Film Discussion

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox – Throwback 10

Before 2011 The Flash was a character who runs really fast, who has some neat powers, and who has a silly group of villains. He was a fun character with a lot of stories to be told.

But then Flashpoint happened, and since then it seems like DC and their various branches of entertainment media look at The Flash (Barry Allen specifically) as little more than a cosmic reset button. To say that Flashpoint has damaged the character of The Flash is an understatement, as this okay-at-best short time travel story with The Flash at the centre of it has been beaten beyond death with adaptations and remakes. But before it was put onto the small screen on the TV series, and before the latest flopbuster movie, it was the DC animated universe who first brought Flashpoint out of the comics.

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DC began producing animated movies unconnected to previous TV shows and series in 2007 with Superman: Doomsday, which loosely adapted the Death of Superman story. It would adapt pre-existing graphic novels in styles similar to the art in the books with Justice League: The New Frontier and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, whilst also creating new stories in films such as Batman: Gotham Knight and Green Lantern: Emerald Knight. Each film sat alone and separate from the others for the most part, but in 2013 the decision was made to create an interconnected animated universe. In order to do this, the studio decided to use Flashpoint as a starting point, to wipe away anything that had come before, to discount notions that perhaps these other projects were already part of a shared universe, and to start making animated New 52 movies.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was the result; a film that would actually be the closest adaptation of the source material to be made, and one that admits that this is not really a Flash story by naming it after the collective heroes of the Justice League. With DC trying to push the popularity of the New 52 (they had to do something at this point), making a shared universe based upon its key stories wasn’t a bad idea, as it could encourage viewers who might not normally pick up a comic to give the source material a try.

© 2013 Warner Bros. Animation

That being said, this would prove to be an inconsistent thing, as not only would these shared universe movie change voice cast on occasion, but two films after Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox they’d already started throwing in standalone movies that weren’t part of the shared universe. This new universe would continue on until 2019, at which point DC destroyed that world in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which ended with Barry performing another Flashpoint, and resetting the universe yet again. Because god forbid the character be used for anything else.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox follows a similar ground to the book that it’s based upon. However, before jumping into the new timeline we get an opening scene of The Flash (Justin Chambers) taking down his Rogues with the help of the Justice League. This was a smart move on the film’s part, as it shows what the universe is like before Barry breaks everything (something that the original book didn’t really touch upon). The next day Barry wakes up having fallen asleep at work, and finds that the world has changed around him. In this new world the Justice League doesn’t exist, half of Europe is dead thanks to a war between Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) and Aquaman (Cary Elwes), and that he has no powers. But the one good thing for Barry in this new world is that his mother is still alive.

© 2013 Warner Bros. Animation

Whilst Barry is spending time with his mother, who was killed when he was a boy in the original timeline, Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan), the top superhero in the US, tries to recruit Batman (Kevin McKidd) to his team to help stop the war; an offer Batman refuses. Having learned that Batman still exists in this new world, Barry heads to Wayne Manor to find Bruce, knowing that he’s smart enough to be able to help him figure out what happened. When he arrives, however, he finds an older, more violent Batman, and realises that in this timeline Bruce was the one who was killed and that this new Batman is actually his father, Thomas. Eventually convincing Thomas to help him, Barry regains his powers, and the two of them set out with Cyborg’s help to try to fix the world.

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For the most part the movie sticks pretty close to the comic, though it does make a few changes here and there. Most of the time these are small things, such as the reason why Atlantis and Themyscira being at war, and don’t really affect the main narrative too much. There are a few places where the changes made for the movie actually improve things slightly, such as the way in which Thomas Wayne dispatched The Reverse Flash (C. Thomas Howell), changing it from a sword in the back to a bullet through the head in a wonderfully revealed moment. The film does drop the ball in a few ways too, and is far from perfect. Removing the scene in which Barry says goodbye to his mother before undoing the Flashpoint timeline is a major misstep, and misses a big point of what the story was even about.

It seems with Flashpoint adaptations we’ve had ever increasing returns, with the animated film doing as good, if not perhaps a better job than the original, the TV series moving away from universe changing spectacle to focus on the character and emotions at play, and The Flash movie getting everything it could wrong. At this point I’d like to hope that DC puts Flashpoint away for a good long while (hopefully forever), and instead elevates some actually good Flash stories. But if you really have to experience this story on the screen then the animated outing is the best way to go about it.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was released on 30th July 2013.

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