Even in comic books — a medium tailor made to flights of fancy — the concept of bending time and alternate universes can become a trifle tedious. As such one has to consciously succumb to the intricacies of Warner Bros. Animation’s latest direct-to-DVD title, “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox,” a dizzying adaptation of Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert’s graphic novel, geared toward the more extreme reaches of the fanboy crowd. Stick with it, though, and this 80-minute film is not without its pleasures, from Wonder Woman turning complete badass to a twisted variant of Batman even more sadistic than the more familiar incarnation. While hardly for everyone, it’s an interesting addition to WB’s ambitious array of serious animation aimed at comics-loving adults.
Featuring the usual assortment of well-known actors lending their voices to the enterprise, “Flashpoint Paradox” centers on the Flash (“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Justin Chambers) traveling into the past to alter the death of his mother. But the rip in the fabric of time creates an alternate reality, with Wonder Woman’s Amazons at war with Aquaman’s Atlanteans, and Thomas Wayne (Kevin McKidd) having witnessed the murder of his young son Bruce instead of vice versa, becoming an even more vengeful version of the Dark Knight.
Directed by Jay Oliva (whose recent work on “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” will be hard to top) and written by Jim Krieg, the parallel reality allows the story to become almost crazily violent, with scads of building-obliterating action as Flash, this altered Batman and Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan) team up to try and avert a catastrophe, and the occasional beheading as Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) and Aquaman (Cary Elwes) lead their forces into battle.
That said, one has to be pretty well-versed in comic-book lore to fully appreciate the array of characters, some of them pretty obscure, incorporated into the story.
As noted previously, Direct-to-DVD animation remains one area where Warner Bros. has raced ahead of Marvel, albeit by indulging in a level of fidelity to the comics in all their minutia that exhibits a genuine love of the source material but also inherently narrows the appeal compared to, say, theatrical blockbusters.
For now, in terms of the bold leap from four-color page to screen, that schism represents its own rather intriguing paradox.