• Michael T. Christensen

DC’S Animated “The Flashpoint Paradox” is a Very Faithful Adaptation of a Very Bad Story

This was originally posted on my blog on December 8, 2013. If you're interested in these long-form reviews, let me know!

I recently watched DC’s latest animated movie: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (adapted from the DC comic by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert).

A bit of background: The Flash is a guy who runs really fast. He’s a member of the Justice League. In most modern portrayals, he’s the funny guy on the team. DC has historically made very good animated movies and TV shows.

Got it? Good. Because those are all the things you should have to know going into a movie like this. This film, however, also assumes you’ve been reading comics for 30+ years, including probably the original Flashpoint comic. This does not feel like something an average person can pick up and enjoy, because (A) most of them won’t have any idea what’s going on, and (B) it’s basically terrible.

Lots of spoilers follow.

The movie opens with a scene of the Flash (Barry Allen) as a young boy with his mother. They’re stuck on the side of the road, and nobody stops for them. Barry’s angry, but his mother tells him a prayer she learned from her mother: “Accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.”

This is basically a version of the Serenity Prayer (most famously adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs), but re-worked to have more of a “with great power comes great responsibility” vibe – which is to say, they took God out of the prayer entirely and made it a piece of advice. But again, this is interesting to me, because it’s something I haven’t seen before, and it’s an interesting take on the idea of the superhero. Ideally, a hero will have to make tough calls, and a prayer like this would be a great source of comfort – or inspiration – for someone going forward. It’s a mantra that actually makes sense, and sets up the theme of this story very explicitly.

Of course, Barry says he doesn’t understand, and she says, “You will one day.” Look, I don’t have kids, but that seems like lazy parenting to me. Just explain to your kid the meaning of the big life advice you just dropped on him; otherwise, he might misinterpret it years down the road and make some bad choices. I mean, hypothetically.

We then see young Barry run home (young Barry loves running, hint hint), where he discovers that there has been a home invasion, and his mom is dead. On her birthday.

Cut to the funeral (where we overhear the priest say, “We may never know what happened,” which seems like sort of a dark thing to pepper into a eulogy, padre…), and then we jump ahead to Barry as an adult, leaving her flowers at her grave, and talking about how he “should have been there… If I just ran a little faster, I’d have been there…”

His wife Iris is there, and tells him he couldn’t have done anything to help her as a child, and brings up “his mother’s saying” about accepting the things you can’t change. (Do you see where we’re going with this yet?Barry gets an alert that there’s been a break-in at the Flash Museum, and says, “This is something I can change.” Buckle up, folks, because there’s a lot of dialogue like that in this movie.

He runs into action (changing into the costume he keeps stored in his ring, which is a thing the Flash does), and fights his Rogues: The Top, Mirror Master, Heatwave, Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang. This is actually a fairly well-animated sequence, at least at first – it’s got some good kinetic energy to it, which is perfect for a Flash fight. They subdue the Flash (by fusing him to a wall with a putty he “can’t escape” from), and the team's master-mind shows up: Professor Zoom (a dude from the future with all of Flash’s powers).

Zoom tells Flash he’s going to blow up the Museum and the surrounding 10-block radius, and of course, this is news to the other villains. Zoom reveals he planted bombs on their belts as he entered, and if they try to remove them, they’ll detonate early. Flash manages to trap Zoom there as well by using that same putty, but Zoom still won’t disarm the bombs – he’s happy to die if it means Flash dies, too.

And then the Justice League arrives.

This is something that bugs me through the whole movie, but the proportions on most of these designs are just awful. Flash’s body-type is wildly different every time he’s shown out of costume, but Superman’s is by far the worst. Look at that tiny head!

Anyway, the League helps defuse the bombs by taking each villain away from the scene and disabling the bombs separately. And again, this is a minor note, but Superman could clearly take care of this entire problem in 30 seconds. But whatever, it’s a Flash movie, so they split up and take care of business, each in their own way (Batman and Cyborg use hacking, Wonder Woman and Superman use their strength / invulnerability, and Aquaman throws the Top into the bay and summons “a million microbes to eat the bomb’s wiring” because Aquaman is just the worst).

