If there’s one thing that comics book are great at doing, it’s pushing the reset button. Usually such events happen across a multiple amount of series, tie-ins and lunchboxes with ALL OF CREATION AT STAKE! DC pushed the restart button back in 2011 with The Flashpoint Paradox.
That series saw a new age for the company, as heroes were retooled and reimagined to be more contemporary and quite possibly “hip” for those damn new demographics. So how does an animated version of that story hold up in comparison? Actually, it runs one hell of a race to that quality finish line.
Even though this is the kind of movie which stars more than one hero in spandex, Flashpoint Paradox is still a Flash story. Everyone else is just along for the ride. It’s also the kind of film that shows why we need more heroes like the Flash, as the scarlet speedster is a bridge between the relentless optimism of Superman and the darker aspects of crime-fighting that the Batman symbolises. Once again, the animation here is top notch, with a style similar in tone to that of the cancelled too soon Young Justice show.
Reality has been splintered, the timeline altered and our world has taken a beaten in recent years thanks to events unfolding differently. Imagine if Superman had landed somewhere else, or Bruce Wayne had died that night in the alleyway instead of his parents. That’s the situation that the Flash finds himself in, as he discovers that he no longer has his powers and is just plain old Barry Allen.
Something has changed the timeline drastically, and Allen is the only man with memories of the original continuity. But not for long, as those thoughts are slwoly being replaced with new ones. It’s up to Allen to get to the bottom of this mystery, before Aquaman and Wonder Woman tear the planet apart in their never-ending war that has already claimed the lives of millions across the globe.
For the most part, when it comes to style, Flashpoint Paradox is pretty slick. It has some CGI moments that look just plain horrible, and seeing a 2D Flash rendered in 3D just looks off. But everything else is standard DC animation fair. Characters look spot-on, the design matches the comic books wonderfully and as usual, the voice-acting is top notch. But for an animated film, it’s also pretty hardcore.
Don’t let the cover fool you, this is one mature flick for the more grown-up fans. Blood is spilled, heads roll and ordinary citizens are exploded more frequently than innocent bystanders in a Michael Bay film. And when it comes to story, Flashpoint Paradox also trims off a lot of the fat. to try and get the entire Flashpoint Paradox into one 90 minute experience would be impossible, but giving glimpses at how the rest of the world was changed in the aftermath of the mysterious event that put the timeline out of synch, is actually an effective tool.
A change here or there, a death altered and a scene or two cut actually makes the comic book better, although the omission of one scene in particular in the final act, is kind of a letdown. It’s refreshing though to see a character taking charge and already being established in the opening act, instead of having to sit through an origin sequence yet again. Flash is the heart and soul of the film, and just enough exposition is given to flesh him out for people unfamiliar with him. And by fine-tuning him and his mythology to provide just enough information, it’s an effective method of keeping the story quick-paced and flowing.
And it’s even more refreshing to see the Flash being more than just comic relief for once. This is a Flash who doesn’t just act fast, he thinks fast as well, using his powers more imaginatively. And it’s not just the Flash who steals the show. Bruce Wayne may not be Batman in this new timeline, but his alternative is just as brutal, and far more lethal than he’ll ever be. It’s a soft-spoken performance from Kevin McKidd as this darker knight of Gotham. Ron Perlman gets a small moment as he once again reprises his role of Deathstroke, in a scene that showcases some fantastic action sequences.
And that’s a major highlight here. There are plenty of battles present, but each one has their own unique flair, from Batman fighting on the top of a Gotham building with a psychopathic Yo-Yo, through to an Aquaman that resembles Brock Lesnar hopped up on cheat codes slugging it out with Wonder Woman in the ruins of London.
There’s some damn fine choreography on show here, demonstrating the advantages that animation will always have over the limitations of live action films. It;s just a shame that we don’t get to see more of the real big bad villain who plays a hand in the film, with certain aspects of his character being muted.
Flashpoint Paradox is damn fine film from the DC stable and manages to do something which few of the others could: Surpass the source material. It’s gritty, cuts content when it needs to, and somehow remains an accessible film that newcomers can also appreciate. And it’s also a clear indicator of how to right by the Flash, one of the more under-appreciated characters in comics today.