The Flash (2023)

Critiquing The Flash, the newest and subsequently the penultimate offering from the DCEU comes with rough waters. Mainly due to what has transpired off screen involving the main actor however, a review of the film should not include any of the transgressions as a basis for viewing and a review should be only based on the merit within the 2 and a half hour plus story. Separating the art from the human is crucial for The Flash and its success but the human is just one element that goes into constructing an ambitious world colliding event and the entire film should not suffer because of that. From the top down, The Flash, like any film is a collaborative effort by hundreds of hard-working people and it’s their collective work that should be judged, criticized and or praised.

That being said, none of what happened in the personal lives of the people who appear on screen will be mentioned in this review. As disturbing as it is, this is not the time nor place.

For nearly a decade, and even longer than that, a Flash film has been in development with creative after creative being announced and soon after leaving the project due to differences in vision. And then the DCEU came, and everything changed. And while the connective universe that started in 2013 with Man of Steel (still the best of this universe) has paled in comparison to the MCU, the DCEU is not without its bright spots. After all, these are the world’s greatest and most prestigious superheroes that have ever been created.

One of the few bright spots that stand out has been the excellent casting of these superheroes. Most notably The Flash himself Barry Allen (Ezra Miller). Compared to the dark muted world that director Zack Snyder establishes in Man of Steel, Barry Allen has been the comedic relief, standing out with his bright red suit with yellow lightning bolt highlights. And as Barry Allen, Ezra Miller has given us a more mature, comedic and developed version of the famed speedster that can hold his own alongside other members of the Justice League.

The character of Barry Allen is not without a tragic backstory – like all superheroes are. The Flash spends all of its time exploring the tragedy that Barry and his father Henry (Ron Livingston) have endured for years. Adapted from one of the more well-known comic storylines Flashpoint written by Geoff Johns, the story serves as a universe reset button ushering in the “New 52” era of the comics. For the film, the DC universe is already being reset without Barry having to run back in time to undo his mother Nora’s (Maribel Verdú) death.

After talking with his father the night before an appeal hearing, Barry runs so fast he taps into the speed force which allows him to reverse time and potentially save his mother’s life. Like all time travel tropes, this comes with consequences of disrupting the past – changing a singular action can create a ripple effect that may not be undone.

Barry brings this up with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who reminds Barry that his parents died for a reason. It’s what pushes Bruce to become Batman, and he would rather be alone than damage the multiverse. This is where The Flash attempts to establish its sense of morality. Is saving one person worth it if the entire multiverse is put at risk? This is also where the screenplay written by Christina Hodson off a story conceived by John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein and Joby Harold begins to unravel.

Upon successfully traveling back in time, Barry unknowingly alters the entire multiverse – in doing so runs into an alternate and younger version of himself. An action that repeatedly done to reverse events causes the collapse of different universes. Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), the predominant Bruce and Batman in the film explains this to our Barry, while younger Barry is full of optimism and carefree wonder experiencing this time altering event.

Playing two versions of himself Ezra is given a hefty task to accomplish which they perform remarkably. Our Barry has the experience, gravitas and knowledge while younger Barry is just happy to be here for an unexpected ride. Within the dynamic of two very different Barry’s, the humor of the film soars. Our Barry is the awkward, nervous introvert and younger Barry is a happy-go-lucky puppy dog. Younger Barry never gets to lose anything the way older Barry does, taking much of what he has for granted and it’s older Barry’s mistakes that create the films actual villain.

A villain that doesn’t get the screentime nor presense they deserve among a convoluted multiverse narrative.

Getting to that point of realization takes up a majority of the films runtime. In between meeting Bruce Wayne and learning that there are no metahumans in the fractured universe our Barry is exiled in, the events of Man of Steel are tied into The Flash. And with that comes General Zod (Michael Shannon) terraforming Earth for the Kryptonians to survive once more. But with no Kal-El to save the planet, the Barry’s and Bruce search for a replacement and find one in Kara Zor-El (Sasha Calle).

In their limited screen times both Sasha Calle and Michael Keaton get the most out of their supporting roles. Danny Elfman’s Batman theme still packs a punch while Keaton looks as comfortable as ever back in the cape and cowl despite still not being able to turn his head comfortably. On the other hand, Sasha Calle is the perfect representation for this version of a Kryptonian. She’s mysterious, reserved, strong but kind. However, as I mentioned, The Flash works on so many of its levels because of Ezra’s dual performance. They provide the emotional depth for this narrative and director Andy Muschietti does wonders with a script of this magnitude.

Despite its ambition, bright colors, and entertainment value, The Flash winds up being too muddied and self-reliant. Paced at the same speed that Barry is moving through time, the film doesn’t get to take a much-needed breather, even during the down times, dialogue is spoken at 60 mph. From the opening sequence to the final showdown, The Flash moves at Mach 10. Speaking of the opening sequence, visually, some of the effects give the film an unfinished feeling and are visibly noticeable. At one point I couldn’t stop shaking my head. In regard to the action sequences, As stunning and intimate as they are, it’s the visual effects that borderline console gaming graphics rather than standing out among the other multiversal films visual noise.

As a sendoff for the remainder of the hemorrhaging DCEU, The Flash both succeeds and misses the mark – there are no stakes to be had which has become the pitfall for many comic book adapted films. Without a universe to actually reset and shepherd in the new James Gunn led DCU, The Flash just exists – it’s there to be indulged in with most being an empty calorie snack rather a full macro enriched meal. Are we glad this story finally has come out, yes but it’s even better that we can finally, after all this time move on from this cursed project.

Screenplay By: Christina Hodson

Story By: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein & Joby Harold

Directed By: Andy Muschietti

Music By: Benjamin Wallfisch

Cinematography: Henry Braham

Starring: Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck

Edited By: Jason Ballantine & Paul Machliss

Release Date: June 16, 2023

Running Time: 2 Hours 35 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

Based On: The Flash created by Robert Kanigher & Carmine Infantino

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: