What You May Like:
- Unique and engaging storyline
- Great action with unapologetic violence factor
- Vivid, smooth and slick animation
What You May Not:
- Not too significant of a villain present
- Some substandard voice actors
- A few story details are a bit convoluted
What You’ll Remember:
- The darker and grittier version of Batman
From the fantastical minds that have brought us a vast library of ambitious feature length films featuring Marvel and DC Universe heroes comes the latest installment centered primarily on the Flash character and his Barry Allen alter ego. Staple DC film creator names such a Jay Oliva, Geoff Johns, and James Kreig carry the roles of director, story, and screenplay respectively, all of whom have a steady and respectable resume of comic and various children’s animated features, and with their new creation matters are taken down an unapologetic path of a more complex yet engaging storyline, darker characters, and more explicit bloodshed. The Flashpoint Paradox gives us a refreshingly original screenplay that absolutely earns its PG-13 rating, not simply for the violence factor, but also for direction to present a story with a good variety of interwoven character story arcs that give a great balance of history and the present character personalities fans have all come to recognize, but not necessarily told in a manner that non-adolescents will easily comprehend; a characteristic of Paradox that both helps and limits it just enough from a true breakthrough in animated action.
Paradox stars a hefty handful of DC Universe names with mostly good, if some sub-par voice performances that eventually become unimportant considering how gripping the story soon becomes. Names include Justin Chambers as the Flash, C. Thomas Howell playing nemesis Professor Zoom/ Eobard Thawne, Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg, and more famous ones with smaller roles such as Nathan Fillion as the Green Lantern, and Ron Pearlman as Deathstroke; yet the cast is pretty vast considering the amount of DC stars who make an appearance. Judging from the front cover, one thinks they’re in for a story involving the Flash, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg, but to our surprise other heroes give some cameos, as well as some fairly significant roles, such as Superman and the Green Lantern. Upon opening, we get the background behind Flash himself, and how his mother was murdered by a home intruder when he was just a boy. Immediately being taken into his adulthood visiting his deceased mother’s grave, Barry Allen woodenly expresses regrets as to how he should have done more to save his mother, however exaggerated a grown man could be about something he obviously had no control over at just 8 years old; soon the thankfully brief introduction to him is quickly forgotten when we meet Flash’s nemesis Eobard Thawne terrorizing a local city Flash museum along with his own posse of greedy but dimwitted thugs such as Boomerang and Captain Cold, otherwise known as the Rogues. Here is where Flash is aided by his own Justice League posse that we are also introduced to – your standard Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg – all working as a cohesive team to settle the matter. A good and solid opening, even if some characters appear a bit rushed in production.
The story takes a strange turn fairly quickly and may even go over a few viewers’ heads; suddenly we see Flash at his city news offices where word is spreading about the world’s apparent Armageddon, to which Flash suddenly and unexpectedly runs into his mother, who wonders why Barry is acting to strangely. His mother being alive is not the only strange difference, as we then see Barry’s love interest Iris as a wife and mother to another man, as well as are introduced to far more bitter, sinister, and unforgiving version of Batman, who apparently now forgoes any of the moral ethics of crime fighting we know him so well for. Lastly, and perhaps the biggest strange change to Barry’s seeming dreamworld is the fact that not only are Wonder Woman and Aquaman enemies, but their respective Amazon and Atlantis kingdoms have waged war against each other which is breaking down the world around them, nearing the end of it, all due to Wonder’s murder of Aqua’s wife after an extramarital affair between the two gone array. When Barry tries to make sense of matters he goes to visit the Batcave to get some answers, only to be beaten and questioned by this new darker version of the Dark Knight. Yet it is there that Barry discovers that his opposite “reverse-Flash” nemesis Professor Zoom, or Eobard Thawne is behind the strange set of circumstances in a way Barry cannot yet piece together. Then in an action-packed subplot, we meet Lex Luthor as he is trying to take control of a doomsday weapon aboard a military ship; a rather quick subplot that is there just to tie up the main villain of this new reality, that being Aquaman and yet another surprise that he will use as the weapon to defeat Wonder Woman’s Amazon kingdom, as well as the world around it. While everyone is downtroddenly helpless in accepting of the world’s fate, Cyborg seems the only one trying to take genuine steps to save it, unfortunately he gets orders from the president of the United States – an interesting animated impersonation of current president Obama – to stand down and be relieved of his duty. In a mild setback to the film itself, actor Michael B. Jordan (I guess not to mistake him with THE Michael Jordan), gives too stale of a voice-acting performance, yet due to the constantly growing story, this is similarly forgotten as Flash’s intro was. There is yet another plot twist involving the whereabouts of Superman, whose backstory no longer has him crash landing and meeting up with his rural country farm parents, but instead locked away by a government conspiracy experiment. Relatedly so, another subplot exists involving Lois Lane and her investigation of Wonder Woman’s Amazons, yet she soon meets up with a small band of resistance fighters who act as a third side to the war, desiring to stop the fighting that will inevitably destroy the planet.
