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Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: July 30th, 2013

Synopsis: When time travel allows a past wrong to be righted for Flash and his family, the event’s temporal ripples prove disastrous, creating a fractured, alternate reality where the Justice League never formed, and even Superman is nowhere to be found. Amidst a new world being ravaged by a fierce war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans, Flash must team with a grittier, more violent Batman and government agent Cyborg to restore the continuity of Flash’s original timeline. Screenwriter Jim Krieg delivers an action-packed vision of the landmark DC Entertainment comic book miniseries "Flashpoint," by Geoff Johns & Andy Kubert.

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Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Feature Review
By James Harvey

It's safe to say this is one film that fans will either love to pieces or hate with a passion. I can't see there being an in-between, which oddly seems appropriate for this animated flick. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is such a divisive movie. On one hand, it wants to tell an intimate story about The Flash, the Barry Allen incarnation, and his relationship with his mother. On the other hand, it also wants to go full-out and present this incredibly epic scale. And, throughout the movie, it goes back and forth. We get these nice little small moments with Barry realizing struggling to right himself and find his place in the world, and then we get moments where heroes are flat-out murdered (with nothing left to the imagination). It's an odd fine line the movie walks, but, somehow, it works. However, I expect this movie to ultimately be very divisive among the fanbase. So, let's dig into it.

When time travel allows a past wrong to be righted for Flash and his family, the event’s temporal ripples prove disastrous, creating a fractured, alternate reality where the Justice League never formed, and even Superman is nowhere to be found. Amidst a new world being ravaged by a fierce war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans, Flash must team with a grittier, more violent Batman and government agent Cyborg to restore the continuity of Flash’s original timeline.

While some changes have been made from the original comic-book mini-series "Flashpoint," which served as the inspiration for this new animated movie, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox stays true to the spirit of the material. We get dialogue lifted right from the comic, for example, and moments on screen that are beat-for-beat ripped right from the pages of both the main "Flashpoint" comic and its many tie-ins. While a few things are shuffled around and changed (I'm kinda glad Element Woman was shuffled off), it's safe to say this is a great adaptation of the landmark (and controversial) DC Comics mini-series (and yes, this film will lead directly into the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie title...stick around for an after-credit stinger). Fans of the comic will definitely enjoy this animated adaptation, no question.

Before I go any further, I need to make note of the level of violence in this movie. The level, at times, is pretty staggering for the PG-13 animated movie. There's plenty of blood and gaping wounds, with nothing left to the imagination. Perhaps it is just seeing everything animated, but the level of violence here seems above the "Flashpoint" comic book source material. How this movie got a PG-13 rating is beyond me. There's one shot near the end of the movie that would've likely snagged any live-action film an R-rating. There's also light language, but nothing overly offensive. This movie is definitely not for little ones, and wears it's rating clearly on its sleeve.

No question about it, this is a pretty 'grim and gritty' movie. It's almost unrelenting in it's darkness, and appropriately so. The world Flash founds himself in is pretty damning. And, honestly, this all reminds me of how bloody and disgustingly violent a good chunk of the DC Comics titles have become nowadays, where gratuitous violence is commonplace, used for shock value. And there is plenty of shock value to be found here. More than a couple times I found my jaw on the ground. But where this movie trumps the source material is the fact that this movie has heart. The script, written by Green Lantern: The Animated Series' Jim Kreig infuses the story with an emotional core that keeps it from slipping. But Kreig does test that towards the end of the movie where's there's one act of violence that just crosses the line (you'll know it when you see it). Things get so bleak that, in those final minutes, you start to really root for The Flash to succeed, to bring this brutal world to an end. Though, to be honest, the final moments really hit nicely thanks in part to the excessive bleakness.

And this film show - without a doubt - that Flash can shoulder a film. While not a deep study by any means, we do get some nice insight into the character himself. And by no means is that an easy task. Barry Allen is not exactly the most interesting character in the DC Comics line-up. He's pretty vanilla actually, and doesn't really hold a candle to Wally West (in my opinion). But this film actually gives the character an emotional core that's not only relate-able - a drive to solve problems and fix mistakes - but also fascinating as we get to explore those consequences. This is probably the most interesting Allen has been as a character in a long time, and the story is intriguing enough that you want to follow him throughout this film. And that it pretty miraculous since, at times, the violence can make this film difficult to watch. It is the most violent DC Universe Animated Original Movie to date, by far. By very, very far.

