The DC Animated Movie Universe kicked of with “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox”, a precursor of sorts to the sixteen-film shared world series that ran from 2013 to 2020. The movie is an adaptation of the 2011 comic book crossover event “Flashpoint” from writer Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert. “Flashpoint” dramatically altered the DC Comics landscape leading to an aggressive reboot of the entire DC Universe. This film (directed by Jay Oliva) doesn’t feel as weighty as Johns and Kubert’s work, but it is faithful to the source material which is both a strength and a weakness.
“Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” is refreshing in the sense that it isn’t another Superman or Batman story. Don’t get me wrong, I love those superheroes and both have roles to play in this film (more so with Batman). But as the title suggests, Barry Allen aka The Flash (voiced by Justin Chambers) takes center stage. I’ve always liked The flash and I remember how much I enjoyed reading the 2011 “Flashpoint” event with him as the central character. Similarly it’s nice see Barry Allen leading a DC animated film, especially one this ambitious.
“The Flashpoint Paradox” opens with a fairly inconsequential prologue. Barry Allen is at the Central City Cemetery visiting his mother’s grave when he is alerted to a break-in at the Flash Museum. He arrives to find a host of familiar rogues led by none other than his archenemy Eobard Thawne aka Professor Zoom aka Reverse-Flash (he’s voiced by C. Thomas Howell). With the help of his fellow Justice Leaguers, Flash intervenes and thwarts their plan to blow up the city.
The next day Barry wakes up at his work desk to find the entire world has been turned upside down. It starts with the discovery that his mother is alive and his wife is married to someone else. There is no Justice League and a bloody feud between the Atlanteans led by Aquaman (Cary Elwes) and the Amazons led by Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) has the world teetering on the brink of war. To find out what has happened Barry seeks out Batman. But in this world young Bruce Wayne died in Crime Alley and a boozing grief-stricken Thomas Wayne (Kevin McKidd) dons the cape and the cowl.
“Flashpoint Paradox” is filled with these types of character variations – Cyborg (voiced by Michael B. Jordan) is a government liaison working directly with the president of the United States, Lois Lane is an embedded reporter turned resistance fighter deep behind the New Themyscira border, and so on. In keeping with the comic series Oliva and writer Jim Krieg pour on the characters, but in the movie’s cramped 80-minute running time there are simply too many to adequately cover. Several amount to nothing more than cameos while others only seem to be there to be killed off in some shocking fashion. Those familiar with the source material know this isn’t the filmmaker’s intent, yet it’s an unfortunate result of the movie’s hurried effort to cover all its ground.
It’s a little unfair to compare “The Flashpoint Paradox” to the comic series considering they’re two completely different forms of media with their owns sets of strengths and limitations. But it’s hard to avoid doing so when the movie sticks this close to its inspiration. The animation is solid and the voice acting is even better. And as someone who read and followed “Flashpoint”, I can’t help but appreciate the film’s loyalty. It’s the kind of thing that will certainly win over ardent DC fans, but as a standalone movie it feels rushed and it can’t quite capture the significance and importance that made the 2011 event such a game-changer.
VERDICT – 3 STARS