What follows there on in is not only Flash’s mission to figure out his jogging memories of both realities clashing in on each other, but also his now smaller team’s task to figure out who and what will bring about doomsday, as well as what could be done to stop the war between the Amazon and Atlantis. The characters in Paradox are ever evolving, constantly changing in circumstances and also the motivations of each small or large band of armies, keeping the audience constantly engaged; and thanks to some greatly edited action sequences, completely enthralled as to the conclusion of each superhero, even those who have not necessarily turned evil, but whose priorities have gone astray due to old flames and hurts still held onto. The sheer amount of DC characters are so vast here in fact that the viewer is best recommended to get at least two full viewings to not only miss things lost during the first, but also appreciate how well balanced the story is told to us. A negative may be that some elements can come off as a bit convoluted, but the redeeming factor being that upon a second viewing there is lots to catch missed the first time around. Even minor characters such as Lois Lane’s resistance team, namely leader Grifter, are quick to impress, to whose credit should mostly go to not only the great use of voice-acting (the good talent does in fact outweigh the stale), but also each character’s presentation. The newer version of Batman himself is a thoughtful welcome treat, and though he is the best aspect of the film in terms of a character, it is all due to some greatly written dialogue. Sarcastic quips, strong personalities, and just enough slick animated acting to not let matters become too lighthearted, the way each character speaks is constantly focused on the story and matters at hand, never pandering the audience to cheap gags or childish jokes; moments of comic relief are perfectly placed. Director Jay Olivia displays absolute mindful skill, not only in his great pacing of the story, but also how well he is able to balance each story arc in such a limited 80-minute running length; such a task is much more difficult to achieve than perhaps thought. What should also be mentioned is the more ruthless violence factor present. While the film is nowhere near an R-rated level of blood, there are some fairly hardcore scenes that may surprise viewers, even those who have had experience with PG-13 animated features prior. Had being done with real actors in live action, the film would have easily gotten an R, yet it seems it is only the animation which keeps it suitable for teenagers. Yet for everyone, the shining star here is the story itself, which gives us one of the most unique and creative takes on time-travel plots to come along in a long while, even for an animated film. There is much in terms of originality, and not once does there feel any instant where we can argue logic problems, keeping an open mind of course.
So while the story does most to grant us one fantastic action feature, the focus on Flash himself brings a heap to the table. Since Flash experiences two different realities, his memories begin to widen out of nowhere and eventually clash in on themselves, only to come to a certain point of peace later on, but it is his character struggle alone during all the circumstances that keeps him growing as a man. Sure, while initially his voice work was a bit stale, it seems to actually improve as the film goes on, so such a complaint is definitely minor in the long run. Though not all characters go through a change or grow during the film, most of the main characters do, and again, to do it in such a limited running time only makes us wish the film could have run about 15 minutes longer. This also helps to keep the viewer engrossed in every detail of what is going on, even if the film presents some of the story points a bit too quickly, so as stated almost forces more than one viewing; not a setback given the worthy entertainment value. What some may dislike is that since there is so much focus on time travel and character growth, there is not too much of a villainous presence. Sure, while Aquaman and Wonder Woman are the main causes of what is bringing about the end of the world, their conflict is more one-to-one, not with the world so much, and as we learn later on, Flash’s arch nemesis Eobard Thawne has less of an involvement as we had initially hoped or could foresee. Therefore, the villain aspect of Paradox is not so much absent, but meets almost the minimal amount required to be appreciated. Yet due to the nature of the story itself, a more ruthless and present villain may have taken away from the grand intentions, especially at a shorter time length. Had this been a full two-hour feature, there could definitely have been some great possibilities to beef up the good we already have, as well as give Flash a more threatening situation than he is already in. Even if the end of the world does seem pretty drastic, there is not too much intensity here when thinking of Flash’s actual survival. In the end, it’s more of a superficial setback that as good as the film it, could not really help unless broadened to a longer running time.
