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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox


I played the Young Justice video game once.

Wasn't great.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.



 Some people might be wondering now if I just review Justice League films on days when I have nothing especially lined up.

Let's move on.

So, last week, on a day when I had nothing lined up, I talked about Justice League: War, a DC animated flick about the formation of the Justice League in the accursed New 52. One thing I mentioned in passing was that this whole thing had happened because of – well, because of a desire to increase readership, but in-universe because the Flash had ran too fast.

Well, this is that story, in film form!

Film form!

The Flashpoint Paradox, focusing on Barry Allen, the least interesting member of the Justice League (Arthur Curry at least having the good grace to have very easily mockable character and a great nemesis in the form of Ocean Master), tells the story of how he wakes up in a strange alternate timeline, where his mother is alive, Batman is Thomas Wayne instead of Bruce (Thomas Wayne as in Bruce's father, not Thomas Wayne as in the alternate Bruce who became Owlman), and the Amazons and Atlanteans have torn apart the world with a brutal war, in which most of Europe has been destroyed. Lacking his powers and believing this new timeline to be the result of the meddling ways of his nemesis Professor Zoom, Barry and this timeline's Batman team up to restore his powers, stop the war, and get Barry to fix the timeline.

This doesn't look at all like the aftermath of an illicit Flash/Zoom dalliance.

I am a massive fan of alternate timeline stories, I really am, and this one has some wonderful little changes that should have been explored more: Martha Wayne as the Joker; Superman as a stunted, broken man raised as a lab rat; a world where Earth has no Green Lantern. None of those are really given the screentime they deserve, so much as they are paid lip service and then forgotten about.

What is given the most focus instead is the big Amazon vs Atlantean war, which is a problem, as war apparently makes rampant out-of-character wrong 'uns of us all, if this film is anything to go by. The vague explanation is that by breaking the time barrier, a time boom was created that altered little details here and there, but they would have to be some details to cause such a sea change (heh) in Aquaman and Wonder Woman's personalities.

The war is explained as being a response to a Shakespearian set-up in which Aquaman and Wonder Woman have a sexual affair that Aquaman's wife, Mera, discovers. Enraged, Mera attempts to assassinate Wonder Woman, only for Wonder Woman to kill her. Thus, a war begins.

This is a flimsy justification for two sovereign nations to go to war, but it's not the worst reason ever. In the comics that the film is based on, the war is actually the result of a conspiracy between Ocean Master, the Enchantress, and Artemis, which involved killing Diana's mother and framing Garth (the first Aqualad, later Tempest) for it, and those three are actively egging on a war. While Mera is killed by Wonder Woman later, it doesn't prompt the war. Which is also a flimsy justification, but does at least have the plus of 'Three prominent political figures are pushing for a war.'

In the film, Garth is fine, much to everyone's delight.

What's really the problem, though, isn't the war's justification – or at least, not just that. It's that it's very hard to conceive a world in which Wonder Woman or Aquaman are the kind of people they are in this film. This was a sticking point in my last review of a DC Animated film, too, at least in regards to Wonder Woman: These people are meant to be wise, politically savvy rulers. They are measured and thoughtful. The idea that they'd fling themselves into a war that destroys a chunk of civilisation, and not at any point try for peace is absurd, and the only thing more absurd is some of the crimes we see them commit during said war. Wonder Woman murders a child. Aquaman kills a non-combatant and personally tries to destroy the entire world. These are not in character actions for them.

You can't make two characters act in such a bizarre fashion and just handwave the explanation with 'time boom'. We have to see what was so different about their lives that they became these people, otherwise it just feels false.

Evil Wonder Woman. Evil, confusing Wonder Woman.

It's the gaping flaw in what's otherwise a solid film. It's a little rushed – as with War, eighty minutes is not enough time for this particular story – and Barry Allen is not the most interesting character, although he puts on a solid showing here. The animation is excellent, though, and despite its pacing issues, the plot is coherent enough, even if at times it feels a little bit like you're getting the cliffnotes version.

There's an odd and slightly disquieting scene in the film where Cyborg talks to Barack Obama, which was – don't do that, guys. Never show living real life political leaders in your things, it's just – it's very awkward, in the same way that people who write Harry/Niall One Direction fanfic have just created something stunningly awkward to watch. Seriously, if you require a 'political leader of a country' character, just make one up.

It's an enjoyable film, though, and it has my tentative recommendation. I say 'tentative' because it's always very obvious throughout that this is an extremely condensed version of a comic, so if you can get a hold of it, it might be worth just reading the source material instead. The final scene of the film is definitely worth a watch, though. I won't say why, but it is. Go do that. 

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