Meanwhile, the Flash vibrates his hand and throws… energy? At the bomb on Zoom? Which disarms it? Because that’s apparently a thing?

Fuck you, science.

Superman perp-walks Zoom out, and Zoom tells Flash, “No matter how fast you run, you can’t save everyone. Not the ones that matter to you.” Batman tells Flash Zoom’s a “classic sociopath; they have a knack for knowing just what gets under your skin” (if anyone would know, it’d be him), but this comment still really shakes Flash. He says it’s “nothing he can’t run off,” and then he literally just starts running really really fast.

The next thing we see, Barry wakes up at his desk at the police station (he’s a forensic scientist, for however little that matters in this story), and the first thing he sees is a headline on his computer: “World Faces Armageddon.” You’d think this would get a bigger moment, but Barry just seems puzzled more than anything else.

His (buddy? partner?) mentions the Elongated Kid murder, and Barry is confused (because we all know it’s supposed to be Elongated Man; I mean obviously, right? That beloved character from his many [one] animated appearances?). They then see on the news that “Citizen Cold” (not a Captain anymore) fighting Captain Boomerang outside the Cold Museum. Barry refers to them as “the Rogues, Flash’s worst enemies,” but his buddy-partner looks at him like he has no idea who the Flash is.

He runs out to deal with the problem, but two things happen. One, he realizes his ring is missing. Two, he trips on the steps and lands in front of his mother, who is very much alive, and here to meet him for her birthday dinner.

Obviously, this is where Barry realizes something strange is going on. There’s another mention of “the war,” but Barry blows right past it (again, I’d ask a follow-up question here, but maybe that’s just me). Barry is acting weird, and Barry’s mom casually mentions that she knows he’s gay and loves him no matter what (and it’s about as awkwardly dropped into the dialogue as it was just now in this review), but he says he’s not, he’s actually the Flash. Again, this means nothing to her. He says Flash is a superhero, and she says, “You mean like Batman?”

Cut to Batman, who is shooting guns at an alternate version of Harley Quinn, here a villain named “Yo-Yo.” Yes, that’s right, in this reality, the Batman uses guns! He’s also clearly older, and no longer played by Kevin Conroy as he was in the first scene. It seems the Joker has kidnapped Judge Dent, and Batman grills Yo-Yo to tell him where he’s been taken, even threatening to torture her with a pair of pliers if she won’t talk. She says that it’s no use, that Dent is probably already dead. So he throws her off a building.

She did say “probably,” but I guess he figured that was good enough, and decided to throw in the towel on that rescue. Fortunately she is rescued by Cyborg, who calls out Batman on throwing her off the building. We find out Cyborg is the National Security Advisor to the President, and is trying to get a group of heroes together to stop the war.

He holo-skypes them in, and it’s a collection of “Who the heck is that supposed to be?” as we are introduced to the Enchantress, Pied Piper, Citizen Cold, Shade, Sandman, and the Shazam Kids (don’t worry, almost none of them will be important later). Cyborg then neatly lays out the war that’s going on between Atlantis (Aquaman’s kingdom) and Themyscira (Wonder Woman’s home), with the world caught in the middle. He describes how Atlantis flooded Western Europe and the Amazons took over the United Kingdom, but seriously, why does Batman need this briefing? Cyborg flat-out says that Batman knows this stuff, so why stop and show him all of these news clips when he lives in this world and presumably sees the news every day? Why not save this scene for the character who doesn’t actually live in this world and doesn’t know any of this, and maybe whose name is in the title of the film?

They mention that Captain Atom already tried to take care of the war on his own, and vanished behind enemy lines (this will be important later on). Batman refuses to join their war, saying that the “war’s over,” and “everybody lost.” That’s the can-do attitude I want from my superheroes, sure enough.

