Except for Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight Trilogy', few have adapted DC's superheroes to film as well as Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and their associates behind the various animated series and direct-to-video features. Often culled from specific comic book issues and graphic novels, the recent movies put onscreen the wonderfully diverse artistry and storytelling of some of DC's top writers and artists, including Darwin Cooke, Jeph Loeb, Doug Moenche and even Frank Miller. Though their quality has admittedly been inconsistent of late, this month's entry is Justice League - The Flashpoint Paradox, an adaptation of Geoff Johns' complex prelude to DC's New 52 comic book line. In my opinion, it is also among the best.
I enjoy comics, but came to them late in my youth, never latching onto today's seemingly endless storylines and crossovers that can make it hard for new readers to catch-up. Knowing that Flashpoint is one of these storylines, but little else, I was skeptical at first, hoping only that it would be better than Superman Unbound. I was pleasantly surprised by everything about it, from the voiceovers to its admirable focus on Flash even as other heroes and villains get their chances to shine. The plot is hard to describe without giving too much away, but most of the film has Flash stuck in an alternate timeline believed to be the result of arch nemesis Professor Zoom's shared control and manipulation of the time-warping speed force. Minor change(s) to the DC Universe alter meta human destinies and two Leaguers' feud becomes a global war, turning villains into heroes, heroes into villains and making Flash the only one willing or able to truly set things right. While there are one or two sequences and altered characters that might seem expendable to the plot, one of the things I like most about Flashpoint is its correlation of a sonic boom to a "time boom" and its effects - all due to a split second's decision. Everyone is affected, but of all the characters, I feel that Superman's altered destiny might surprise and intrigue the most viewers. Though largely in line with previous works, I even think the animation and designs are a bit better, but that may just be residual bias.
Recited but never named, the movie's theme is poignantly summed up in the Serenity Prayer, which deals with our desire to control everything versus a need to identify and sometimes accept the uncontrollable. Having seen this makes me as excited about the Flash live-action feature in 2016 as just about any DC movie coming out in the next few years. Most of what I've read of The Flash has been in the form of Justice League stories and, up to now, I've always seen him as a somewhat limited and gimmicky character with a less-than-threatening rogues gallery, good mostly for comic relief. Now I see him as not only a superhero proxy for Hermes, the Greek god of the messengers, but a hero whose real power is the uses of speed to not only manipulate perception, but reality, itself. As powerful as the others are, few if any really have that capability... not even Superman. As this movie effectively illustrates, though, the relation between time and reality is like a river. Toss but a single pebble in the water and the ripples could extend much further than expected.
NOTE: Bruce Timm is not one of this film's producers.