Warning: Spoilers ahead.
If anyone pays attention to the DC and Marvel rivalry or film in general, then they probably notice that Marvel is a few steps ahead of DC. They put together a string of successful films with relatively (to the mainstream) no-names at the helm and brought it all together into the mega hit The Avengers in 2012. However, when it comes to animation, DC is the one with the expansive lead. And their newest addition, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is one of their best offerings to date.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about Flash other than he has superhuman speed. I didn’t even know he required a ring to acquire the “Speed Force,” which is what gives him the power to run at superhuman speeds. Yet, after seeing this film, I came away wanting more of the Flash. He comes off as supremely bad-ass and cool despite being surrounded by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League. They need to look at this animated film as the blueprint for a live-adaptation of the Flash story, especially some of the shots of him running up buildings, on water and the slow-motion effect.
With this film, there actually is not a villain in the traditional way you would assume. While Flash’s arch nemesis Professor Zoom, whom possesses the abilities entailed by the Speed Force does end up trying to kill Flash and the rest of the Justice League, it’s only after Flash created that alternate reality when trying to go back in time to save his mother. In the new reality, Bruce Wayne, as Batman, is dead. His father, Thomas Wayne is Batman and in a creepy twist, Bruce’s mother becomes the Joker, even if the film barely touched upon that. Superman is a government lab rat that doesn’t know the power he possesses. And Aquaman and Wonder Woman are warring with each other over control of the world.
Throughout the course of the film, Flash, first, has to regain his powers and then convince Thomas Wayne, a gun-wielding, alcoholic version of Batman, to assist along with Cyborg and a slew of others in the resistance. From there, as is usually the case, the reliance then falls upon Superman. Even in this alternate reality, the members of the Justice League rely upon him to save the day. They managed to track him down to the government facility where he’s been used as a lab rat; his space craft landed in Metropolis instead of Smallville where the Kent’s would have found it.
As a big Superman fan, it was really odd to see Superman as a government lab rat and specifically, to see him so frail, frightened and confused. Yet, and I have to emphasize this because I love the Superman character, despite all of this, he still tries to save the others. Granted, he doesn’t do a great job, but he tried.
If some are saying to themselves, “Well, this is an animated offering, so it must be geared towards children,” they would be completely off-base. In fact, arguably, this film is more violent than any live-adaptation by a wide margin. In one scene, Wonder Woman kills children for god’s sakes. In another, Superman uses his heat vision to slice off Aquaman’s arm. And in yet another, Batman shoots Professor Zoom through the head, which enables Flash to gain enough of the Speed Force to run back in time to stop himself (paradox and all that jazz) from saving his mother, which manifested the alternate reality. He does so in time and the world is saved from nuclear annihilation from a weaponized Captain Atom.
Before Thomas Wayne died, however, he gave a note addressed to his son, Bruce, to Flash. Flash at the end of the film gives it to Bruce. Immediately Bruce says, “That’s my father’s handwriting.” I’m getting chills thinking about what happens next because it was so unexpected for me and that’s what made it so emotional. Batman sees it as signed by his father, confirming what he said and tear drops fall upon the letter; the camera fades behind him, as Flash watches. It was such a raw, human side of Batman – Bruce, which we don’t often get to see in any incarnation of the Caped Crusader.
However, what that moment, as well as Flash’s desire to save his mother shows is, no matter how much we want to avoid it, we have to move on from our past, no matter how horrible it was. Both are dealing with the loss of loved ones, but without that lost, undoubtedly, they wouldn’t be the heroes they are today.
The only criticism I would offer for this film is the pretty poor artwork. While the story and the voice acting are among DC’s best efforts, the artwork is one of their worst. For instance, Aquaman’s body looked painfully distorted and silly, almost to the point of being distracting. I only thought Flash and Batman were drawn well. Despite that flaw, this animated film is well-worth seeing, if you’re a fan of the Justice League or Flash or both. Plus, if you’re into the “what if?” of an alternate reality, as I am, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.