Meanwhile, Barry comes to Iris’ work, and find’s she’s got a different husband, and a daughter. There’s a fun moment where the daughter is telling Iris about her day, and cheerly mentions the “invasion drill” they had at school, which is a neat way to show how severe the threat of war has become, and its effect on civilians. Barry drives over to Gotham, and finds Wayne Manor boarded up. He breaks in and enters the Batcave, only to find it full of alcohol bottles and guns, two things we know Batman would never use.

Batman comes in and beats the hell out of Barry, who realizes this is Thomas Wayne. Apparently Bruce was the one who was killed in the alley, driving Thomas Wayne to basically become the Punisher in a cape.

Cut to Colonel Steve Trevor racing through the ruins of London, shooting at Amazons. Queen Diana (Wonder Woman) interrogates him, and he reveals he’s here to retrieve Lois Lane, a journalist who has been imbedded among the Amazons gathering intel for Cyborg. The Amazons realize their intel was correct, that Cyborg is gathering superhumans to fight them (which seems like sort of a logic leap, but they’re right, so… whatever), and then Wonder Woman executes Steve.

Again, I question who exactly the target audience is for this film.

Batman breaks Barry’s fingers to try to get the truth from him, and then Barry’s ring rolls out of his pocket. Turns out he had it already, the whole time! He opens the ring to show Batman his uniform and prove he’s telling the truth (which actually wouldn’t prove anything at all, other than that he had a funny costume he’d somehow stuffed into a ring), but Professor Zoom’s costume comes out instead! Barry explains that both he and Zoom are able to tap into the “Speed Force,” which allows them both to bypass the laws of physics and travel at super-speed, and also Zoom used it to travel back in time. They realize that Professor Zoom must be behind all of this (Barry’s mom being alive, Thomas Wayne as Batman, the War), and that the suit is his calling card, so Flash would know he was the one responsible.

Cut to a battleship, where Deathstroke and Lex Luther are using Science to try to find Atlantis’ Doomsday Weapon, when suddenly they’re ambushed by Atlantians! And there’s another fight, and a whole lot of soldiers and supervillains die on-screen. There’s a bunch of cameos of villains and Aquaman supporting cast members, but none of it matters, because the Atlantians win, the surface dwellers die, and Aquaman stabs Lex Luther with a trident.

At Wayne Manor, Barry needs to re-create the accident that originally gave him his superpowers, so Batman straps him into an electric chair rigged up with chemicals, and attaches the whole thing to a weather vane.

It goes poorly.

Meanwhile, the President shuts down Cyborg’s mission (“Without Batman, you have no team”), and sends in the military (because that clearly went so well for Lex’s team). Then, somewhat out of nowhere, we see a montage of how everything went wrong in this universe: Superman’s rocket missed the Kents' farm, and instead hit Metropolis and went off like a bomb.

The Atlantian army and the Amazon army met on Themyscira, and Wonder Woman and Aquaman had sex.

Aquaman’s wife Mera found out and attacked Wonder Woman, so Wonder Woman killed Mera (taking her crown as a trophy, and attaching it to her own like a Lego piece), which triggered the war.

Lastly, we see Thomas Wayne beating the hell out of a mugger as his wife cradles the body of 8-year-old Bruce Wayne.

Then her sobbing turns to laughter, and we realize she is the Joker.

This movie is available at your local Target, where it can be found on the same shelf as several Pokémon and Tinker Bell DVDs.

Anyway, Barry wakes up in searing pain, covered in bandages, and seems to remember things from this timeline now, which means the things we just saw were… his memories? Of things there’s no way he could have seen or experienced? Or does he just remember seeing the war on the news now? Whatever, doesn’t matter – all he knows is that his memories are being overwritten, and soon he’ll forget the life he left behind. It’s not at all clear how he knows this, but whatever.

