; Wonder Woman is the warring queen of the Amazons. The Flash is the only one who remembers the old universe, and he sets about trying to bring it back.
I’m big on alternate universe stories, so I enjoyed returning to the world of Flashpoint. Trying to fit 13 different mini-series into one movie is a tall order, so obviously certain stories got short shrift. Most of the backstory was left out in favour of focusing on the Flash and the events depicted primarily in the main Flashpoint book. This worked okay generally, but there was one area where the changes and lack of detail made for some confusion: The Atlantis/Amazon war.
In the comics, the backstory was a little bit complex. Diana met Arthur and they fell in love and were set to get married, allying the Amazons and Atlanteans, but members of both groups weren’t in favour of this union. Orm and Artemis teamed up to stop it, assassinating Hippolyta and framing Garth, and then everything went bananas and war broke out. In the movie, they simplify the story in a muddled, problematic way. We see Arthur and Diana meeting, and then kissing in a bedroom, while Mera looks on jealously. Mera later attacks Diana, who kills her, and then there’s a war. There’s nothing about plots and assassinations; instead, Mera’s jealousy appears to be the trigger, which is a lazy trope.
However, the past doesn’t matter all that much to the film. All that matters is that the Amazons and Atlanteans are at war and the destruction therein has killed millions, and the Flash and his team have to stop it to save the world. The Flash can hardly run back in time super fast to fix the timeline if there’s no planet for him to run on. The muddled origins of the war don’t detract from the story so much as the comic book version was just more interesting, but it’s all tangential to the main story and they only have so much time in a movie.
The plot itself hurtles forward pretty quickly, as you might expect from a Flash-centric movie. The opening scene in the regular universe, where the Justice League helps the Flash stop his Rogues and disarm a series of bombs, is great in that each League member prevents the detonation in a different way that’s very reflective of their character. We’re then thrown into the new universe after the title sequence, and the Flash teams up with Batman, then Cyborg, then the entire resistance movement in Amazon-occupied London, all while we pop in on different side characters in different parts of the world. Characters like Hal Jordan, Lois Lane, Deathstroke, and others don’t get anywhere near full adaptations of their original comic stories, but what we do see are good scenes that establish who they are in this world while moving the overarching story forward.
While I didn’t much like the animation because this weird hybrid of anime and Western style DC’s been using a lot lately just doesn’t work for me at all, the action was quite fantastic. The fight scenes were very well choreographed to be dynamic and exciting, and were executed well by the animation team. The final battle in London is pretty epic, with three different factions fighting it out with all manner of weaponry and support vehicle. There are guns, arrows, lasers, concussion blasts, water weapons, swords, and even a trident, with their handlers moving from opponent to opponent in all manner of combinations and fighting style. All of the action is creative and visually striking, amounting to the best action I’ve seen in a DC film to date.
It does get dark, though. With all of this epic fighting, the inevitable result is a lot of casualties, many of them quite gruesome, on top of the many deaths that have occurred leading up to the final battle. These DC films aim for a PG-13 rating, and they definitely earned it here. There’s a lot of bloody violence. It’s also dark in a more existential kind of way. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but when we find out who caused the change to the timestream and why, and what has to happen for everything to be righted, it’s pretty heavy stuff. That, combined with other dark moments like the harrowing history of Thomas Wayne, give the film a bit of a bleak, harsh quality.
Ultimately, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was a decent film. It’s dark but exciting, with great action and strong voice acting. Kevin Conroy is back as Batman and Dana Delany plays Lois Lane, so what more could you want? Wonder Woman was more violent than I’d like, and her history was annoyingly muddled, but she definitely got to thrown down some epic battles. If you like alternate universes and crazy action, I’d definitely recommend the movie. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has been available digitally for a couple of weeks and is out on DVD and whatnot now.