Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox

  • Title:  Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox
  • Director:  Jay Oliva
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Justin Chambers, C. Thomas Howell, Michael B. Jordan, Kevin McKidd, Kevin Conroy, Sam Daly, Dana Delany, Cary Elwes, Nathan Fillion, Ron Perlman
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“They’re motivated by greed. They lack the commitment, the absolute focus…” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)
“…to kill me.” – Flash
“To erase you.” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)

“Brake the sound barrier and there’s a sonic boom. You broke the time barrier, Flash, time boom. Ripples of distortion out from the point of impact, shifting everything just a tiny bit – but enough. Enough for events to happen slightly differently.” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)

Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox starts with what we quickly realise is a flashback or memory. Young Barry Allen and his mother are stranded at the side of the road with a broken car. Another car passes but fails to stop to help them. Barry is incensed that the person in the car didn’t care enough to do what’s right and stop to help them. Nora, Barry’s mother, urges him to not worry about it – then spots a gas station close by, they decide to walk there to find a phone.

The next flashback finds Barry coming home from school – only to find that his mother has been killed.

In the present, Barry and his wife, Iris are putting flowers on his mother’s grave. Barry expresses his regret that he wasn’t there to save his own mother. He and Iris are interrupted when Barry gets an emergency call, there’s been a break-in at the Central City Flash Museum. As Flash, Barry arrives and confronts The Top, Mirror Master, and eventually Captain Cold, Captain Boomarang, and Heat Wave. It soon becomes obvious that the person in charge of the break in is Eoband Thawne, aka Professor Zoom, aka the Reverse Flash. He uses the distraction of the Rogues Gallery attack to place small but powerful bombs on each Rogue as well as on Flash. He also traps Flash in a gooey substance he can’t escape. Flash manages to trap Professor Zoom, but he can’t get free. The Justice League arrives, and each takes a Rogue to get rid of the bombs, without hurting anyone. The various plans that each Justice Leaguer uses, work and all the bombs are destroyed harmlessly and the Rogues sent back to prison. Meanwhile, Flash is still trapped. Professor Zoom taunts Flash, but Flash manages to disarm the explosives on himself and Thawne.

Next, Barry wakes at his desk. He’s a little confused by the news headline on his computer screen – and even more confused when he exits the building and meets his mother. Things go from bad to worse, as Flash realises he’s in an alternative world that never had a Flash. A world that’s in the midst of War. Barry goes to the Wayne Mansion just outside Gotham City – but the place is a wreck. He gets inside the Batcave and meets Batman – a very violent Batman, who uses guns, and has no problem with killing. Barry quickly realises that this Batman is Thomas Wayne, and it was Bruce who died That Fateful Night. To make matters worse, the death of her son, and seeing her husband become a violent vigilante has turned Mrs. Wayne into the Joker. Though it takes some doing, Barry not only convinces Thomas that his world is “all wrong” – he convinces him they have to re-create the experiment that turned Barry into the Flash. The resulting scene brings to mind various filmed versions of Frankenstein. The first try fails, but, the second try works. The Flash, however, is unable to get enough speed and theorizes there’s another speedster out there also tapping into the “speed force”.

Since using his own power won’t work, Barry’s next idea is to ask for Superman’s help. Batman tells him, though, this world has no Superman. Barry, however, from his own nightmares of the divergent timelines, gets an idea. Batman calls in Cyborg, who works directly for the US Government, and convinces him to hack every computer system he can, looking for information. Eventually Thomas Wayne/Batman convinces Cyborg to hack government and military records. This leads them to find a warehouse that holds the little baby rocket from Krypton. Superman is locked-up, and very weak because he’s been kept in a room with red light and hasn’t experienced the Earth’s yellow sun. Batman, Flash, and Cyborg break Superman out of the military cell.

In Europe, which has been flooded by Aquaman, then taken over by Queen Diana and the Amazons, Lois Lane is about to be killed by Amazons. She’s rescued by the Resistance, another group of Heroes, like Cyborg’s group. Lois swears she saw a yellow-clothed speedster, but the Resistance Group tells her that no speedster works with them. When Batman sees the footage, he tells Flash, who realises it’s Dr. Zoom.

Lex Luther, Deathstroke and Clayface work together on a US Military Carrier to attack Aquaman and attempt to find his doomsday weapon. They fail.