Elsewhere, Aquaman is talking to his advisors, one of whom is pleading with him not to use his new doomsday weapon, saying it’s too powerful, and will certainly destroy the entire world, not just the surface. Aquaman says they’ll attack with force, rather than the weapon. The advisor then apparently yells at the weapon, blaming it for the upcoming attack: “Because of you, I’ll be responsible for the deaths of millions.” We cut inside, and see that the weapon’s power source is Captain Atom, trapped and being used against his will!

Barry convinces Batman that they have to try the experiment again, with no real explanation of what they’re doing differently – they’re just trying it again. Because that’s the scientific method, right? Trying the same experiment over and over hoping for different results? Oh, no, wait, that’s the definition of insanity. I always get those mixed up.

But sure enough, it does work, and his burns heal and he gets super-speed. Once again, science has taken a vacation today.

Cut to Lois Lane in the bombed-out ruins of London, where the Amazons are hunting her, but a mysterious yellow blur saves her. Then a bunch of random heroes who I promise no non-comic reader has ever heard of show up, and again, who is this movie for? I mean, Etrigan the Demon had made a few appearances on a couple of Batman cartoons, so maybe some non-fans out there might recognize him; but I’ve seen every episode of Justice League, Young Justice, and Teen Titans, and if I wasn’t also a comic book reader, I’d have no idea what the hell a “Grifter” was.

Barry is all healed up, so he takes the Professor Zoom suit, and there’s a neat moment where he sighs in resignation. And it seemed to me like he was going to have to resign himself to wearing his enemy’s suit for the rest of the film, which would be pretty interesting…

... but then he just vibrates really fast and “makes some last-minute alterations,” and he’s wearing the standard red-and-yellow version instead. Okay, then. That works, too.

aFlash starts running, and tries to break the “time barrier,” but he can’t run fast enough to time-travel. So instead he just sits in the middle of the desert and cries.

Our hero.

Here we are introduced to Hal Jordan (Green Lantern in our world), who is being brought into a special army facility. He meets a General, but the General doesn’t give his name because, “I’m afraid we don’t have time for introductions, Captain Jordan.” (It takes maybe three seconds max for most human beings to introduce themselves, but this is clearly just a dumb, on-the-nose way to establish how “no-nonsense” the General is, and how he doesn’t like Hal’s casual style.) The General shows Hal an old spaceship, and when Hal is surprised to see it, the General smiles and says, “I was hoping this would shut you up.” So far, Hal has said exactly 3 things to the General, none of them especially impertinent (or clever, for that matter).

Also of note, this general is played by Danny Huston, who delivered almost the exact same line when talking to Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” And it’s in here for the same reason, because instead of making the “funny character” actually funny, or letting the audience decide for themselves that this character is funny, we have to be told, “Look at this funny, sarcastic guy! He may be military, but he’s still funny and sarcastic! You can tell he’s funny and sarcastic because the Man won’t take any of his guff!” Ugh, this movie.

Anyway, this is the old Green Lantern’s spaceship, but apparently the ring never found a successor on Earth – presumably because everyone on this Earth is an asshole who can’t be trusted with unlimited power – so the government just took the ship and the alien body and dropped them into the Area 51 set from Independence Day. Hal knows this is probably a suicide mission, but says: “General Lane, all my life I’ve felt like something really special was waiting for me, something nobody else on Earth could do. I think I just found it, so the last thing I am is afraid.” A couple things:

1) I actually really like this moment, because It shows us that, yes, Hal is still a cocky hotshot, but he’s got that part of his life that’s missing because the ring never found him and made him a Green Lantern, and he can really feel that absence.

2) How did he know General Lane’s name if there was “no time for introductions” less than two minutes ago? I know army personnel usually wear name tags, but seriously, did nobody read this back to see if it made any sense?

Back at Wayne Manor, the Flash is lamenting that he’s too slow to time-travel, and says, “Another speedster must be co-opting the Speed Force.” Apparently, much like the wifi at my apartment, if too many people use the Speed Force at once then nobody’s going to be doing anything that requires serious speed. And since there are no other speedsters in this world, it has to be Zoom locking him out. So they start looking for Superman, who also doesn’t seem to exist in this reality. Barry says he “saw a rocket hit a city,” so yes, those flashes are things he definitely saw? Somehow? But he knows that the rocket was Superman's pod crashing to Earth, so that's a good place to start.

