REVIEW — “The Flash”
Double the Barry, double the fun! While The Flash hits a few speed bumps, the film is a spectacularly spastic and electrifyingly entertaining swan song for the Snyderverse.
At the start of The Flash, we find Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) as the self-proclaimed “janitor of the Justice League,” constantly summoned by Alfred (Jeremy Irons) to clean up after Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) bat-messes.
However, emotions are boiling inside Barry as he juggles his superhero and work responsibilities while also dealing with his incarcerated father’s (Ron Livingston) looming trial for the murder of his mother (Maribel Verdu). Barry knows he’s innocent, but can’t prove it. Hopeless and distraught, the hero attempts to run away from it all, sprinting so fast that he inadvertently runs back in time. This event inspires Barry to race into the past to prevent his mother’s death and keep his innocent father out of prison. All he has to do is change one tiny detail and be back in a flash. But on his way out, he’s tripped up by a mysterious force and gets stuck five years in the past.
Thanks to the butterfly effect, his world has already changed. While his parents are happy and alive, Barry finds himself powerless in a reality where Superman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and Wonder Woman do not exist just as Man of Steel’s General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth to terraform the planet and hunt down the last Kryptonian. Barry must team up with his younger self (Miller) and this dimension’s retired Batman (Michael Keaton) to rescue an imprisoned Supergirl (Sasha Calle), restore his powers, defeat Zod, and correct the timeline before Earth is destroyed and all of time and space is unraveled.
Arguably, Keaton’s return as Batman is the film’s biggest draw. With his weathered face and signature smirk, Keaton once again owns the cape and cowl as an aging Dark Knight. Having not portrayed the character since 1992’s Batman Returns, the legend slides right back into the role and relays perhaps the best explanation of superhero multiversal time travel yet using a box of spaghetti. “It’s a hot mess. A crap shoot.”
Affleck also sunsets his older and wiser version of the Caped Crusader with a Nolanesque opening featuring a batcycle chase through the streets of Gotham. Calle is fierce and vengeful as a scorned Supergirl. Her focused rage is a highlight of the film’s last act. Here’s hoping that she gets to return to the role in another film. Meanwhile, Michael Shannon looks as formidable as ever as Zod, but is clearly unimpressed with his return to the role.
With all the noise surrounding Miller’s problematic off-set behavior, the actor is fantastic in the film and gives two tremendously nuanced and, often, hilarious performances as dual versions of Barry Allen: one young, hyper, and annoying, the other older, wiser, and mature. It’s a remarkably impressive feat that Miller makes feel both real and believable. However, it’s the elder Barry’s arc that drives The Flash’s most dramatic beats, especially when faced with sacrificing his happiness for the good of the multiverse. Miller’s commanding and empathetic performance brings the film full circle and reaches emotional depths that have barely been grazed by other DCEU films.
The film displays Barry’s time traveling using a “chronobowl” effect that scrolls through time as if he were tuning a dial. While it is interesting visually, the action is so poorly animated and littered with uncanny valley that it becomes distracting. In fact, the film suffers from poor CGI throughout. From fake floating babies in the opening scene to the film’s final battle, the clearly digital action looks rubbery, unhuman, and disturbing. At a time when superior deep fake technology exists, it’s honestly baffling why studios release films with sub-par and unrealistic computer-generated effects, especially one that was delayed for so long due to rewrites, director changes, COVID, and the lead actor’s legal troubles. Why not give the animators more time to perfect these sequences?
It’s a shame, because The Flash had been unofficially promoted as a hard reset for the DCEU, with only Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom remaining as the final Snyderverse film yet to be released. So while Miller’s The Flash may not be able to outrun its fate, director Andy Muschietti’s film is a lot of fun and big on fan-service with jaw-dropping cameos and world-colliding nods to other DC universe stars and casting what-ifs. If only it existed in another universe where so much wasn’t working against it. 3.5/5
Rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, The Flash opens in theaters June 16, 2023.