Now this is a story all about how My life got flipped turned upside down
The Fresh Prince’s opening verse is prescient when discussing Flashpoint. One second The Flash is doing his normal Flash thing: making snarky remarks to his literal Rogues and the time traveling Professor Zoom, even saving his beloved Central City with a little help from his friends in the Justice League. Than his life gets flipped turned upside down. Waking up at his desk job as a forensic scientist, Barry Allen awakens to a world in crisis. “World Faces Armageddon” reads the headline. Sounds like a job for The Flash and the Justice League. Like the hero he is Barry gets up and begins to run outside, but wait, he is running like a normal person. His ring is gone. Suddenly, he stumbles outside and sees his mother, who was long dead minutes ago, standing outside waiting for him. This is a world in crisis, but it’s also one that has his mom alive and well.
The world of Flashpoint is very different than one known to comic fans. There is no Justice League. Aquaman and Wonder Woman and their nations are at war with one another. The war has already claimed Western Europe and threatens to consume the entire world. The residing Batman in Gotham City is darker more self loathing version of the caped crusader Flash remembers. In the world of Flashpoint it was Bruce who was gunned down by the mugger in Crime Alley. Leaving his parents, Thomas and Martha, to deal with the grief which consumes them. Barry must team up with this Batman and recruit the remaining heroes in order to stop Aquaman and Wonder Woman from tearing this world apart as well as stop Professor Zoom, who appears to be the man behind all this.
Until now Batman Under The Red Hood was the most violent DC feature. Flashpoint Paradox more than lives up to its PG-13 rating. Blood spatters and spurts out of characters as they die, of which there is many. Red Hood used reaction shot blood spurts, leaving the corpses and damage to the imagination. There is nothing left to the imagination here. Limbs are lost. People are vaporized to dust. Bullets have tangible effects on the animated body. Action and violence have actual weight in this film. The graphic detail doesn't veer into exploitative territory with detail for the sake of detail.
In early marketing materials the lush anime-esque art style was a marked change from the straight edged style prior films. This aesthetic is different but makes for one of the most beautiful looking animated features in this 17 film series. The lush but muted color palette perfectly encapsulates the fallen nature of the Flashpoint world. Animation is smooth and at times hypnotic. The visualization of The Flash and his super speed gives me hope a live action Flash film could be done well.
A constant refrain, whenever, I talk about Warner Bros. line of DC animated features is how the title, usually an adaptation of a well known story, hits all the plot points and moments expected but could've used an extra 10 minutes to really get an emotional pay off. The latest DC animated feature, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox nearly gets past this critique. In some ways Flashpoint Paradox, based on the 2011 five issue comic event Flashpoint written by Geoff Johns, adapts the source story into a more enjoyable and digestible piece of entertainment than it’s comic source. The Flashpoint Paradox is clearly from the Flash’s point of view, which is something a lot of big group films seem to forget. Rooting your cast with an anchor point is a good way to tell epic stories. In many ways it is a great adaptation. Flashpoint Paradox's problem becomes what is left on the cutting room floor.
The 80 minute run time for once seems to be a blessing when it comes to the plot, sequence of events, that make up Flashpoint Paradox. Forcing writer Jim Krieg to streamline many of the events storylines into one cohesive unit. The original five issue run didn’t seem to do much with the space given, Barry seemed to spend 2/3 of the series wandering around this new world with little narrative momentum. The main title also didn’t tell the overarching Aquaman vs Wonder Woman story all that well. This was a bit of mythology segregated off for their respective spin off books. In Flashpoint Paradox there is no spin-offs, the reasoning behind Atlantis’s war with Themyscira is artfully translated along with hints of the more interesting stories told during the Flashpoint event.
In the beginning we are shown a young Barry being told a useful saying about knowing what he can and cannot change. His mother is soon dead after and that guilt over not saving his mother hangs over the Flash. This entire film is couched in the guilty conscious of Barry Allen, giving it an emotional base that most DC animated features lack. This base is undone by Krieg not including a crucial scene from the source material. Barry realizing he simply can not save his mother. Even though he could save her, he can’t. The cost would be too great. He does however have an emotional reunion with his mother where he finally gets over his guilt. That was the moment that really made the original Flashpoint series. Up until then it had been a bloated giant “What If” tale with no emotional resonance. Krieg’s version of events is far less emotionally satisfying. The lack of emotional follow through nearly kills all the good Flashpoint Paradox does. Stopping it from becoming a truly great example of what Warner Bros. Animation can do with the DC license.