The Military also find Hal Jordan and offer him the chance to fly a captured alien spaceship. Hal jumps at the chance. (The ship’s pilot is dead and enclosed in a glass tube.) The air force general tells Hal that when he died, a glowing green ring flew off his hand and into space. Hal has trouble believing that part of the story. However, Hal has no trouble flying the ship. He too goes after Aquaman, specifically attacking a giant octopus-like creature. Unfortunately, Hal and his ship are swallowed by the creature and Hal is presumed dead.

At that point, the President fires Cyborg, stating there’s nothing left to be done. Cyborg goes to Batman and the Shazam kids and tells them it’s over. Flash talks everyone into not giving up. They all go to Europe. In Europe, they meet Lois and the Resistance group. However, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are in the midst of their final battle. There’s a huge fight, and one by one, most everyone is injured or killed. Finally, Reverse Flash arrives and confronts Flash – explaining that everything that’s happened is his fault, he changed things – and created the mess.

There’s more destruction and heroes, Amazons, and Aquaman’s troops dying. Superman arrives, and cuts off Aquaman’s arm to save Cyborg. However, severely injured, Cyborg dies. Diana goes to kill Aquaman, but he launches his doomsday weapon, Captain Atom. Barry’s absorbed the info from Professor Zoom. Batman kills Zoom, and gives Barry a letter for Bruce. Barry runs and runs, barely escaping the Doomsday weapon, and catches himself.  He prevents himself from changing the past.

Barry again wakes up at his office – and everything is back to normal. He visits Bruce and gives him the letter. Bruce recognizes his father’s handwriting and is moved to tears by Thomas Wayne’s letter.

The first time I watched this film, I really didn’t like it. It seemed so unfair to Barry that he’d have to sacrifice his mother and his happiness with Iris to save the world (in the alternate reality – she’s married to someone else and has a child.)

Watching it a second time, I liked it slightly better, but the film still has some issues. First, Barry, The Flash, is thrust into the altered reality suddenly, and with no explanation. We don’t see him time travel, or Professor Zoom trying something, or even a strange portal. There’s no visual or other indication that somehow time has changed. So the audience is as much in the dark as Barry Allen. And, although in some films, that technique of utter confusion can work, because the audience has faith that All Will Be Explained, in a short, animated film, it becomes wearying to have no idea what is going on. The film is full of action sequences, that sometimes make sense and other times don’t – because so little is explained in the film. And the only explanation is at the end, and from the villain – who places the blame squarely on Barry’s head. Really? How did Zoom know? If he was from the altered reality – he shouldn’t know anything about Barry Allen, because Barry never became the Flash in that reality. Not to mention, if Zoom tapped into the Speed Force by copying the accident that made Barry the Flash – how could he exist without an accident to copy?  (A non-invention paradox.) Meanwhile, Barry actually brings up the other problem – how could his interfering with his mother’s death have affected events before that event? Professor Zoom’s explanation is inventive, but not quite convincing. My guess is he actually lied to Barry – and it was Zoom who messed with things to create the Really Messed Up world then dumped Barry into it. Or, caused a version of Barry to exist that never became Flash. It certainly sounds more like a plot put together by a supervillain.

The other issue was the animation – which I thought was crude, and frankly, pretty bad. The Justice League in the opening barely looked human – or, Kryption or whatever they may be. And in some scenes, the animation was OK, in others, especially the opening flashbacks – it looked very much like Japanese anime, and it others the humans/heroes just didn’t look right – at all. (Diana / Wonder Woman looks awful in nearly every shot she’s in.) It really was quite messy – and there seemed no reason for it.

I will say, it was nice to see a story about Barry Allen, The Flash, but this particular story was dark, and the execution wasn’t very successful.

Recommendation:  For die hard DC fans only, otherwise skip it.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  No idea – I have, The Prestige, Inception, Superman Unbound, Justice League War (New 52 Origins)”, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on deck.

