When it comes to recommendations for all things reading, I tend to turn to fellow Thumber, Dave1, who has never really steered me wrong in all the years that I have known him. Last year, Dave recommended a story by DC Comics called Flashpoint, so I bought -and devoured- the hard-backed graphic novel. Recently, Warner Bros. And DC Comics released an animated film based on that same story, called Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and they were kind enough to send us a copy of the Blu-ray to review. Needless to say, I felt that this film was good enough to make the gift list for my fellow Thumber’s birthday.
The Flashpoint Paradox is a film about DC’s “fastest man alive”, the Flash. For those who have never picked up a comic book featuring the “scarlet speedster”, the Flash is a man named Barry Allen, whose single mother (Nora) was murdered on her birthday when he was a child. Eventually, he became a police forensic scientist (most likely because of the murder of his mother) who was the victim of a random accident – a shelf full of chemicals was struck by a lightning bolt, resulting in Barry attaining the ability to access a realm known as the Speed Force, which gives the user the ability to move at incalculable speeds. Barry is so gifted in his ability to use the Speed Force, that he can even break the time barrier.
The movie begins with a quick back story about Barry Allen (voiced by Justin Chambers) when he was a boy, and then skips forward to the present where Barry and his wife Iris are at a local cemetery, leaving flowers on Nora Allen’s grave (to celebrate her birthday). In this quiet scene we learn about Barry’s remorse at not being home in time to stop his mom from being murdered all those years ago. Iris reminds Barry of his mother’s wisdom, citing how Nora told him about how some things are beyond our control to change. Their discussion is interrupted by an alarm at a museum in the city dedicated to the Flash. Barry mentions that this current event is something that he can change. He kisses his wife and takes off to stop whoever has tripped the alarm, donning his suit along the way. Upon arriving at the museum, he is confronted by a small contingent of super-villains, led by one of his deadliest foes: Professor Zoom (the Reverse-Flash, played by C. Thomas Howell). Things take a turn for the odd after this encounter, and the Flash finds himself in a world that is very much like his own – but so, so different. Bereft of his powers, Flash needs to figure out how to get them back and return to his home before time runs out – which is a prospect made exceedingly difficult by the fact that the heroes and villains that he is used to are not necessarily the same as they are back in his world.
He just took the red eye from…never mind.
I was completely captivated by the graphic novel; and while the film is not an exact translation of the book, it does a really great job of capturing the essence of the story. In some ways, it is even better than the original. DC Comics has a series called Elseworlds, which is composed of stories that occur outside of canon. What makes The Flashpoint Paradox so interesting is that it could very well be considered canon, as the Flash’s character remains the same (with the exception of his experiences). Whether you are a seasoned comic book aficionado, or a complete neophyte, the movie is actually written well enough to accommodate both levels of experience. Those who are familiar with DC’s cast and stories will enjoy seeing some of their favourite characters in different roles; whereas those who do not know Clark from Bruce will be given enough information to enjoy the 80-minute film as a standalone experience.
The movie is filled with an all-star cast comprised of returning voice actors as well as people that I would not have expected. Returning to the fray are Kevin Conroy (Batman), Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern) and Vanessa Marshall (Wonder Woman). New to the Justice League cast (from what I can tell) are Kevin McKidd (I am not going to spoil it by telling you who he plays), Sam Daly (as Superman in a way that you won’t expect) and Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg. Given the focus on the Flash, though, each of these folks gets a relatively small part. In the grand scheme of things, that seems fair (it is a film about the Flash, after all); however, my inner nerd would have really appreciated a little more from each character, especially considering that the Flash can’t actually find the solution without the help of the other superheroes.
Is Batman trying to kiss Barry? Is he showing him how to whistle? Watch and find out!
Finally, it has to be said that even though this is a comic book movie, it is a dark one (like, PG-13 dark). There is a lot of violence – especially when Barry finds himself in the alternate world. There is a tendency for parents to let animated superhero movies slide because they are “just cartoons”; but there are dismemberments, decapitations, suggestive sexual content and shots through the head (and that’s not even all of it) – so consider yourself warned2!
Even though this presentation is a 1080p AVC-encoded video, it is not perfect. Flaws, like occasional pixelation and some banding, are definitely apparent while watching the film. Given how awesome WB’s encoding has been for other movies, I am not sure why these artifacts exist in this treatment. If you compare this film to other animated feature films, you’ll find that the image is not as sharp; nor is it as smooth. Were it not for a really rich colour palette and some really nice, deep blacks, I would say that this was DVD-quality – but it’s a little bit better, and it won’t really dull your enjoyment that much (unless you’re really picky). The sound more than makes up for this thanks to a really great 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master. Lows are booming and there is enough use of directionality in the soundfield to make the battles seem huge and the quiet moments full of subtle ambiance. Conversations are well-presented, regardless of other on-screen carnage. The visual and audio are wrapped in a bow that is a decent score.
Doctor Batman’s sure-fire headache treatment will probably get rid of your headache – and your life. 100% Effective!
The Extras that accompany the film are surprisingly plentiful. On top of audio commentary from Jim Krieg (Screenwriter), Jay Oliva (DDirector), James Tucker (Producer) and Geoff Johns (comic writer of the original), there are some great featurettes and bonuses for the geeks! First of all, A Flash in Time: Time Travel is a featurette about the history of time travel told in stories over the years, starting from ancient Greece and wrapping up in the DC Universe (this HD feature is just over 20 minutes long). My Favourite Villain! The Flash Bad Guys is a 19-minute HD featurette about The Rogues (villains of The Flash comics): from their origins to their portrayals, this is a great documentary for those who really want to dig into the details. There is also a preview for the next DCU animated movie (Justice League: War), four DCU animated TV series episodes and an excerpt of Flashpoint #1 (8 pages – HD). All in all, some great features.
So, comic book fan or not, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a great film that has been given a decent blu-ray treatment. The story closely follows the book, and does a decent job of capturing the essence of the story. A fairly good haul awaits the intrepid explorer in the Extras section. This is definitely not my favourite DCU Animated film; but it is a great entry in an ever-expanding library of really compelling tales.