Violence aside, probably the biggest issue with the movie is that we don't get enough time with the main villain, which I suppose is more the fault or the story's original comic book structure than anything. I just find that when the main villain makes that big final revelation, there's not enough build-up to it to make it hit as hard as it should, though Krieg does try to plant a hint or two early in the movie to give the revelation some ground to stand on. Even the war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, which was done more to put the changed world into context, seems to be get more of the focus ... which I actually didn't mind. I found the war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman to be very interesting, and the crazed, grizzled Batman to be entertaining.

And it seems like Krieg realized what really worked when reviewing all of the "Flashpoint" comic book material. Comparing this movie to the original comic material, there are some noticeable changes from the source material which actually work so much better. I also really love how this film opens, with this great moment between a young Barry and his mom (an expanded version of brief flashback sequences from the comic). After that, we get a fun scene with Flash and the Justice League taking on some of the Flash's foes, which is a smart move script-wise to provide us with a counter-balance to what happens to these characters in the changed timeline. It's pure old-fashioned heroics...before everything is brutally turned on its head. I can't say I entirely agree with the level of violence here, which seems ratcheted up considerably from the source material, but it's not a major distraction from the overall core story. Also, Aquaman's world-ending weapon is a brilliant touch by Krieg.

The cast and crew behind this film and solid and, as a result, we get some pretty solid work in return. Jay Oliva really continues to up his game, directing wise. There's been a steady stream of noticeable improvement as he finds more confidence to get a little more wilder with his style. His staging, especially in the climax, is cinematic and quite ambitious. Krieg's script work, as I mentioned throughout the review, continues to be top-notch stuff. He had some difficult material to work with here but, for the most part, he hit the right notes. The animation quality was excellent for the most part, though there were a few moments where the frame rate seemed to dropped, resulting in some jumpy movements. There's even some CG character animation done which doesn't stick out too much save for one sequence at the end of the movie. The character design by Phil Bourassa was definitely a bit more exaggerated than usual. It's safe to say that Bourassa had a bit more free reign in the character work, which resulted in some pretty interesting design work. Some characters did look a bit off (Superman and Aquaman were ridiculously jacked, for example), but some were knock-on perfect (The Flash, Batman). A successful mix of character designs, though not perfect across the board. The score by Frederick Weidmann was excellent and perfectly suited the material. He accents every scene perfectly, and shows amazing versatility with the flashback sequence midway through the movie. He just knocks it out of the park with ease.

To briefly comment on the cast, there's not a blip in the casting. A mix of veterans and newbies to the assorted roles, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox brings a nicely balanced cast to the mix. The standouts for me were, unsurprisingly, the majority of the main cast. Cary Elwes as Aquaman, Kevin McKidd as Batman, Vanessa Marshall as Wonder Woman, Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg, Justin Chambers as Flash, and C. Thomas Howell as Thawne all knocked it out of the park. Everyone handled their roles well, nary a misstep to be found, but I found these actors really jumped out for me. Elwes and Marshall deserve a little extra kudos for handling their complicated roles with effortless ease.

So, to wrap it up, I would mark off Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox as Recommended viewing. While I do have misgivings about the violence level, and the story isn't completely sound (but that's more of an issue with the faulty source material) , it's still an exciting alternate universe yarn. I do have an itch for these types of movies, and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox certainly provides the scratch. Plus it's fun to not only see the spotlight fall on The Flash for one of these animated movies, but to see him carry the movie with ease. Yes, there's a lot going on in this movie, but the core story with The Flash is pretty engaging and helps keep everything tied together. This will be a divisive movie for fans, especially after what it appears to set up for future installments of the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line (or at least the next one directly), but I think it will find a pretty substantial fanbase. There's plenty to like here, there is, and it deserves a fair spin.

Click here for the Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Blu-ray review!

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