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Batman Mask of the Phantasm

 

  • Title: Batman Mask of the Phantasm
  • Directors: Eric Radomski, Bruce W. Timm
  • Voice Direction: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 1993
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Mystery, Action, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Dana Delany, Mark Hamill, Stacy Keach Jr., Abe Vigoda, Bob Hastings,
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • Length: 76 Minutes
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC, Double-sided Standard/Widescreen

“I know I made a promise, but I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t count on being happy. Please, tell me it’s OK.’ ” Bruce Wayne to his parents’ grave

“The way I see it, the only one in this room controlled by his parents is you.” Andrea Beaumont to Batman

The first in a series of animated movies that followed the very successful DC Animated Universe on WB and it’s associated networks (Cartoon Network, Boomerang), Batman Mask of the Phantasm is a promising start. The film opens with wonderful art deco titles, and quickly moves into the plot: someone is killing top gangsters in Gotham City, and a new congressman assumes it’s Batman and makes him Public Enemy # 1. Meanwhile, an old girlfriend of Bruce’s — Andrea Beaumont, has returned to town.

Much of the film is flashbacks to their blossoming relationship, from their first meeting in a graveyard – Bruce, visiting his parents, overhears Andrea talking to her (dead) mother – to their courtship, and Bruce eventually proposing (a proposal quickly shattered by the emergence of a huge number of bats from a nearby cave). Bruce even decides that he would put aside the cape and cowl, and his mission, to be with Andrea. However, she sends his ring back the next day, and Bruce adapts the Bat as his symbol. He’d been working on a costume, something to scare criminals, but hadn’t quite gotten it perfected yet at that point in time.

In the present, Batman is trying to discover who is killing off these old gangsters, a crime being pinned on him no less. Gradually he discovers all the gangsters were clients of Andrea’s father (some sort of accountant or investment banker, it’s not really spelled out), however, he assumes it’s Andrea’s father responsible for the crimes.

The Joker shows up, voiced by Mark Hamill, as he was in Batman: The Animated Series, to wreak havoc. The “Phantasm” (not actually named as such in the film) confronts Joker, the last one involved in Beaumont’s forced exile from Gotham and eventual death, only to be unmasked – it’s Andrea. Batman arrives, and fights Joker in the now decrepit World’s Fair grounds, which, ironically, were dedicated to portraying a brighter future. Batman and Joker fight in the 1/3rd scale “city” appearing like Godzilla and King Kong – Joker even sends a group of toy airplanes after Batman. But Joker has an ace up his sleeve — he’s rigged the entire place to explode. Batman is able to stop Andrea from killing the Joker, and escapes himself, but fears Andrea is dead (she’s not, we see her leaving Gotham by boat, but she’s not talking either).

This film had the producers of Batman: The Animated Series experimenting with a longer format for the first time. Aspects do work — there’s some great filming, and the plot is nice and complex with enough twists and turns for just over an hour. There’s one scene where Batman, having chased the “Phantasm” ends up in a graveyard — he suddenly realizes he’s in the graveyard where his parents are buried. And there is a wonderful shot of Batman looking at the Wayne grave, and we see the shadow of Batman’s outline fall on the grave. It’s a shot worthy of Citizen Kane in all the complexity of what it suggests: about Bruce, about Thomas and Martha Wayne, about the effects one act of violence had on a life. And Andrea too was affected – the night Bruce proposes to her, her father announces they have to go on the run – the mob wants money from him, money he doesn’t have. Both Bruce and Andrea are robbed of any chance of being happy. But the Bruce/Andrea romance is also, in a way, the downfall of the story. Bruce in love just doesn’t work the way, say Clark Kent’s romance with Lois Lane’s does. Or even Bruce’s occasional flirting with Wonder Woman does (see Justice League and Justice League Unlimited). Bruce may flirt, he deliberately brings “eye candy” to his social functions, but he’s way too dedicated to his night job to get serious with any woman.

And, oddly enough, though well played by Mark Hamill, Joker seems almost like an after-thought to the film. He’s not orchestrating events at all, but merely reacting to them. This makes him seem oddly under-used, though there are some great moments with the Joker anyway.

And, finally, for a mystery, the film ends with a giant plot-hole. We know the “Phantasm” killed the mobsters, and that “he” is a “she”— Andrea Beaumont. Bruce knows this as well, and thinks she’s dead at the end of the film. But the cops don’t know that. Just how was Batman planning on convincing them? When they’d chased him all over Gotham City trying to kill him?

But, overall, a good try – and successful enough for an additional string of DC Animated films to be made, most of which I have.

By the way, for the curious, the DC Animated Universe is: Batman the Animated Series, Superman the Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman Beyond, plus various movies. Don’t ask me to put them in order — I originally saw them widely out-of-order, tho’ I now own all on DVD but Superman.

Recommendation: For the serious Batman collector, a “should have”, but otherwise rent it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars