After years in development, multiple reshoots, and dealing with a problematic star, The Flash achieves final form as the concluding chapter of a soon-to-be bygone era. Before James Gunn can take the Batmobile out for a spin, the DC Universe must first bid farewell to Zack Snyder’s vision for the Justice League and DC. This film is the Snyderverse’s swan song.
A note to fans of the original Flashpoint comic book story: there might be some disappointment as the movie only picks up the essence of the paradigmatic story arc, not much of the actual story. Fans looking for Martha Wayne’s Joker or a continent-destroying battle between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, will soon discover that those plot points remain on paper only.
Directed by Andy Muschietti (It: Chapter One and Two) and starring Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, the youngest and most grating member of the Justice League, The Flash pulls the band back together for one final hurrah, along with a few old-school favorites thanks to Barry’s discovery of the Speed Force, which can be used to alter time and space.
Lacking a proper solo outing til now, The Flash offers a deeper look into Barry’s tragic backstory, usually hidden by his goofy persona. As a child, his father Henry (Ron Livingston) was falsely convicted of murdering his mother (Maribel Verdú). Years later, on the eve of his father’s court appeal, Barry goes for a frustration run and discovers that he can outrun time itself, allowing him to change history. So what would it hurt to save his mom? That’s just one person, right? Then the real fun begins.
The most amusing parts of The Flash come from the Butterfly Effect (the idea that a small change in the past can significantly alter the present). Barry’s time travel and the ramifications of his folly through the DC Universe are a big part of the movie. Because of his impulsive decisions, we get Michael Keaton’s Batman, a brand new Supergirl (Sasha Calle), the return of General Zod (Michael Shannon), and a whole Wonka factory of DC goodies that will make any fanboy smile from ear to ear. None of these are spoilers as they are in the trailer, by the way.
Aside from clever callbacks and Easter eggs galore, Miller is charming in the dual role of Barry Squared (Barry2 ). Playing both the somewhat wiser, older and troubled Barry against the young, more impetuous Barry could have been irksome, but his on-screen charisma wins out. Some might be uncomfortable reading praise about Miller due to his recent slew of charges ranging from disorderly conduct and harassment to burglary and child endangerment, but he does a good job of making us forget.
Oddly, the final chapter of the Snyderverse finds its surest footing so far within the franchise. The film isn’t plagued by the same issues that marred previous DC efforts, either. The heroes aren’t grim and grimy emo headcases, the villains seem to have coherent plans and the script follows an intelligible plot line. This is another superhero film in which a legacy metahuman almost destroys mankind just so they can achieve personal happiness, something we saw with two Spider-man movies and via one Scarlet Witch.
The main issue with The Flash is that it’s not only battling superhero fatigue, but a new type of ennui to plague moviegoers: multiverse exhaustion. Back in 2019, when the concept of the multiverse was shiny and new, moviegoers needed a little hand-holding. But now, in the year of our lord 2023, after many, many Marvel movies and the Oscar-winning A24 game changer Everything Everywhere All At Once, audiences are more than familiar with the idea of more than one universe or reality.
Sadly, the studio did this movie no favors by releasing it hot on the heels of the excellent Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, which follows similar themes in a superior superhero saga. The Flash may be fast, but it feels late to the party.
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