Roundabouts two years ago, publishing giant DC Comics hit the reset switch on their yawning, cavernous continuity, essentially starting the whole endeavor over from scratch. DC is like the smart computer owner, the one who knows that it’s a good idea to do a full system wipe every now and again to clear the cobwebs out. This in stark contrast (Get it, Stark?) to competitor Marvel, who’s running off three external hard drives, and whose old files are constantly building up and being patched and re-written, to the point that one JPEG in the wrong place could fry the whole thing, causing the monitor to explode and spray glass in Joe Quesada’s smug face.
This isn’t the first time DC’s pulled this kind of move, the last time being 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which saw the former DC Universe go out battling a god-like inter-dimensional super-being for the fate of reality itself. This time around, for 2011’s Flashpoint, some asshole mucked about with time travel and everyone ended up with uglier costumes. The series wasn’t especially amazing, but DC thought it was good enough to be adapted into an animated movie, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Why they felt to add paradox on there I don’t know, maybe someone at DC’s a big fan of that one song from The Pirates of Penzance.
The story mostly concerns The Flash, who wakes up in a bizarre alternate version of the universe he knows, the big difference that everyone’s kind of a dick. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war, Batman is a gone-toting vigilante killer, Superman is nowhere to be found and Flash’s connection to the Speed Force, the soft-science energy field that gives him his powers and probably makes real life physicists break down into sobs when you try and explain it to them, has been cut off, robbing him of his powers. With total Armageddon looming, Flash has to race against time to restore his powers and cheer everybody the fuck up.
Of the DC Animated movies I’ve seen so far, (which is to say most of them, since I apparently have a taste for direct-to-DVD animated superhero movies) Flashpoint Paradox is pretty middle of the road, and like most of them it has more flaws than virtues. Most viewers will probably notice right away that the voice acting wavers between halfway decent and glass-chewingly bad. Grey’s Anatomy‘s Justin Chambers does the voice for The Flash, and has all the conviction and believability of one of those artificial speech programs. Kevin McKidd proves yet again that UK actors can only ever sound like they’re from the Boston or New York when they try to do an American accent for his turn as the alternate-universe Batman, and C. Thomas Howell’s Professor Zoom seems to be on a mission to say every single one of his lines with the emphasis on all the wrong words.
On top of that, the movie often comes across as stalling for time and best, or inconsistent in its focus at worst. The movie opens with this admittedly pretty awesome fight between Flash and a group of villains called The Rogues, on top of this scene of a young Flash being told that old “accept the things I cannot change, wisdom to know the difference” quote, which feels like it could be directed partially to all the fans who’ve been crying bullshit on how awful so much of the Post-Flashpoint DC comics are. Later on there’s this overly long scene with Lex Luthor and Deathstroke, voice by Ron Perlman surprisingly, having this utterly pointless fight with Aquaman’s army, and it just feels like the movie knows it doesn’t have enough material for an hour and a half and is cramming in as much pointless secondary BS as possible, in lieu of developing the actual main storyline a bit more.
The animation is, for the most part, strictly in the “all right” category, though some of the character models are just off. Why does Aquaman look like a British Football hooligan, and why are alternate-universe Batman’s lips so massive, did he have bat-collagen injections? The action scenes are usually fun though, and probably some of the most violent out of any of these movies, getting downright gruesome at times. At one point Wonder Woman eviscerates a child, partially off-screen of course, but if that’s something you’ve ever wanted to see happen, congratulations and here ya go, ya sick bugger.
The soundtrack is also pretty awesome, though there isn’t really much more to say beyond that it’s really good.
But as good as the action, animation and music are, the lack of focus really shoots the thing in the foot. We spend so much time flying around the alternate-universe meeting darker versions of characters that we barely get any chance to grow attached to any of them. There’s this whole subplot with Aquaman and Wonder Woman and the reasons why they’re at each others throats, and with some more attention it could have been a really good opportunity to make us give a damn about the characters. Besides Flash and maybe alternate-universe Batman we learn almost nothing but the most surface details about who anyone really is, and the rushed conclusion certainly doesn’t help matters either.
I really don’t know why I keep coming back to these DC animated movies, the majority of them are either pretty meh or bore me to tears, with only stuff like Batman: Under the Red Hood or Crisis on Two Earths being anything close to enjoyable. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, despite some decent elements, falls into the meh category, mostly because it can’t seem to focus on its own main characters, and as such fails to make us give even a single damn about anything that happens in the movie, and I require a movie to make me give at least two or three damns for me to call it good.