Every few years DC Comics decides that they need to revamp their entire line of comics and they come up with some crazy excuse to reboot their continuity. Usually this comes in the form of an Uber Bad Guy who devours history or collapses the multiverse or punches a whole through reality. Their latest shot at meddling with their own continuity was 2011’s Flashpoint which centered around the Flash realizing that history has mysteriously rewritten itself. These universe-spanning crossovers leave casual readers wondering why their favorite characters have abruptly changed, and usually force fans to read dozens of comics just to learn why Superman stopped wearing red underpants. Fortunately, the core storyline of Flashpoint has been turned into a feature film that not only explains what happened to the DC Universe, but also gives fans the best DC Animated feature since Superman vs. The Elite.
The Flashpoint Paradox starts off by reminding viewers why people love The Flash. Barry Allen is a classic hero with god-like powers who nonetheless battles a colorful gallery of goofball rogues who fight with boomerangs, toys and mirrors.
That theme of god-like status runs throughout the story. Soon enough Flash finds that someone has been tinkering with history, and the world is now a very different place. A more mythological place where magical heroes like Wonder Woman and Aquaman are embroiled in a cataclysmic war, while space-faring heroes like Superman and Green Lantern barely appear at all.
Thanks to the meddling of a mysterious time traveler, these former heroes are behaving like the Gods of Greek mythology; fueled by passion and rage, they war against each other, trampling morals beneath their heels. Heroes are hard to find, but brutal vigilantes and warmongering titans abound.
The Justice League doesn’t exist in this new world, and Flash is the only person aware of the change. He meets distorted counterparts of the other heroes and quickly learns that whatever changes happened to the time line have altered the world for the worse. For starters, the Flash doesn’t even exist in this world, Batman is a gun-toting drunk,and the war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans is about to destroy the entire world.
All of the characters experience intense regret over past events, and Flash sets about trying to alter history and put things right again. Of course there’s a secret villain trying to thwart his efforts, so Flash has to work with the second-rate heroes of this world to restore the timeline.
In the past many DC Comics stories have addressed the notion of an alternate timeline where things have gone horribly awry. The Flashpoint Paradox has features in common with Grant Morrison’s Earth 2, the miniseries The Nail, and even a few episodes of the Justice League cartoon.
One of the great things about these sort of alternate universe stories is that the writers and artists can get away with very mature content and explore the darker side of DC characters without having to worry about continuity. In The Flashpoint Paradox that extends to rampant onscreen killing. Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Superman, Batman and others all kill someone (Or try to) over the course of this movie.
This isn’t just killing bad guys; there are jaw-dropping moments that extend even to child murder! It’s liable to be traumatizing for most viewers, and this movie is definitely not for younger fans.
This level of violence is necessary for the story, though. Many such tales of disrupted timelines fail to properly demonstrate just why the new timeline is so bad that it needs to eradicated, but in The Flashpoint Paradox viewers clearly see that the miserable inhabitants of this alternate universe would be better off if they’d never existed at all.
One good thing about this alternate timeline is that is has a completely gratuitous cameo of some Young Justice characters who show up for an action-packed fight scene that seems to have been added just for some fan service (Not that anyone’s complaining).
Some of DC’s Animated movies offer viewers adaptations of comic book story lines that are better experienced as comics. This isn’t the case with Flashpoint. The original series was a bulky crossover that existed primarily to justify a continuity reboot in the “New 52”. However The Flashpoint Paradox condenses the comics down to a completely self-contained story that will satisfy mature Justice League fans who want a Flash-centered tale of learning to accept the things that cannot be changed.
The Flashpoint Paradox arrives on DVD and Blue Ray on July 30th.