They go to the crater in Metropolis, because 30 years later they still haven’t built anything there, like, say, a park or a memorial to the dead. Because this is a world where, if a rocket crashes in a city and kills a bunch of people, they just move the rocket out of sight and go about their lives. It also apparently hasn’t filled in with water, like a crater that size would after, you know, a year or two. In this scene, Flash literally calls this world out on having any hope (he’s referring to the absence of Superman, but I think it applies to everything we’ve seen so far). Cyborg shows up, and Batman agrees to lead Cyborg’s team of superheroes against Atlantis and the Amazons. They use Cyborg’s resources to track down where Baby Superman was taken.

They find an old military base underground, and inside they find the rocket, as well as a dog skeleton in a jar (which was probably Krypto the Superdog, because nobody in anybody’s supporting cast is allowed to be happy in this movie), as well as several grotesque, malformed bodies floating in jars (attempted clones, maybe? It’s not clear). In a room lit with red sun radiation, they find an emaciated, malnourished Kal-El.

This is actually a really jarring and effective image. Unlike the Elongated Man, or 2013 Captain Marvel/Shazam, Superman is actually someone that we all have a very clear mental image of, so when we see him as a gaunt, frightened husk of a man, it really does trigger an emotional response. Flash introduces himself as Kal-El’s friend, and he’s instantly on their side, because he’s never had a friend before. This whole situation leads to a debate between Cyborg and Batman as to whether humans are good or evil.

They get outside and Superman sees the sun for the first time, but then our heroes find themselves surrounded by soldiers, who open fire. Superman starts protecting his friends, but accidentally vaporizes all of the soldiers with his newly developed heat vision.

Superman flips out and flies away, and suddenly, more of Flash’s memories change, and he has a seizure.

Hal Jordan flies the spaceship at an Atlantian sub, ready to take it on with their special missile (I’m honestly not sure if they forgot to explain the missile, or if they did explain it and I just forgot all about it), and as he approaches, Hal says, “Beware my power, asshole.”

Then a giant sea monster eats the spaceship, and when it explodes, the submarine is fine, and Hal and the sea monster are dead.

Alas, Hal Jordan. We hardly knew ye, because this movie has no significant character development.

Flash wakes up in the home of the Shazam kids, and they learn about Hal’s failed kamikaze run, and the President’s failed military strike. Atlantis and the Amazons are heading towards what Cyborg calls “the final battle,” presumably because he has already seen a draft of the script. Batman literally tells a bunch of kids to go be with their loved ones while they still can; he’s going back to Gotham because he “doesn’t want to miss the looting.”

Flash gives an inspiring speech and they resolve to fight to stop the war. Well, no, really he just says some random words and then they all decide to go to London for the third act.

Quick note: it was around this time my roommate was in the room while I was watching the film, and when he heard Flash’s line delivery during the speech, he burst out laughing at how monotone and emotionless it was.

They get in the Waynejet (Thomas Wayne doesn’t have a Batplane, he just has the jet he uses for his casino), and Batman tells Flash that he has learned about Lois’ encounter with Zoom. Then the Atlantians shoot the plane out of the sky, and it crashes into the London below.

Atlantis rolls its tanks out of the sea, and for some reason roll down a dead end street, which explodes around them. The Amazons start firing arrows into the soldiers (literally impaling several of them on-screen), and they even summon a minotaur at one point. This is actually a nice touch, and highlights a cool idea about seeing Themyscira going to war; they have a bunch of weird old magic crap they can weaponize, which makes them very formidable in battle.

The Resistance shows up (along with some of those other heroes from the skype session), and Lois begs both armies to stand down, but to no avail. So Grifter shifts to Plan B, which is to kill enough people on both sides to hopefully put a stop to the war.

