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Review: The Flash

Hyped up by various executives at DC and WB as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made, The Flash is definitely not that.  It’s mostly okay with fun moments sprinkled throughout but it ends in a sludge of questionable special effects and empty fan service.

Ezra Miller returns from Justice League (both iterations) as Barry Allen aka The Flash.  As the movie starts, Barry is providing support for his fellow Justice League members, including Batman (Ben Affleck) doing things like saving numerous babies from a collapsing building.  As another appeal for his father’s prison sentence comes up empty, Barry discovers he can travel backward in time if he can run fast enough and decides, despite Bruce’s warnings, to go back and try and change one little detail of his family’s past to try to bring back his murdered mother and keep his father out of prison.  The ripple effect however puts Barry back to the events of Man of Steel and General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) attack on Earth.  This time there is no Justice League and a second, younger Barry (also played by Miller) who is more laid back and dim-witted than the original Barry.  The older Barry needs to team up with his younger self and Batman, now an older, retired superhero, played by Michael Keaton returning to his iconic role, to stop Zod and try to restore the timeline.  The multiversal shenanigans are mostly fun, with a hilarious explanation of the way the multiverse and time travel works here from Keaton’s Batman using pasta and fun takes on the established DCEU lore but it doesn’t feel as fresh as it might have been compared to the likes of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Across the Spider-Verse, Multiverse of Madness or even Everything, Everywhere All at Once.  The alternate timelines and universes has been done better and in more interesting ways and while it’s fine here, it won’t show you anything you haven’t seen before.  The main thing that is unique about The Flash is probably its visuals, especially when Barry is in the Speed Force.  Andy Muschietti gives the Speed Force an interesting, stylized look where the events of the past are presented almost like it’s a lecture hall with cascading rings of the events spreading out from the ball of energy Barry is running in.  The CG is apparently intentionally the way it is but it still looks a little bizarre, like it’s from an earlier era of CG where things weren’t nailed down quite as well, like the early to mid-2000s.  One of my major issues with the movie is the ending, where there is a rushed secondary villain introduced who doesn’t do or say anything interesting and egregious fan-service cameos from mostly CG recreations of previous incarnations of characters like Batman and Superman that are only there to try and draw audience clapping at characters they recognize and there is no explanation about why anything that is happening is occurring.  It’s nowhere close to how Spider-Man: No Way Home brought back legacy characters, making them integral to the plot, continuing their characterizations from their respective movies, and helped the new Spider-Man grow as a character.

Acting-wise, Ezra Miller is fine in their dual role, doing a good job of making both versions of Barry feel distinct and unique and getting some solid laughs as the dopier, college-aged version of Barry.  If you enjoyed Miller in Justice League, specifically Zack Snyder’s Justice League, then you will probably enjoy what they are doing here as well.  Michael Keaton is the highlight of the movie, as you might expect.  He returns as Batman and brings back the mischievous spark that his Batman/Bruce Wayne had in the Tim Burton movies, especially the first movie.  It’s great to see his Batman get to do action that wasn’t physically possible back in 1989 and see him do things like utilize his cape and fight by being able to move his head.  Sasha Calle is also solid as Kara aka Supergirl but her character evolution feels rushed as she wavers back and forth on whether she cares about saving humanity or not after being locked up for years in a Siberian research facility.  It’s still not clear if anyone or anything from the current universe is coming to the new universe but she has a lot of potential and it would be a disappointment if this was a one-and-done appearance.  Michael Shannon is pretty much wasted with his return as Zod, phoning in his performance and not doing anything new or interesting compared to his role in Man of Steel.  If this is the last time we see Ben Affleck as Batman, it’s a pretty fun final sequence, with a decently cool action sequence and a lighter attitude, even getting to make some jokes.

The Flash is a solid entry in the DCEU but it’s a mid-tier entry at best, definitely not the epic masterpiece that it was promoted as, and most of the impact it may have had on the greater story is rendered moot by the fact that the universe is getting completely wiped out for something new in a few years.  It’s great to see Michael Keaton back but a lot of the other fan service is empty and shallow and the ending in general is a mess.  Unless you are a diehard DCEU completionist, you could probably wait to see this on Max in a few months.

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