As an apology for never getting around to reviewing last week’s comics (they’ll be in tomorrow’s post, honest), I come bearing a peace offering:
A full, detailed review of The Flashpoint Paradox, released on video today!
Now, even though Flashpoint itself came out almost three years ago now, many things were changed in the jump to the small screen, so I’m invoking the magical honor system that is the SPOILER WARNING. If you’re planning on getting the movie yourself and do not wish to be spoiled, come back tomorrow for reviews of the Flash, Young Avengers, the Flash annual, the Animal Man annual, and the final issue of Batman Incorporated.
However, if you’re not planning on spending money on a movie made from one of DC’s worst major events in recent memory, read on.
Let me preface this with yet another warning: This movie is 90% shit. No, really. I watched it last week, and it took me almost three hours and an entire airplane bottle of Bacardi to get through it because I kept stopping to bitch about it over Skype to a friend who wasn’t planning on seeing it. The animation is amazing…ly bad. It goes from Fullmetal Alchemist in the beginning to Dragon Ball Z on acid by the end. The few instances in which they deviate from traditional animation and throw in some CGI, it’s so noticeable it’s painful. Everyone is too bulky, with too many superfluous lines everywhere. It’s bad. The voice actors really did the best with what they had to work with. If DC has Justin Chambers voice Barry from now on, I’m all for it. Give poor Michael Rosenbaum a break to let him deal with the fan whiplash from that time he voiced Barry in a Justice League movie.
Anyway, the movie itself starts off with a scene from Flash Rebirth…except not. In the recent parental retcon, Barry’s mother Nora was murdered by Professor Zoom, who framed his father, Henry. In this version, Nora was raising Barry alone, and she was murdered by a man who broke into their house while Barry was in school. On her birthday, no less.
Flash forward to the present, where Barry is still mourning his mother. Which is understandable! Batman’s whole thing is that he never got over the deaths of his parents. Still, and I’ve been saying this for a few years now, Geoff Johns takes a bit too much pleasure in killing off parents. Barry’s mom, Stargirl’s dad, the Silver Age Superman and Lois Lane (Power Girl’s parental figures), the list goes on. Seriously, someone should go check on his parents, just to make sure they’re not buried in a field somewhere.
Following the coolest magical girl transformation sequence DC has ever done…okay, sorry. But seriously, Jaime’s henshin sequences in Brave and the Bold have nothing on la diva Barry. He transforms like Bubbles in Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z. Look at this: clickthrough for gif because WordPress is not a fan of large moving images.
I like to imagine that he just leaves clothes all over Central City when he does that. So majestic. After that lovely reverse-striptease, Barry arrives at the Flash museum in order to fight a clusterfuck of Rogues who shouldn’t all be alive at the same time. I know, I know. This is a stupid thing to nitpick, and when I ignore all the glaring timeline snares and just watch the scene, it’s probably the best one in the whole movie (my own preferences have nothing to do with it, it’s just an enjoyable, funny scene). But still. Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master (but he has no lines, so it’s impossible to tell which), and…the Top. The fucking Top. Who was the first Rogue to die. Ahem.
The Top actually gets a pretty hilarious intro. After blowing Barry away with a couple of exploding tops, he says, in complete seriousness, “Looks like you’re the bottom…and I’m the Top!” Um. I’m not sure if I should be pulling out a rimshot or warming up Word for some very interesting Silver Age slash fanfiction, but wow. The fight between them is over almost instantaneously, because here come Heat Wave and Mirror Master! They seem to have traded body types, as Mick is quite willowy, and…Sam? Evan? Samevan here is rather burly. And…pretty ugly, actually. I mean, wow. He looks more like a common Blackgate thug than a Mirror Master, and fights like it, too. The fight with Captains Cold and Boomerang is a bit more visually stimulating and…wow! Pause it just right, and you get to see something else that shouldn’t exist, Inertia!
It’s incredibly obvious that the statue is a recolored Impulse from the Young Justice series from the design of the costume and overall better character design, but really. Awesome nod to a mistreated speedster there, animators. Soon, however, Barry becomes glued to the wall, and the main antagonist steps out of the shadows. And wow, is that not Eobard Thawne. Sorry, folks, but it looks like Hunter Zoloman will be our Zoom this- wait. That is supposed to be Bardy? Well, if you say so. Here, Zoom is voiced by Thomas Howell, whom you may remember from ET, The Outsiders, Red Dawn, or 900 other movies you’ve never seen that came out since 1977. This isn’t meant to be an insult, the man has a body of work a bit too vast to just breeze through in an afternoon.