Because in this world, Earth’s heroes live by the mantra “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Wonder Woman and Aquaman literally cut a bloody path through the soldiers to get to reach the other, and start beating the crap out of each other. But Batman, Cyborg and Flash take on Aquaman, and the Shazam kids yell “Shazam!” and become Captain Marvel Shazam Captain Thunder. He and Wonder Woman start throwing buildings at each other, and Batman gets pinned down by Black Manta (an Aquaman villain, but it doesn’t matter) until Grifter comes in, and together they blow open his helmet and fill it with bullets.

Then Batman gets shot by Ocean Master (another Aquaman villain, but who cares), and Flash pulls him into a bombed out building. Batman says he’s basically dead already (he’s a doctor, he would know), and tells Flash he needs to “flush out Zoom.”

Then Batman vanishes, and Zoom steps out of the shadows.

Huh. That was easy.

I actually like how Zoom is portrayed as always being calm and relaxed. If I had his reflexes, I’d stop for coffee breaks in war zones, too.

The two of them fight as they race across the battlefield, and this is another well-done sequence as they fight at super-speed through a slow-motion war zone.

Then Zoom stabs Flash in the leg with a piece of rebar, and that’s pretty much that.

Flash looks around and sees that everyone on the battlefield is basically dead or dying.

Flash asks how Zoom changed the past, and Zoom says, “That’s the beauty of all this. I didn’t do any of it. You did.” Yes, boys and girls, it seems Flash went back in time to save his mother, and caused the entire world to go to hell. Flash says it’s impossible, it wouldn’t have changed Superman’s arrival or Bruce’s murder, but Zoom says – and I swear to god this is the actual line of dialogue meant to explain a major plot point:

“When you break the sound barrier, there’s a sonic boom. You broke the time barrier, Flash. Time boom.”

Thanks to “ripples of distortion,” all of these major events were changed slightly, but just enough to have massive consequences.

This raises a few obvious questions:

1) If Barry went back in time to change the past, why was he surprised to see his Mom alive? That was the whole idea, so was he surprised because it actually worked? Because the reason I was surprised was because at no point did they establish that he had gone back and tried to save her.

2) If Barry went back in time to change the past, why didn’t we see that? That seems like sort of a major scene to gloss over. If you’re going to set this up as a lesson to have “wisdom to know the difference” between what you can and can’t change, shouldn’t we actually see someone make the wrong choice, rather than be told about it long after the fact?

3) If Barry went back in time to change the past, why did he keep saying this was Zoom’s doing? I get that he didn’t know about the “time boom” (ugh), so he thought Zoom was responsible for all of these other changes, but Barry’s a smart guy – he didn’t put together that when he went back in time to change something, and woke up to a world at war, it might have been his own fault?

4) If Barry went back in time to change the past, why does Zoom even remember the changes? Why does he still have his powers, and know exactly what Barry did to the timestream? Actually, if this had been addressed, I’m sure the answer would have just been “Speed Force,” and I would have felt compelled to punch something.

5) Was this script written by James Cameron?

There’s actually a great line here where Flash says, “I just wanted to save her,” and Zoom mocks him by saying, ”Her hero. How noble. Oh, wait. You didn’t stop JFK from getting assassinated, or make sure Hitler stayed in art school. You saved your mommy.”

Flash watches as Aquaman peels Cyborg’s armor off, revealing his still-beating heart.

Wonder Woman uses her lasso to force Captain Thunder to change back into six kids, and then she kills one of them.

Aquaman is about to stab Cyborg, but his arm gets seared off by laser vision.

That’s right, kids, Superman is back to save the day with more graphic violence! But it’s too little too late, as Cyborg’s lights go out (literally) and he dies.

Wonder Woman stabs Aquaman in the back, but before she delivers the final blow (which she does, on-screen), he signals his army to use the WMD. Back on the sub, Aquaman’s advisor was just starting to free Captain Atom, but then the device goes off and they are both killed. And so, it seems, is the world.

