Justin Chambers (Grey’s Anatomy)
C. Thomas Howell (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Kevin McKidd (Kingdon of Heaven)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Sam Daly (Red Tails)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
Cary Elwes (The Princess Diaries)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Grey Griffin (Ultimate Avengers)
Jennifer Hale (Batman Beyond)
Danny Huston (The Number 23)
Danny Jacobs (Futurama)
Vanessa Marshall (The Zeta Project)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
James Patrick Stuart (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
The early sequence in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is nothing but bright, vivid, four-color superheroics. The Rogues are pretty much harmless goofballs with Silver Age gimmicks. Professor Zoom’s genocidal agenda casts a darker pall onto what could otherwise play like an episode of Challenge of the Super-Friends, but the dialogue is still gleefully comic book-y. ” The rest of the Justice League swoops in just in the nick of time, It’s a big, triumphant display of Saturday morning superheroics, but one snide little comment Professor Zoom made before being dragged over to a holding cell at S.T.A.R. Labs keeps rattling around in Barry Allen’s head. The Flash runs towards the screen at impossible speed. Barry Allen is startled awake in the forensics lab, halfway-glancing at a PC with some ominous headline splattered across the screen. He catches wind of some villainy that only the Flash can handle, makes a mad dash towards the front door, strikes his usual heroic pose, and…stumbles down a few steps and falls flat on his face on the pavement. Before Barry can even try to make sense of whatever it is that just happened, he looks up and sees his his mother smiling down on him. She’s there for her birthday dinner with her baby boy, and she doesn’t even mind that it apparently slipped Barry’s mind. It’s not that Barry forgot, exactly; it’s that his mother had been brutally murdered decades earlier.
Everything has changed. A war between Atlantis and Themyscira has claimed more than a hundred million lives. The only ‘Man of Steel’ most anyone has heard of is Cyborg, someone most cape-‘n-cowl types sneer at as the President’s lapdog. Batman looks to be a hell of a lot older, gunning down costumed freaks atop the Wayne Casino with a semi-automatic pistol in each hand. The power of Captain Marvel…errr, Captain Thunder is wielded by six children. Someone or something has tampered with the past, and everything Barry Allen knows is wrong. His memories of the world he once knew are beginning to fade, and the post-apocalyptic wasteland that’s taken its place may not be around long enough for the former Flash to find a way back home.
I’m astonished by how effective Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is. this readily ranks among one of the best animated DC animated movies. I love the contrast between the classic superheroics that open the movie and the bleak, dystopian world that soon takes its place.The acting weaves together established talent in DC animation with several new voices, with the ensemble cast featuring Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Nathan Fillion, Justin Chambers, Vanessa Marshall, Kevin McKidd, James Patrick Stuart, Cary Elwes, Ron Perlman, and Michael B. Jordan, among many others. The performances are generally outstanding. The anime-influenced character designs look incredible, especially when animated with such polish and fluidity. It’s a daunting challenge to effectively realize the Flash’s impossible speed on a direct-to-video budget, but the animators at Studio 4C do a brilliant job with this as well, especially throughout the awe-inspiring final moments of the film. The Atlantean/Themysciran war is addressed in a far superior way here than in the core “Flashpoint” comics.The Flashpoint Paradox is genuinely horrifying. Heroes we once looked up to now murder one another without hesitation, and the body count is staggering. Aquaman skewers a freedom fighter with his trident. A severed head is held up as a trophy. Wonder Woman strangles a spy, and the movie doesn’t turn away from the sight of his neck snapping and blood spurting from his mouth. This may be the single most brutal superhero movie I’ve ever experienced, animated or live-action. There’s an emotional core to the story that transcends the hero-trapped-on-an-alternate-Earth premise, delivering levels of joy, hope, determination, and heartbreak that are remarkably powerful. That Flashpoint takes place outside of established continuity allows it to better explore these characters — or what we’ve come to think of these characters — in an entirely different context. Because there are no concerns about marketing to kids, how anything that happens here will impact the next installment in the franchise, or whatever else, these twisted reinterpretations of iconic heroes can kill and be killed.There are stakes that go far beyond what’s generally felt in direct-to-video superhero animation. The Flashpoint Paradox is unnervingly intense, and yet it’s hardly masturbatory brutality or grim and gritty just for the sake of being grim and gritty.