Anyway, Zoom is here to kill Barry, destroy part of Central City, and trick the Rogues into taking off their pants. But before I go any further…how the hell is Barry pronouncing Eobard’s last name? It sounds like he’s saying thong. Now, me? I accept that I say things a bit oddly, but I’ve always pronounced it thaw-neh. Or if I’m slurring, thorn-eh. But not…however he’s saying. Man, that’s gonna distract me. I hope he doesn’t say it like ninety more times over the course of the movie. Barry traps Zoom in the same muck he’s stuck in, pinning him to the opposite wall. Rather than disarm the bombs and save his own life, Zoom chooses to die knowing he forever stained the name of the Flash. So ends Flashpoint Paradox.
Nope, I lied! Enter the Justice League. I’ll never understand how Batman is able to crash through a roof while talking and not get glass in his mouth. That’s some serious hero wizardry, there. So, who’s in our League line-up? Hm. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Well. Hey there, New 52 Justice League! So glad that you could join us ahead of schedule! Oh, and they brought along Captain Atom for…reasons. Plot device reasons. If I may go off on a small tangent, regarding Cyborg’s inclusion in the Justice League in what’s supposed to be the pre-reboot portion of this movie:
Flashpoint was a vehicle for Cyborg’s return to relevance. As one of the main characters, and the only main PoC in the Teen Titans cartoon for two seasons, DC knew that they had a character on their hands that they could raise from relative obscurity to superstar status. For years he languished in the shadows of his other teammates, jumping from the mentor role in Teen Titans to the active roster in Titans. He even had his own mini-series a few years back. DC wanted to bring Cyborg into the spotlight…and that’s something that Flashpoint did. In both the main book and the Legion of Doom mini, Cyborg played a massively important role, as the hero most beloved by Americans, with full government access. Following Flashpoint, Cyborg became the youngest member of the newest incarnation of the Justice League. My point being, his stardom came after Flashpoint. But, as he is best known as a member of the animated Teen Titans, I suppose it makes sense that they’d add him to the line-up instead of someone like Green Arrow or Black Canary, both of whom were hugely popular members of the Justice League during JLU.
Diana does her thing with the lasso, and Zoom spills his guts: there’s no way to disarm the bombs, they’re going to go off no matter what. So the League each grabs a Rogue and hightails it. Nathan Fillion is reprising his role as Hal Jordan here, and wow. I thought the Top’s dialogue was, er, telling. I love how Barry just casually calls him Hal in front of a roomful of guys who try to kill them on a weekly basis.
In what’s probably my favorite part of the opening sequence, the League starts to disarm the bombs. Captain Atom carries off Digger and Vic, the latter of whom starts to ‘hack’ the bomb with his hand tentacles. Because of course. Diana scares the piss out of Captain Cold by grabbing his gun and pointing it essentially at his crotch, then telling him to “Suck it in.” Damn, girl. Aquaman throws Roscoe into the river, then commands a million microbes to eat the bomb, which is definitely the strangest way the bomb is destroyed. Superman just puts his hands around the bomb on Mick’s belt and waits, because he’s Superman. Meanwhile, in space, Nathan Fillion and Kevin Conroy work against the clock to laser the bomb off of Mirror Master. Did I mention that? That Kevin Conroy is reprising his role as Bruce Wayne? Because holy shit was that a good idea, you go DC. Keeping in theme with this DBZ-esque art, Flash throws a spirit bomb at the final bomb, disarming it. Okay, it’s actually super condensed air thrown at top speed, but I know what it looked like.
So, bombs disarmed, villains going to jail, day saved, movie over? Nope! A suggestive comment from Bardy later, here come the opening credits! We’re twelve minutes into this movie, people. Find a comfortable position, you’re gonna be here a while.
The first scene in the actual Flashpoint universe plays out pretty true to the comic. Barry wakes up in the police station, having been pulling another all-nighter in order to solve the Elongated Kid murder, a shoutout to the crime of the same name that took place in the Road to Flashpoint arc of the Brightest Day Flash series. He and Forrest then see a breaking news report featuring a fight between Citizen Cold and Captain Boomerang, who are duking it out in front of the Cold Museum. In the comic, the person Len was fighting was Piper. After this scene, neither he nor Digger are mentioned again, and Len only shows up once more, in the same hologram scene as Piper. As it is, Piper has very few appearances in this movie, and no lines. Director Singh also fails to appear, and this is about where my interest started to wain. Barry falls down the stairs, sees his mom, they have a conversation where she implies that in this universe, he’s gay- wait.