Quick and thrilling edits during battles, vibrant animation (as expected), satisfying bloodshed, and a vividly in-your-face effects soundtrack that will have audio aficionados scrambling to turn up their speakers, Paradox can arguably be the named as the best Marvel/DC films to date. Jay Oliva has easily put a great achievement to his resume, especially for a main superhero who can sometimes be seen as a more uncared for underdog in the DC Universe as the Flash, but he definitely does get his just do in the action-packed, truly ambitious, and wholly satisfying Paradox.
As usual from Marvel/DC original films, we get a good handful, but moreso lacking in the department of this actual film itself. There are two full featurettes; in the first, “A Flash in Time” is a 22-minute feature with some of the film’s creators interviewed about the process, possibilities, risks, and improbabilities of time travel itself, with some more historic information about famous philosophers and their take on it as well; some of the comic canon is mentioned to boot and keep discussion grounded. Next is “My Favorite Villain: The Flash Bad Guys,” with some interviews with the same film creators commenting on some of Flash’s most famous enemies in his own comic book history, including a few in the film itself; more to the liking of Flash fans, this may not entirely appeal to those just interested in the DC movies. Otherwise there is a DC vault that we usually get of 4 cartoon episodes, standard commentary track, a fairly long 8-minute sneak peak at the next DC Universe film iteration entitled War, and a preview sample of one of the Flashpoint comics in the new series. For a Target store exclusive feature there is one downloadable 34-page comic, being #1 of The New 52, of the new Flashpoint comic series. Unfortunately there are no features that talk about the making of this particular film itself.
Graphics and Sound:
Paradox displays a mostly stellar presentation of a blu-ray transfer. Being an animated feature, there is as usual not enough demand to detail as to live action films, but given that, the animation is still super clean and vibrant. While things can always be better, to nitpick would be to mention that colors could have been given a bit more vividness, as some more naturally loud colors such as Flash’s red or Green Lanterns greens are not super flashy as some may wish. To argue, giving them more of a popping effect may run the risk of overdoing the amount of color saturation; again, that would be to nitpick. There are virtually no instances of distortion and an unnoticable amount of pixelation during fast-moving scenes, therefore the frame rate is beautifully smooth and well kept. Yet as great as the picture is, the sound production is where Paradox put all its HD cards on the table. To mention how crystal clear the dialogue is would be just the start. The core of how grand or epic any action feature is sound-wise would be to measure how well sound effects come through, and to this Paradox does one of the most stellar jobs that yours grinch truly’s ears have ever had the pleasure of making out. The film effects are loud, robust, full, bombastic, detailed, and exciting. Every punch, explosion, gun shot, smack, and even footstep are placed to a perfect level of balance, and never do things become too loud or too low, much less ever obnoxious or irritating. The sound on its own brings a whole new level of engrossment to the film that any flaws within would have harmed the whole, and yet Paradox keeps things fantastically produced all the way through. This is truly animated sound gold.
The Flashpoint Paradox is chock full of great production values and other top-notch technical achievements, such as animation and sound design. It doesn’t end there, as the story elements are so vast and detailed that it only could leave room for further investigation if a sequel were ever considered, but not that it would be practical. If there is any setback to the story itself is that the film did not run long enough for a fuller story to be produced, one where some of the villains could have had a better role or taken a greater lead, such as Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Being that The Flash himself was the center of attention, as well as his own character development, the film could only do so much. Still, these complaints are mostly superficial and hypothetical “could be’s,” as Flashpoint can still maintain itself as one of the greatest DC Universe films, if not THE best DC film to date, of course disregarding any live action ones, many of which this can still easily trump. Though not intended for younger children, it’s a grandiose action-infested treat of a film for anyone else. While not being an animated action classic, there is still enough great here that shows true passion and determination to the characters stories as well as the fans by the filmmakers. It’s a welcome breathe of fresh air that though having released about 20 films so far, DC still holds just as much integrity and commitment to fans as ever, without ever resorting to cheap sellout tactics or quick cash-ins. Many newcomers will also easily appreciate how accessible the story is, granted if they know even the most basic backstories to the main characters (namely those of Flash, Superman and Batman). A definite recommendation for casual fans and an absolutely strong one to DC ones, a solid 3.5 Armageddons out of 4. Yours Grinch truly is absolutely looking forward to the next film Justice League: War set for this coming winter season.