With all the live-action superhero films being released this summer, it’s easy to overlook the latest entry in the direct-to-DVD DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, based on the acclaimed cross-title Flashpoint comic series, is a fast-paced and action-packed film, just as fun as the DCUAOM films that have come before it, but this one is definitely not for kids.
After saving Central City from Professor Zoom and the Rogues, Barry Allen wakes up in an alternate timeline, where his mother is still alive and Aquaman and Wonder Woman are waging a full-scale war that is tearing the world apart. And, most importantly, Barry no longer has his Flash powers. Determined to restore the original timeline and prevent either Wonder Woman or Aquaman from destroying the world, Barry teams up with Thomas Wayne, this timeline’s Batman, and attempts to recreate the accident that originally gave him his powers so that he can lead what remains of the Justice League against the two warring nations.
The film’s tone, like several of the other DCUAOMs, is much more adult than the Justice League TV shows. Here, people definitely bleed as they are shot, stabbed, and even beheaded. The opening scene, where we see a young Barry coming home to discover his mother has been killed, is quite harsh, and many of the themes about mutually assured destruction are also a bit heavier than what you normally expect in a cartoon. Of course, this all works to The Flashpoint Paradox‘s benefit, allowing it to tell the story without pulling any punches. Indeed, Flashpoint Batman’s fight with Yoyo (the Flashpoint version of Harley Quinn) is about as brutal and vicious as they come.
However, the film isn’t all dark. Even in this timeline, the Flash retains his quick wit; the smug look on his face when he finally gets to demonstrate his powers to the Flashpoint timeline’s Batman and Cyborg is pure Flash. In addition, the very welcome cameo by Nathan Fillion, reprising the role of Hal Jordan, is a highlight of the film.
Speaking of the cast, this film is populated with many DCU favorites. Kevin Conroy is heard briefly returning to his iconic role as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Kevin McKidd plays the Thomas Wayne version), while Dana Delany and Ron Perlman also show up reprising their Justice League roles as Lois Lane and Deathstroke. But of course, it brings with it several newcomers. C. Thomas Howell does a fantastic job as Professor Zoom, with Michael B. Jordan doing an impressive turn as Cyborg (who works for President Obama in the Flashpoint timeline and is much the Superman to Thomas Wayne’s Batman), and Cary Elwes makes for a surprisingly efficient Aquaman. Justin Chambers, who stars as Barry Allen/the Flash, is not Michael Rosenbaum, but is enjoyable nonetheless.
There are also plenty of character cameos, with everyone from Aqualad and Clayface to Steve Trevor, Griftor, and Etrigan showing up at various points. The final battle rises to epic proportions as various members of the Justice League clash, and we finally get the answer to the burning question of who would win in a fight to the death: Aquaman or Wonder Woman?
While the film touches on several time-travel cliches (the whole “waking up not knowing what timeline I’m in” thing is getting old), but is still consistent within its own rules, a plus for any time travel film. Indeed, the Flash has to run much faster than 88mph to travel back in time, and with Professor Zoom tapping into the Speed Force, things get quite difficult and, ultimately, quite messy.
On the whole, The Flashpoint Paradox is another win for the DCUAOM, showing once more that some of the best superhero stories are better told in animated fashion than on the big screen. That said, the quick CGI tag at the end of the film showing off the Flash’s true potential in a realistic setting might be a subtle bid towards getting the live-action Flash film up and running. If nothing else, this is the Flash film Sheldon has been waiting for.