Top’s borderline innuendo, the interactions between Hal and Barry, now this? Was, was all of that intentional? I’m so confused.
After revealing to his mother that he is the Flash, and she fails to have any idea who that is, we cut away to a fight between Batman and the Harley Quinn of the Flashpoint universe, Yo-Yo. Wait. Hold on. In this universe, Bruce Wayne died, Thomas Wayne became Batman, and Martha Wayne became the Joker. Why would Martha Wayne need a Harley Quinn? Hoo boy. I have to say, I prefer this ass-kicking Yo-Yo to the one in the comic, who was chased around until Batman caught her. Here, she about killed him…until he decided she didn’t have any useful information and punched her off a building. Thomas Wayne, everyone. He plays rough.
And then Cyborg makes the scene! Even a loon like Yo-Yo knows that when a big metal man catches you, you may as well surrender. The hologram sequence plays out pretty true to form, though they left out a few people, most notably Element Woman and Abin Sur. In fact, Abin Sur appears once in this movie…as a corpse. But that’s later. For the moment, we get another hint as to the end-game of the movie, in the form of this line “That’s what Captain Atom said before he flew over there…and vanished.” Captain Atom is a being of atomic energy. He can’t just ‘vanish’, that energy has to go somewhere…but where?
Anyway, to prove his apparently easily-questioned heterosexuality, Barry goes to visit his wife at work…just in time to witness Iris meeting up with her new family. Cue the sad eyes. So he decides to go and look up the only constant in this new world, Batman. Of all the things to recreate almost line for line, I’m glad they stuck with the meeting Batman scene. The alliance that Barry and Thomas form is what ends up almost saving the world, after all. That being said, I liked the other, little details that were added in for the movie. Thomas’ drinking habit, especially. Bruce never indulged in any kind of vice. He was a man at the peak of fitness, whose single-minded dedication to the goal of wiping out crime left no room for weakness, such as an addiction to alcohol. Thomas is obviously a different breed of Batman.
Speaking of different breeds, Amazons. Wow. Wow wow. This animation style did good by them. And it wasn’t too unfair for Steve Trevor, either. This is another by-the-book scene…up until the end. Steve’s fate in the comic was left up in the air, if you’ll pardon the pun, but here’s he’s, well. He’s murdered pretty brutally. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, this is the first DC Animated movie to have a PG-13 rating. They didn’t let it go to waste.
Honestly, a lot of the important stuff having to do with Barry and Thomas was left as-is. Their meeting, how Barry convinced him that he wasn’t insane, the two times they tried to get Barry’s speed back…it’s all crucial to having the audience care about Thomas like they would care about Bruce. For what it’s worth, their interactions are well-written enough to stand the test of the conversion from print to film.
Now, here’s a riddle for you. Who was the definitive villain on Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2006? Ron Perlman is back in the reins, voicing Deathstroke. I’m so happy about that, you really have no idea. Ron Perlman is one of my favorite VAs of all time. And in the same scene, inserted into the movie because we needed another high-profile villain to balance out the fact that the plot is about two good guys going to war, Steve Blum voicing Lex Luthor! I find it funny that Blum is Luthor here, as his last DC-related gigs had him as Heat Wave and Captain Cold in Brave and the Bold, and Wally’s father, Rudy West, in Young Justice. Yet here he is, in a Flash movie, playing a Superman villain. Heh.
The Atlantean attack was extended for the movie (gotta make use of that PG-13 rating!), but for good reason. Aside from Luthor, Sonar, Clayface, and Icicle, side-characters that weren’t in the comic make an appearance. Every former aqua-villain and sidekick from Garth and Tula to Kaldur’ahm from Young Justice, as well as Ocean Master and Black Manta, shows up during this brutal smackdown, and no human survived.
Since nothing actually differed from the comic in the initial ‘let’s get Barry his powers back’ scheme, how about we focus on the fact that the president of the United States in the Flashpointverse is totally Barack Obama. I mean, it was only implied in the comic, but whoever is voicing him is totally going for Obama.
