Random Musings: A review of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

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Flashpoint paradox

Last week’s season finale of The Flash ended with Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) going back in time and preventing his mother’s murder at the hands of the Reverse Flash. The implication is that season three will be similar to a 2011 DC Comics storyline called Flashpoint.

Any adaptation of Flashpoint next season will, of necessity, be on a smaller scale than in the comics, because only a handful of DC’s characters have been introduced— or even mentioned. In short, don’t expect the appearance of certain “flying mouse” from Gotham City.

However, DC Entertainment did release an animated movie inspired by Flashpoint in 2013: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.

Before we get to that, a few comments about The Flash. As I’d predicted, Zoom’s (Teddy Sears) prisoner was the real Jay Garrick. I also thought it was fitting and proper that he was portrayed by John Wesley Shipp, the original TV Flash from the 1990 series.

Real Jay Garrick

The real Jay Garrick.

Shipp also played Barry’s father, Henry. I’m sure some people feel it’s too coincidental that Jay should be Henry Allen’s alternate universe doppelganger, but Shipp was still the most appropriate actor for the part.

Speaking of other universes, it’s somewhat apropos that Supergirl lives on an alternate Earth, because the characters’ roots trace to separate, but related, companies. In 1938, the company we now know as DC Comics introduced Superman in Action Comics #1 (Supergirl would debut 21 years later in Action Comics #252). In 1940, the (Jay Garrick) Flash debuted in the anthology Flash Comics (along with Hawkman), published by All American Comics.

Granted that by the time Barry Allen debuted in Showcase #4 in 1956, DC and All American had merged, but he would never have existed if not for Jay Garrick. So Barry’s roots trace to All American Comics.

Ironically, Green Arrow, who does share the same TV universe with The Flash, was part of a separate comics universe (first appearing in DC’s More Fun Comics #73 in 1941).

The connection between the two companies is that Jack Liebowitz was a partner in both.

Two weeks ago, Zoom, who’d been impersonating Jay and feigning friendship with Barry and his allies for the first part of the season, killed Henry in front of Barry in a re-creation of his mother’s murder. But Barry’s time-traveling actions could mean Shipp (and Henry) might be back next year. As might be Michelle Harrison, who played Barry’s mother.

Or it could turn out Nora Allen got hit by a bus days after the failed attack. Time travel always has unexpected consequences.

Whatever Flashpoint-style direction The Flash takes next season, I’m sure Barry’s decision is going to go all “Monkey’s Paw” on him. It certainly did in the animated film.

At his mother’s grave, Barry Allen (Justin Chambers) still feels guilty about not preventing her murder when he was a child, telling his wife, Iris (Jennifer Hale), that if he’d just run a little faster that day, he could have been there. Iris tells him there’s nothing he could have done.

A short time later, the Flash, with the help of the Justice League, stops Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash (C. Thomas Howell), from destroying the Flash Museum (and most of Central City). Thawne reminds the Flash that he can’t save everyone.

“Not the ones that matter to you.”

Reverse Flash mocks the Flash

Reverse Flash mocks the Flash.

When Batman (Kevin Conroy) asks if everything’s all right, Flash says it’s nothing he can’t run off.

And he does just that.

After the opening credits, Barry wakes up at his desk, surprised to discover that Captain Cold (Danny Jacobs) is a hero, “Citizen Cold”, battling Captain Boomerang outside the “Cold Museum.”

(By the way, speaking of alternate timelines and parallel universes, we learned in The Flash that “Mayor Snart” is in charge of Earth 2’s Central City. Some people assume that’s Leonard Snart, Captain Cold on Earth 1. Maybe, but why couldn’t it be his sister, Lisa?)

Barry is confused by the fact that he’s lost his speed and even more confused when he encounters his very-much-alive mother.

That’s the good news.

The bad and the worse news is that the world is ending. One-time allies Aquaman (Cary Elwes) and Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) are now deadly enemies— as are Atlantis and Themyscira, home of the Amazons. What’s more, their war killed more than 132 million people when Atlantis sank Western Europe and the Amazons invaded Great Britain.

Aquaman vs Wonder Woman

Aquaman vs. Wonder Woman.

