I remember reading the Flashpoint big event in the DC Universe that took place before DC made the brave and risky decision to reboot their entire universe with the New 52 (long story as to what that really means). Quite frankly, it’s been a 50/50 success with some of the benchmark series like Wonder Woman, Batman & Robin, Batman and Aquaman are really great while other series like Action Comics, Superman, Justice League and multiple others are just dogs to me. Back to the matter at hand; this 2011 main event was supposed be a (loose) bridge to the new universe of DC comics. An Elseworlds-styled series that centers on The Flash and Batman.
A pivotal event in the DC Universe’s past was changed, and that change rippled throughout the DC universe and changed its entire history. The Flash (Barry Allen) wakes up and not only doesn’t he have any powers but his entire world has changed. Changed to the point where Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war, millions of people have died in their war, there’s no Justice League and Barry is the only one who knows the world is wrong and is in a race against time to put the world back together before it’s too late and the Atlantean/Themysciran War destroys what’s left it.
Are you ready to read more? If so, be warned – ‘CAUSE THAR BE (slight) SPOILERS AHEAD!
To put it bluntly; I hated this comic book big event series. It just wasn’t that good a storyline (on paper) and I truly felt ripped off even entertaining it. Not because I don’t like alternate reality stories, actually I like those more than most, but because this was hyped up to be consequential and it really wasn’t in the wake of the New 52 launch. Outside of a few references and a few characters, it might as well have had no impact at all. So, I really went into watching this animated series with some trepidation and a lot of angst. BOY, WAS I WORRYING ABOUT NOTHING! This movie was really, really, really good. Actually, there was a scene at the end (that I will get to later) that actually tipped this movie into the great category. This is up there with great animated movies like the The Hulk Vs. movies, Justice League: The New Frontier, Batman: Year One and All-Star Superman.
Barry Allen has, like many of our favorite superheroes, a very tragic back story. His mother was tragically murdered as a child and his father was convicted for murder and later died in jail. Barry refusing to believe that his father was guilty began to study forensic science and later joined the Central City Police Department as a Forensic Scientist in order to try to make sure other innocent people weren’t convicted for crimes they didn’t commit. Known for not being the fastest worker, he was working late in in his lab one night with a bunch of chemicals when it was struck by lightning and he was doused by those chemicals. Over time he began to see the world around him moving at a slower pace, but in fact he was just moving faster. Ultimately, he learned to use his powers and became the speedster hero and member (and heart) of the Justice League, The Flash.
This story deals with regrets and acceptance. What we get to witness is when regret turns into unbridled action and the unfortunate consequences of those actions. The Flash is lured to a crime scene at The Flash Museum where Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang, Top and Heatwave are out for revenge. Over the years The Flash has put all of these villains in jail and now they want some payback. However, this wasn’t a plan organized by any of these chuckleheads, this was a plan orchestrated by The Flash’s evil twin – Professor Zoom or The Reverse Flash. Eobard Thawne is from the 25th Century and recreated The Flash’s accident to access the Speed Force, the force that all speedsters derive their powers from, to move so fast that he ran back in time to the past. Thawne’s plan is simple – destroy The Flash by destroying his legacy. However, with the aid of The Justice League, they are able to thwart Thawne’s plan. But before Thawne is hauled off to jail, he plants a very suggestive idea into The Flash’s head – what if you can’t protect the one’s you love? With this in mind, The Flash runs off and the next scene is of Barry waking up in a VERY different world. Powerless, he remembers the world as it used to be, but woke up to a world with a much different history and the most shocking thing of all – his very much alive mother.
As stated before, Diana of Themyscira (Wonder Woman) and King Authur of Altantis (Aquaman) have gone to war and all of humanity is trampled in their wake. We start this part of the story near the end of this war and the stakes have been raised to their breaking point. Cyborg is desperately trying to recruit the gun-toting Batman and form a team of super-powered metahumans to be the last line of defense for the human race. However, Batman has no interest in what he considers a war already lost and Cyborg, America’s greatest superhero, is losing the faith of his government. The world has gone to hell and Barry Allen wants to change it back, but with no powers and no super friends (you see what I did there, right?) to count on, he’s got a long and hard road to stop certain Armageddon.
What I found to be the most poignant and the best aspect of this series was the relationship between Batman and Flash. More to the point, the underlying story about love of family, sacrifice and the heartbreak of that nagging idea – “what could have been”. What we get to see is a story that lays before you the chaos theory of when a butterfly flaps its wings; it creates a hurricane elsewhere – the butterfly effect. Friends are enemies, lovers are strangers, heroes are villains and hope has been replaced with fear.
Another aspect of this movie that I wish they had touched more on, but how they introduced it was so, so, so powerful, was the genesis of The Joker and The Batman. Man, I had tears in my eyes during this small but powerful scene. It literally said it all, even though I wished they had given us just a bit more. We all know the story of Thomas, Martha and young Bruce Wayne as they walked through that dark alley that faithful night and ran into the infamous Joe Chill. This story takes a more significant meaning in the Flashpoint series. I want to give it all away, but – I can’t because I want anyone reading this to experience it on their own (bring Kleenex). This was the one 3-part mini-series story written by Brian Azzarello in the comics that I actually really dug.
In the end, there’s a scene between Batman and Flash that literally brought tears to my eyes. Since the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne faded away and became the façade while The Batman became the real person. Thus, a brief moment at the end of the movie sealed the deal and made this movie one of my favorites of all time. Voiced by the man who’s been doing Batman for more than 20 years, Kevin Conroy, he delivered some lines that quite frankly only he could have done as someone who knows the character so well and in a way that delivered the humanity and depth of pain that Bruce Wayne lives with every day. In that brief moment, he made Batman more than The Caped Crusader, The Detective or The Dark Knight – but the 8 year old little boy that will always be longing for his mom and dad. If you don’t choke up at this scene, you have coal for a heart.
What didn’t work for me in the comics definitely did in the movie. This movie felt consequential and felt as though the stakes were beyond just high, but significant. I found the comics to be mostly a waste of my time and didn’t set the stage well for me going into the New 52. However, if this is how DC animation studios are going to treat any subsequent movies going forward (including a New 52 movie), it may do what the comics haven’t done – make me a believer. It’s not a secret that I detest what they’ve done to their TV animated franchises, but the shining star in the comic book genre are the DC animated movies and this is one of the better ones.
I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. This isn’t just worth watching, it’s worth buying and watching over – and over – and over – and over again. You’ll thank me.