Another thing that’s a bit different. This movie is only an hour and a half long (only, I say), so there was no way that they’d be able to fit in the sixteen minis, four one-shots, and crossover issues featuring the Booster Gold plot into it while also covering the five actual issues of the comic itself…so they improvised. Superman’s rocket crashed in Metropolis, not a remote field in Kansas. In a dark alley in Gotham, a young boy is shot to death. In his grief, his father turns into a creature that stalks the night, ridding the world of criminals in the only way he sees fit. In her grief, his mother’s mind snaps, and she becomes the greatest enemy his father would ever know. And the entire Amazonian/Atlantean war was started because Aquaman couldn’t keep his dick in his pants.
No, really. In the Emperor Aquaman and Wonder Woman and the Furies comics, it was shown that Arthur and Diana had been preparing to enter into a political marriage, while others in their kingdoms (namely Artemis and Orm) assassinated people dear to them (Queen Hippolyta and Mera). Here…Arthur cheats on his queen, who doesn’t take well to that, so she goes off and attempts to kill his new lover. Spoiler: She’s not a match for the queen of the Amazons. But yeah, that’s the conflict. Diana killed his ‘true queen’, and Arthur’s pissed. Diana thinks Arthur sent Mera after him, so she’s pissed. War!
Meanwhile, Peter Jessop, sounding a hell of a lot like Tim Curry, voices Dr. Vulko, who introduces our plot device, Captain Atom! I knew you were hiding somewhere, being used as a weapon of mass destruction, Nate! Welcome back to the movie.
By the way, we’re now 40 minutes in, and Barry has yet to get his powers back. If anything, all the scene-splicing they did drew this particular event out a bit too much. Though when it happens…okay, I admit it, that was cool. I’m a bit of a sucker for slowed-down scenes, made obvious by the fact that I’ve seen the end of Over the Hedge about fifty times.
While the actual Lois Lane and the Resistance mini sucked about as hard as it possible could have sucked, it was still pretty cool to have Dana Delany reprise her role as Lois for the two or three minutes of dialogue she has. The introduction of the resistance is pretty awesome, too. But honestly, it’s Lois/Dana who steals the scene…leading me to wonder if any of her dialogue was improvised.
Going back to the Barry/Thomas relationship. Their dialogue, banter, really, is one of the sole redeeming traits this movie has. Kevin McKidd and Justin Chambers play off each other pretty well (“You should be dead.” “Your bedside manner sucks!”), sounding like people who’ve known each other for years, rather than the few hours they’ve actually been acquainted.
If we could take a moment to welcome Hal Jordan back to the main stage! The Hal mini was one of the few I didn’t even pick up, let alone sit down and read, so whatever happens here is news to me. And there it is, right on schedule, the corpse of Abin Sur. The Abin Sur book was actually one of my favorite minis that Flashpoint put out, so it’s kind of saddening that the most he gets is, well, death.
45 minutes in, and we’re about halfway through issue 3. The Superman subplot, another mini I never touched, starts here. And Cyborg is also back in the movie, woo! One of the little details about him that this movie felt like it needed to include was the dial-up sound his hardware makes when processing. Cute. This is yet another scene that, line for line, seems to be coming directly from the comic, as well as the initial part of Superman’s jailbreak. Until, of course, we get to the part where Element Woman would have appeared. Instead, we get an extra three minutes of guns, running, and Clark’s heat vision. All in all, not a terrible substitute, but I would have preferred Element Woman.
Hal’s part in this movie is over before it begins. His mission really did turn out to be suicide, with the bomb meant for Aquaman being wasted on one of his sea creatures instead. Meanwhile, Barry wakes up in Big Barda’s house. Wait, sorry. Billy Batson’s house. DC has a history of reusing backgrounds, and this most recent one is from Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. So anyway, you know that very popular trope that states that when all seems lost, a half-assed go-get-em pep talk is all the heroes need to get back up on their feet? Barry is a living, breathing invocation of that trope in this movie. He plays Thomas like a kid with divorced parents. “Bruce would go fight the impossible war.” “Let me gas up my jet.”
The final battle begins! I still don’t like the designs on Aquaman and a good 80% of his warriors and tech, but the Amazons really kill it. The basic Atlantean warrior looks pretty average, while every Amazon is different. The animation is quite fluid here, between the bombs going off in the buildings and the Amazon archers shooting their diamond-tipped arrows, you can tell that the last half hour of the movie is where the most time was spent. There’s so much [detail] in this battle, it really makes it easy to forget that they’re going to war over the Aqua-d. Still, when the resistance showed up? Say what you will about Etrigan, but he can make an entrance. And Lois Lane with a machine gun going? I let out the dreamiest of sighs.