As with the opening scene, Zoom is content to die with the world as long as Flash dies, too. And he adds, “As long as I can syphon off the Speed Force, you can’t escape this timeline.”

And then Batman shoots him through the brain.

See? That solved everything. Now there’s enough Speed Force for Flash to go back in time. And Batman even adds that if he goes back in time, Zoom might not necessarily be dead, so that makes it okay for some reason. He gives Flash a letter, and as the event horizon of the doomsday weapon approaches (and starts vaporizing the only characters who are still alive), Flash starts running.

He runs down a time-tunnel, and sees his slightly-younger self ahead of him, racing to save his mother. He tries to call out to him to stop, he won’t listen, so he has to tackle himself.

Barry wakes up at his desk again, and once sees the words “World Faces Armageddon” on his computer – but then he sees the whole article.

Who writes headlines like that?

He goes to his Mom’s grave, and says he “finally gets” the things his mom was trying to teach him. Iris shows up (remember her? His wife? Who was definitely a plot point he was not at all ignoring?), and they kiss. She asks if everything is all right, and he says, “It is now, honey. It is now.” Because we could all write this dialogue in our sleep (and in fact it seems like someone did).

Barry goes to see Batman (and yes, it’s Bruce, played by Kevin Conroy again), and says he remembers his entire other life he lived with his mother. He wonders if it’s “some sort of temporal after-effect,” and Bruce says, “Or maybe it was a gift.” Flash gives him the letter from Thomas Wayne, and says (you all see where this is going, so all together now), “Yes. A gift.” Bruce reads it and cries, and it’s a nice moment. But here’s what’s bonkers about this scene:

They’re in their New 52 Universe uniforms.

What’s that? “What’s the New 52,” you ask? Well, after the Flashpoint comic ended, DC relaunched every book with a new issue #1, and they all had new creative directions, and most of them have horrible, cluttered costumes, and a lot of the books are not very good, and a lot of the characters (especially in “Justice League”) just act like assholes. Anyway, there’s a lot of places on the internet where you can learn more, but the point is that these two are standing there in completely different costumes, literally having a conversation about temporal after-effects, and they don’t realize something’s amiss. It’s the weirdest thing ever.

Anyway, Flash starts running and we’re treated to a really bad CGI sequence of him running through the city, and then we’re into the credits.

HOWEVER! Because Marvel had been crushing it by this point, DC took a page from their playbook and included a scene at the end of the credits to tease their next movie: We cut to Earth, and pan up to the sky… then a boom tube opens up, and a bunch of Darkseid’s parademons come out.

So, I guess this movie leads directly into “Justice League: War,” even though that movie is a prequel? Whatever. I have no illusions that the next Justice League animated movie is going to be any good, since those comics are basically unreadable… but I still have a huge crush on Michelle Monaghan, and she’s playing Wonder Woman, so I’ll probably see it.

Anyway, that’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. There’s a lot of interesting ideas, and some good action choreography, but it’s just too bad about the script, story, acting, direction, character development, character designs, and overall tone.

Part of what’s so frustrating about it is that, 10 years ago, this could have made a fantastic episode of Justice League. Imagine Michael Rosenbaum as the Flash / Wally West (you know, the one with an actual personality) waking up and encountering this bizarre backwards world he screwed up, and having to deal with alternate versions of heroes – and villains – who we as an audience would actually be familiar with from earlier episodes of the cartoon. But the guys who ran that show aren’t working on these movies anymore, so instead we get this.

That’s another weird part about this movie, is just how literal a translation it is of the comic, It doesn’t make any changes to be more accessible to people unfamiliar with some of these characters. It’s about as incomprehensible as actual superhero event comics tend to be for anyone walking in off the street and giving them a shot. And when there’s no entry-point for an audience unfamiliar with the background and context of a story, that’s the kind of storytelling that keeps the comic book fan community as insular as it is. And, all that aside, there’s an unconscionable amount of graphic, bloody, violent death in this superhero cartoon, which anyone can find in stores next to copies of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc. and My Neighbor Totoro.

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