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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox



Flash! Ah-ha! Savior of the Universe!

To be fair, the Flash (Barry Allen, voiced by Justin Chambers) is also the destroyer of the universe. Or rather, the "old" DC Universe. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (a mouthful of a title) adapts the 2011 mega-event "Flashpoint" written by Geoff Johns, in which the DC Universe is completely remade and obliterated to make room for the current rebooted "New 52" DC Universe. Story wise, it involves the Flash using his superspeed to time travel and prevent the rather ghastly murder of his mother in her own home, unwittingly upending the universe in strange, significant ways:

The rocket that carried baby Kal-El to Earth landed not in Smallville but in Metropolis, causing a catastrophe that killed thousands and ended with the infant Kryptonian held in captivity for 30 years by the US Government. In Gotham City, the Waynes are mugged by a gunman, but it is 10 year old Bruce Wayne who dies in Crime Alley, leaving behind his grieving father Thomas Wayne. Meanwhile, a peace accord between Diana, Queen of the Amazons and Arthur, King of Atlantis leads to a sexual tryst discovered by Arthur's wife Mera. Which leads to Mera trying to murder Diana, Diana killing her instead in self defense, igniting war between Atlantis and Themyscria that engulfs Europe. Also, Barry Allen discovers he no longer has superspeed and that all of this is his fault. All because he used his powers to save his mommy.

Allen recruits the ultra violent Batman of Gotham City to help him regain his powers (in hilarious fashion: strap Allen and a bunch of chemicals to a lightning rod so he can get struck by lightning). Expecting to find his friend Bruce Wayne in the Batcave, Allen instead finds the Batman is now Thomas Wayne (ably voiced by Kevin McKidd), an alcoholic living like the Unabomber in the caverns beneath the demolished Wayne Manor. Still, they form an uneasy alliance with each other, and with the government superheroes lead by Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan), who works for President Barack Obama (not voiced by Barack Obama)! Aquaman (Cary Elwes) and Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) are about to plunge the world to its imminent end with their war. Meanwhile, Allen discovers the real culprit behind this bizarre DC Universe is his arch enemy Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash (voiced with menace by C. Thomas Howell).

The Flashpoint Paradox is a grim exercise in "what if?" alternate reality storytelling. It's not for young viewers: sex and adultery are key plot points, Batman and the rest of the superheroes swear like sailors, and boy, are these superheroes bloodthirsty. By the end, millions of people are dead, including most of the superheroes, who brutally use their powers to kill each other in cold blood. It's exciting to see such unapologetic bloodletting to a degree, but it also makes for depressing viewing. No one is actually "heroic", no one learns anything of value. The kicker of course is the Flash manages to run at superspeed back in time to reverse all of this so that none of it ever happened, but to do so means he lets his mother get murdered in her kitchen. So yeah. It's also strange that, like in the comics, The Flashpoint Paradox is designed to transition from the previous DC Animated Universe to an animated New 52 Universe, but the previous DC Animated films mostly did not share continuity. Does this mean all future DC Animated films will solely be based on the New 52 comics? That seems unnecessary. Ultimately, so does The Flashpoint Paradox.