The fight between Arthur and Diana, though, is really something. Both characters are sweetened up so often in cartoons, you really do forget that they’re both from warrior races. Diana is the strongest woman in the world, with training to compliment that strength. Arthur is the king of the seas, a title that wasn’t just handed to him, judging from all those scars. They’re warriors and spurned lovers both, locked in a battle to the death. And then someone comes and rips them apart again.
Personally, I’d have much preferred to see the fight between Diana and Captain Thunder than Thomas and Black Manta, but that’s me. In the background at one point, Captain Thunder rips a building in half and throws it at her. Damn. The Batman/Grifter mini team-up was pretty groovy, though, if I do say so myself. They seem like a couple of guys who could go out and blow up the town, then drink a bar dry. Until, of course, Thomas gets shot. That’s something I like about Barry, though. No matter the circumstance, he really does care about people. That’s always nice to see in a character.
And then Zoom walks out with a cup of tea, and I laughed out loud because there, ladies and gentlemen, is a man who clearly gives nary a fuck about your entire apocalypse. I mean, look at him:
Who does that? I mean, I know they’re in England, but really. The world is ending, better get one last cuppa in! Eobard, please.
The speedster battle is about 40% CGI, 60% traditional animation, and it’s pretty obvious which parts are which. Not to say that it’s bad, but when the big climax of your movie looks like it’s on the same level as a car insurance commercial, you may have a problem. But the real fight isn’t about punching and kicking, it’s about the poison that comes out of Thawne’s mouth. Earlier on in the movie, Bruce pointed out that Thawne was a sociopath, once particularly good at saying the thing that’ll get the furthest under your skin. While he didn’t kill Barry’s mother in this universe, he still knew about her death, and how it affected Barry. He still knew what buttons to push to make sure that Barry began this mutually-assured destruction.
Meanwhile, outside of the most important conversation in the movie, the battle rages on between the Amazons, the Atlanteans, and Cyborg. And golly, were they trying hard to make sure that they earned that PG-13 rating. Aquaman literally tears Cyborg down to his most vulnerable spot, his human heart; Wonder Woman forces Captain Thunder to split back into the SHAZAM kids, then kills Billy on the spot; Superman comes back and slices Aquaman’s arm off with his heat vision, just in time to watch his first ever friend die. And then there’s the final confrontation between Arthur and Diana.
She kills him, of course. He’s missing an arm. He’s looking around him and seeing his most loyal subjects, his friends, his own brother dead on the ground because of him. He knows that he’s lost. But he still activates that damned movie-only deus ex machina, because he is a king, and kings do not surrender. In the comic, Enchantress had been working with Wonder Woman all along. The arrival of Superman was the end, though. He didn’t stop the fighting, but his jumping in on the action certainly turned the tides in the way of the resistance. So a dying Thomas, upon killing Zoom, told Barry to run.
Here, he’s running from a wave of atomic energy so great, it’s comparable to the antimatter wave from Crisis on Infinite Earths. It’s destroying everything, and there’s no way Barry can outrun it. Not after Thawne stabbed him in the leg earlier. Not even with the extra Speed Force Zoom’s death gave him. He can’t save the world. He can’t run fast enough.
But he does. Because he has to.
Because he’s the Flash.
In the original ending, Barry gets to sit down and have one last talk with his mother. He doesn’t have that luxury here. Instead, he has to stop himself from saving his mother, without any real closure regarding her death. Which, if you ask me, is harder. The murderer this time around isn’t some cacking villain, just a man who wanted their stuff. And he’ll never risk changing her fate again, because he’s seen what happens when he messes with the time stream. In a way, he’s killing his own mother. The other option would have been to sit with Thomas at the atomic wall approached as Clark sat with Vic, and Diana sat with Arthur. You can’t punch a wall of energy, you can only accept it. By refusing to accept it, Barry saved the world.
…of course, he only fixed what he’d broken in the first place, like gluing a dropped plate back together. And in the theme of gluing a plate, you’ll always see the new little lines in the plate. Yes, DC actually did it. They had Barry run right into his New 52 uniform, which he wears while delivering Thomas’ letter to Bruce, and then running off into CGI heaven.
And that was Flashpoint Paradox, ladies and gentlemen. There, now you don’t have to watch it. If you do decide to effectively kneecap your productivity and watch the movie (lord knows I lost about four hours), go into it with good humor, an open mind, and most importantly, as much alcohol as you can imbibe without your vision going blurry. Happy watching, friends. I hope to see you back tomorrow for our regularly scheduled comics review.