Since the earliest days of the DC Cinematic Universe, the production house seemed intent on building its world in reverse. Justice League and Suicide Squad were quick to come to fruition. Even as things gear down before the series officially reboots under new management, characters still get their time to shine. Will The Flash surge past its struggles, or is the film in desperate need of a carb boost?
The Flash follows Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) as the hero finds himself lost in a quest to finally free his falsely imprisoned father (Ron Livingston). However, as Barry realizes he can time travel, he sets off a butterfly effect of mass chaos. Anything beyond this is probably spoilers, so that’s all you’re getting. Sasha Calle, Ben Affleck, Michael Keaton and Michael Shannon co-star in The Flash. Andy Muschietti directs the movie from a script by Christina Hodson.
Right out of the gate, The Flash grounds itself in humor we’re not used to seeing in DC, especially after 10 years of the “Snyderverse” and six with Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight. It’s often a dark place with no quips to speak of.
Now, don’t take that to mean I don’t like DC. I’m actually fascinated with the universe, and entries in this world have been some of my favorite comic book movies. Dark and brooding can be heady and interesting. The Flash, however, sprints right past “brooding” and hops the last train to Quippyville.
In this, The Flash is a massive departure from what we’ve seen in the DCEU. It feels incredibly fresh. It’s only unfortunate, though, that with DC in transition; this shift comes at the end.
Interestingly, as I watched the movie, I was suddenly struck with the realization that this is the heart the cinematic universe has struggled to find for the last decade. It’s been heady, deep and intellectual. We know it can do that. The Flash, however, feels like a Gen-X and Millennial love letter to the superhero movies ’90s kids grew up with.
As such, the fan service quotient here is kinda high. The film is packed full of big moments which play best with an audience to hoot and holler. When Michael Keaton stands up and says, “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” every audience member of a certain age feels this deep in our soul. There are a number of other (vaguely spoilery) moments sprinkled throughout, which feel directly included for the fans. This superhero movie, it seems, loves superhero movies.
Meanwhile, the performances throughout are special. Most are talking about Michael Keaton, and it makes sense. Keaton is a joy to watch, harkening back to his tenure as Bruce Wayne, and he kills it again this time around.
At the same time, Ezra Miller appears to be having a blast in dual roles. The performer shows absolutely no struggle differentiating Barry at different stages in life. They move back and forth between the comedy and the more sensitive moments with ease and comfort. Much of the film’s success rests on their shoulders, and their quirky but heartfelt performance holds everything together.
The same can be said for Sasha Calle, who shines as Supergirl. It can also be said that Calle doesn’t have enough to do, especially at this point in the franchise. Though, even in a small part, her performance is stoic and powerful. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen where her role will evolve from here.
The cast gels incredibly around Christina Hodson’s script. The writer rejoins the DCEU after previously penning 2020’s Birds of Prey. At the same time, this viewer would also hypothesize that it’s more than possible to see the influence of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who also receive story credit. The creative minds uniting to craft this story aren’t afraid to, as Bruce Wayne says, “Get nuts,” and the result is the best kind of bonkers.
At the same time, though, there’s a powerful arc about grief and resilience at the story’s core, and it’s palpable in each of these characters. Does our grief truly make us who we are? This question is, admittedly, pushed a bit into the background to boost the comedy, but it’s a fascinating question worthy of more exploration.
Frankly, it would have been nice to see a little more of this drama. Each of these performers would have thrived with an opportunity to play in a powerful, meaty world. That said, though, it was awfully nice to sit back and laugh for two and a half hours. The Flash is light, fun and entertaining.
The film’s biggest struggle won’t surprise many … the computer graphics are a bit rough. We can’t talk about a superhero movie right now without noting some challenging effects work. A layer of artificiality hangs over many of Barry’s slow-motion sequences, and the technological struggles are pronounced. Or could it be no one looks good in slow-mo? In the grand scheme of things, though, despite best intentions, the graphics struggle once again serves to pull the audience back from the movie, and that’s not what a story like this needs.
The Flash is, ultimately, a case of too little, too late. The superhero movie is a bright and quippy entry into a world that is often dark and heady. This isn’t the DC we’re used to over the last decade, which will not work for everyone. However, it’s unfortunate this purely enjoyable entry point comes along right at the end of the series.
The Flash is now playing in theaters around the country.