As a bit of a continuation of my DC Comics film reviews leading up to the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, today we’re going to be taking a look at the animated feature Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which definitely shares some elements with Zack Snyder’s divisive action romp.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox follows The Flash (Justin Chambers) as he is thrust into a parallel universe, where one small decision he made has changed everything. In this world, Batman (Kevin McKidd) is actually Thomas Wayne, Superman (Sam Daly) is little more than a myth, and Aquaman (Cary Elwes) and Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) are close to obliterating each other, taking the planet Earth with him. Devoid of his powers and in a world far-removed from his own, The Flash must prevent the war, while also finding out how and why he has been sent.
Arguably the most important element of an animated film – especially one that harbours iconic characters such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – is the animation, and unfortunately it’s a bit of a miss here. Characters look clunky and unnatural, and the lanky, straggly limbs of heroes such as Superman and Batman was very offputting. Voice synchronisation is also quite a problem, with a few memorable times during the film where the audio didn’t match up with the mouth movement. That said, action is well-animated and the film has a really nice colour pallet, so despite some disagreeable designs, there aren’t a huge amount of issues with the animation.
The story is perhaps the most surprising element of this film. If you go in expecting a light-hearted, Marvel-esque affair, you’re going to be surprised, because this is a pretty dark film. Blood and gore are frequent in the film’s numerous set pieces, but these are well-reasoned thanks to a really interesting story. The premise – The Flash being a fish out of water in a parallel universe – is really quite intriguing, and it’s well-explored here. The portrayals of some of comics’ most beloved characters – particularly the murderous, alcoholic Batman – are very interesting, and with such a deviation from what fans know and love, it makes this a very hooking watch.
There are unfortunately a number of plot holes, and quite a few elements that make very little sense. There’s a point towards the end where an event is mentioned, and from the line delivered it appears to hold some weight, however we were never actually shown this event, rendering the entire emotional impact of that moment useless. There are some really interesting plot threads set up at the beginning that are never capitalised upon and explored, which is a real shame: there’s quite a bit of backstory for Flashpoint Batman, and some really interesting character dynamics are established, such as Martha Wayne being the Joker, and Batman’s initial investigation to locate her, but this never pays off and is left hanging. It’s so interesting to the point that I’d happily watch another animated DC film based on this one plot thread, so it’s a real shame to see it dropped so clumsily.
That said, it’s the characters here that really make this worth a watch. Seeing Batman murder, Superman being so weak that he can’t walk, and Aquaman and Wonder Woman attempting to kill each other, is so captivating for fans of DC Comics that it really is hard to not recommend it if you’re invested in these characters. Even the brief appearances of more niche characters such as Sandman and Mera are great to see, and the fan service in this is second-to-none. As previously mentioned, the amount of spin-off films that could be produced based on the groundwork of this film is mind-boggling, although this is unfortunately looking very unlikely.
Perhaps the biggest complaint one can have for the film is its accessibility: if you aren’t clued up on your DC Comics lore, this is going to be a very painful watch. Certain characters’ powers and backstories are glossed over, and without prior knowledge of said characters, it’s very easy to get left behind. This is also one of the biggest complaints we had for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and it appears to be a running trend with DC films both live action and animated. If you aren’t put off by the film’s opening sequence, where the Flash comes up against a deluge of his synonymous foes (none of which are likely to be known by your average viewer), the slew of DC Comics lore will certainly be enough for you to turn off. If you’re a fan of the comics and appreciate the backstory and lore of these characters, this won’t be a problem at all, but if you’re more of a Marvel person, be prepared to do some research if you want the fullest experience.
To judge Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, there’s two perspectives you can take. From the viewpoint of your average viewer, not necessarily clued-up on DC Comics lore, this could definitely be a jarring and inaccessible watch, but the allure of pop-culture staples duking it out may be enough to keep you on board for what is a reasonably short feature anyway. For fans of the comics, this really is a treat, with some interesting character arcs and good writing, definitely ranking in the upper echelons of DC animated films. Aside from the iffy animation style and a few glaring plot holes, if you like your comics, you’ll more than likely have an enjoyable time with this one.