June 16, 2023 / Warner Bros. Pictures Canada
Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck
With the ability to go to any timeline, any universe, and anywhere he wants, Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash (Ezra Miller) travels back in time to prevent the death of his mother.
Having changed the future and the past, Barry must now face the consequences brought to his original timeline, as he crosses paths with Supergirl (Sasha Calle), an alternate version of himself and a Batman from a parallel timeline.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
The Flash tells an emotionally grounded story full of excitement, surprises and action that thanks to the great direction of Andy Muschietti, is an enjoyable summer blockbuster that helps pave the way for James Gunn’s new vision for the DC Universe.
After years of online rumours, leaks, rewrites, and controversies, The Flash is finally being released. No franchise has been hit harder by scandal in recent memory than the DC Extended Universe. With changes in studio executives, direction for the larger franchise causing the film to be rewritten and reshot, and the lead actor’s legal troubles, it was challenging to get overly excited for The Flash despite how incredible aspects of the film looked in the trailers and the character being one of my favourite DC superheroes. When the film was first screened at CinemaCon and celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Stephen King saw it and gave it rave reviews, my excitement for the film was renewed. And having seen an early cut of the film, though not the full theatrical cut to keep some of the biggest surprise appearances secret until opening weekend, I’m more than happy to report that The Flash is a great summer blockbuster experience, even if it is not one of the greatest superhero films of all time like some are proclaiming it to be.
After helping the Justice League defeat Darkseid, Barry is struggling with his place in the world as a superhero. He constantly feels in the shadow of his Justice League teammates as a subpar superhero, and his fight to help his dad earn parole for the murder of his mother has failed as he is unable to uncover any evidence proving his father’s innocence. Emotionally distraught, Barry travels back in time to save his family, but his actions have unexpected consequences which change his present as he knows it, creating a world without superheroes. Barry is then faced with his toughest challenge to date as he tries to reclaim the world he knows, with both his past and present, and that of the entire world, hanging in the balance.
Audiences first met Barry Allen in Justice League, but we did not get to fully explore his origin story in either version of that film. And while The Flash is purely not an origin film, it is Barry’s first solo big screen adventure and the film balances unpacking what made him the hero he is while continuing his story. Without a question the film’s biggest asset is its screenplay, which brings one of Barry’s greatest stories, Flashpoint, to the big screen. It is one of the most influential stories from the comics, following the world destroying consequences of Barry going back in time to save his mother from being killed, which changes the course of history. While the story could be overly complex, with different universes colliding, writers Christina Hodson and Joby Harold lay out the narrative succinctly, keeping the focus on Barry’s emotional journey which grounds the film. It continues Barry's story, while also giving a unique perspective to the origin story we are so used to seeing in this genre. There are lots of great multiverse moments, allowing Michael Keaton to return decades later as Batman and some other surprise cameos, with even more to come in the final cut, but they never overpower the emotion of the story. And it acts as a fitting end to the story that was set up by Zack Snyder in Man of Steel as his iteration of General Zod plays a key role in the plot, while helping to lay the ground for the reset coming with James Gunn’s new DC Universe in Superman: Legacy. Even though fans of the comics or those who have watched the far superior adaptation of Flashpoint in CW’s The Flash will know the big twist coming in the film’s climax, it's one of the best written films from DC since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.
Visually, the film is a mixed bag. There are exciting action sequences that deliver riveting moments, especially the film’s opening action sequence and the teased battle with General Zod and Supergirl in the final act, creating the spectacle that you want from a superhero summer blockbuster event. The way the time force and flow of time depicted within it is so mesmerizing and helps set this film apart from every other time travel film you have seen. But, the film is overly reliant on CGI, and it's noticeable to the eye. Yes, fans of the genre have been complaining bitterly about Marvel’s bad CGI moments (and yes there are some), but the majority of the action in this film is clearly CGI and just distances you from the excitement at times as it is not very polished looking. Clearly, Batman flying across the screen feels fake, while the visuals of the time force feels like a video game. I’m hoping that the CGI is still a work in progress and that it will be perfected for the theatrical cut, but there was so much of it that I have my doubts that all of it can be fixed for opening weekend.
One of the highlights of the film for me was Benjamin Wallfisch’s musical score, which is one of the most exciting scores of the year. Having worked with Hans Zimmer on previous films, Wallfisch honours the musical stylings of Zimmer and Tom Holkenborg from the Zack Snyder films, while creating an emotional musical theme for Barry. With Michael Keaton back as Batman, Wallfisch frequently uses Danny Elfman’s iconic Batman theme and it is absolutely electrifying to hear that theme blast through the theater’s sound system as Keaton flies across the screen. Compared to most recent comic book films which have had serviceable but weak musical scores, Wallfisch’s work is a breath of fresh air that this genre is much in need of.
While there are lots of superheroes in the film, there are two that steal the show: Batman and Supergirl. And it is all thanks to the performances of Michael Keaton and Sasha Calle. It is every DC Comics fan’s dream come true with Keaton donning the Batsuit once again over thirty years after his last appearance in Batman Returns as the Caped Crusader, and it was a pure joy to watch him in the role. Keaton is having an absolute blast portraying this older, hardened version of Bruce Wayne, and it's infectious on the audience. His quippy delivery of his lines, most notably “let’s get nuts” will have audiences erupting in applause, energizing the second half of the film once he appears on screen. Sasha Calle makes her big screen debut as Kara Zor-El aka. Supergirl, and she fits the world that Zack Snyder has built. There is a darkness to her, understandably so given how her character has spent her time on Earth, but at the same time she manages to capture that optimism and heroic nature that both Henry Cavill and Christopher Reeves brought to Superman. Making what could potentially be their final appearances in the DC Universe are Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot. Affleck is excellent as Bruce Wayne, giving what is easily the best performance in the role, and while Gadot’s writing is not great, it is always a pleasure seeing her in the role. The film has lots of other cameos, and they will get audiences excited as they are a wonderful tribute to the history of DC, with one character appearance hinting at the direction James Gunn is taking the franchise. Though, the version I saw purposely hid this actor’s identity, so it is something I am looking forward to seeing in the full theatrical version of the film.
Then, there is the Ezra Miller of the entire film. Riddled with legal troubles the past few years, it’s bad press for the film that has resulted Miller in beinge absent while promoting the film. It is very difficult to watch this film and not think of how wrong it feels to have such an individual in the lead role, and Miller’s performance is not enough to distract from this. I have never been a fan of them as Barry Allen, the emotional depth they bring to the role feels surface level and the cringey comedy moments have never been my cup of tea. Even with the brilliant script doing the majority of the heavy lifting, I never felt Miller creating the emotion of the film with their performance. Instead, it was the incredibly emotionally charged screenplay that I found tugging on my heart strings. My Barry Allen and Flash has always been Grant Gustin, who starred as the character for nine seasons on the CW series, and while I always welcome new interpretations of such characters, I would not be upset if this is Miller’s final film as the character.
There is no denying the excellent aspects of The Flash, because there are so many wonderful elements to this film, largely due to Andy Muschietti’s outstanding direction which carries the film from start to finish and brings everything together in the spectacle that audiences expect from their superhero films. The adaptation of the infamous Flashpoint storyline is everything fans have desired for one of Barry’s most iconic storylines, while the fan service moments will have theaters bursting into applause throughout the film. But even with all of this, the film struggles with Ezra Miller in the lead role and the over abundance and not great CGI. While the story and Andy Muschietti are firing on all cylinders to create an epic film, and despite Michael Keaton’s scene stealing return as Batman, the film never reaches the emotional heights it strives for due to Ezra Miller’s okay lead performance and the distracting CGI.