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Is ‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ the Darkest Superhero Film Ever?
After all, in what other movie do you get to see Wonder Woman behead Mera, Aquaman’s wife? Or watch Batman not just wield handguns, but shoot someone in the head—and in full front-and-center view, no less?
Granted, this is a Batman who exists in an alt-universe, not the Bruce Wayne that pop culture has come to know and love and obsess about over the decades. But still. To see some of the major JLA players in “evil twin mode” while others are effectively rendered powerless for most of the narrative (Superman deserves to be redubbed “Skinnyman” here) is more than shocking. It upends the DC pantheon in ways that comics and films such as Watchmen could never hope to since by design they didn’t deal with the pantheon.
Which of course makes this DVD/Blu-ray, released today in the US, one of the most potent prompters of critical thinking you are apt to encounter this year. (But please let me be clear in terms of the age group involved: I’m talking grade nine and above—if you screen this for a ten-year-old you may end up covering his/her eyes, as I had to during the more harrowing and/or bloody scenes.)
Although I haven’t read the comics story upon which The Flashpoint Paradox is based, I’m not exactly eager to considering the basic plot/premise on display in this newest DCU animated feature. Sure, some teen superhero fans may find it fresh, but anyone familiar with the third act of It’s a Wonderful Life and the classic “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Star Trek TOS will recognize the dramatic hook here: if the Flash saves his mother from certain death, an entire series of “what if” events ensues that results in a supremely bleak vision of unending war, crime, and corruption.
And it’s that vision that’s worthy of both recoil and admiration. On the one hand, there’s something undeniably disturbing at work in this text, and that’s intentional as it establishes the stakes for the Flash and his allies. On the other hand, one wants to applaud the Warner/DC folks for undermining their own iconic characters, something I can’t imagine their competition doing until someone adapts Marvel Zombies for the screen in a non-fanmade version.
But in the end is Wonder Woman really Wonder Woman if she’s no longer a hero… or do we just have a brutal warrior who just happens to be wearing a Wonder Woman costume? In short, can creators in essence separate the “super” from the “hero” and still be said to be working with the same character? It’s a question that fans may be uniquely capable of answering—if, that is, they can stomach the graphic violence that awaits them along the way.
About Peter Gutierrez
A former middle school teacher, Peter Gutierrez has spent the past 20 years developing curriculum as well as working in, and writing about, various branches of pop culture. You can sample way too many of his thoughts about media and media literacy via Twitter: @Peter_Gutierrez
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