In this reality, Thomas Wayne (Kevin McKidd) became Batman after the death of his son, Bruce— and the loss of his wife, Martha, in a robbery years ago. This incarnation of Batman is a violent alcoholic who’s more than willing to kill.

Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan) tries to recruit Batman— the best tactician on the planet— to join a team of super-powered individuals fighting to stop Aquaman and Wonder Woman.

Barry, meanwhile, is trying to understand how his mother is alive and his wife is married to someone else. Seeking answers, he drives to Gotham City and Wayne Manor, only to discover an empty husk. In the Batcave, he encounters a very angry Thomas Wayne who doesn’t appreciate this stranger’s casual use of his son’s name.

Somehow Barry still has his ring, but when he ejects his Flash uniform to prove he’s telling the truth, Thawne’s uniform emerges instead. Barry concludes that Thawne did something to change the past and left his uniform as a mocking “calling card.”

Barry and the Thomas Wayne Batman

Barry and Thomas Wayne.

He seeks Batman’s help in recreating the accident that gave him his powers and begins to “remember” the events of the new timeline. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Aquaman and Wonder Woman had been lovers— until she’d killed Aquaman’s furious wife, Mera, when the latter confronted her.

We also see an enraged Thomas Wayne beating the mugger who’d killed Bruce, while Martha Wayne had a much different reaction.

In the present, in London, someone who can move extremely fast saves Lois Lane (Dana Delany) from Amazon warriors.

Barry is successful in restoring his speed, but he can’t run fast enough to break the time barrier.

He does, however, convince Batman to join Cyborg’s team. En route to London, Batman shows Barry a transmission from Lois Lane that depicts a yellow blur. Barry realizes it’s the Reverse Flash and both men wonder why Thawne let himself be seen, much less helped Lois.

In London, Thawne reveals himself, telling Barry he let Lois see him because it would draw Barry to him.

He also says he didn’t alter history; Barry did.

“Think, Barry. Isn’t there some little thing, some little good deed you might have done?”

“I saved someone.”

“Yes.”

Barry begins to remember. “I saved her. I saved Mom.”

“That’s right.”

Barry says it wouldn’t have changed events that happened before her murder, such as the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne and Superman’s arrival (his ship crashed in Metropolis and he was imprisoned by the government). However, Thawne replies that it did.

“Break the sound barrier and there’s a sonic boom,” he says. “You broke the time barrier, Flash. Time boom. Ripples of distortion radiated out through that point of impact, shifting everything just a tiny bit. But enough. Enough for events to happen slightly differently.”

“I just wanted to save her.”

Thawne mocks Barry, saying he didn’t save JFK, but instead saved his Mommy.

“And in a supreme act of selfishness, shattered history like a rank amateur,” he says. “Turned the world into a living hell moments away from destruction. And I’m the villain?”

As nuclear Armageddon begins, a mortally wounded Batman kills Thawne, giving the Flash full access to the Speed Force. He gives Barry a letter to Bruce and tells him to run.

Barry stops his younger self

Barry stops his younger self.

Barry stops his younger self from changing history and wakes up in his office to find everything restored to normal.

At his mother’s grave, he tells her he finally understands the serenity prayer she’d tried to explain to him as a boy.

The murder of Nora Allen is a relatively new bit of Flash history, first introduced in Flash: Rebirth in 2006. However, her death in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox happens under slightly different circumstances than in the comics. For one, Henry Allen isn’t blamed; he’s not even mentioned, leaving viewers to assume Nora had raised Barry alone.

The movie is something of a mixed bag. I liked the basic story and the ironic idea that Barry’s efforts to change things for the better only made them much worse. I also liked that Bruce Wayne was able to read a letter from his father, thanks to Barry.

On the other hand, we’re never told whether Aquaman and Wonder Woman had once been heroes in this alternate reality. Granted, an 81 minute movie can’t cover everything in a comics series, but it would have been nice to have gotten a better idea of how the two antagonists had interacted with the rest of the world before their war.

It’s also extremely violent (in one scene, Wonder Woman holds up Mera’s severed head), with a fair amount of blood spilled, so you might not want to let young kids watch it.

Overall, though, it’s an entertaining film.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

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