The Flash races into cinemas this week as Warner Bros. Pictures releases one of the last films in its current DCEU timeline, and one of its biggest gambles to date. After more than 10 years in development, WB and fans alike are hoping that The Flash was worth the wait after all this time.
In a collision of worlds, Barry Allen AKA The Flash (Ezra Miller) harnesses his superhuman speed to journey back in time, seeking to rewrite history and save a loved one. However, he unintentionally reshapes the future, trapping him in a perilous reality where General Zod (Michael Shannon) resurfaces, and poses a grave threat to humanity. Desperate for aid, The Flash seeks to awaken a retired Batman (Michael Keaton). Together, they must orchestrate a daring mission to free a captive Kryptonian (Sasha Calle) – although not the specific one The Flash had initially sought. Hoping this team will be enough, our heroes set out to do the impossible and save reality itself.
After watching Joss Whedon’s disastrous Justice League back in 2017 and sitting through Ezra Miller’s “comedic” performance in that, I feared for the headache I would have to endure of them being front and centre in a 2 ½ hour long film.Thankfully I remembered Zack Snyder’s 2021 rendition of Allen’s character – Snyder managed to take what was a bumbling, annoying “comedic” character and truly flesh them out, making them one of the most endearing members of the league. I had all my fingers crossed that director Andy Muschietti (IT franchise) would be able to continue the work Snyder had done and evolve the character even further.
I’m sorry to say but I feel this film stumbles on almost every level. There were multiple points throughout in which I had war-flashbacks to Whedon’s Justice League and felt myself cringing at the hapless humour, as well as the inexcusably terrible CGI. There are so many elements that hold this movie back from being an amazing DC epic. Perhaps The Flash’s biggest crime is that it is just a poor rendition of the far superior work that has come before it. On paper, all the elements from previous DC films are there – Tim Burton’s Batman, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel storyline and Geoff John’s Flashpoint comic – but the film never does anything to build upon these iconic classics. Instead, it just retells them with less sophistication and far worse special effects. For a film with such a high budget and countless reshoots, the CGI has no reason to be this bad. It is especially noticeable in the final act, as it becomes a muddled visual mess that’s difficult to enjoy.
Even the plot itself has problems, as Catherine Hodson (Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)) crafts a story that does nothing exciting nor memorable. It certainly won’t offend anyone, but it never makes any clever twists or attempts to surprise its audience in any way. Perhaps with a writing partner the script could have been elevated past crude visual gags and cliché superhero storytelling. I struggled to enjoy The Flash as I found myself becoming less and less interested in what was presented to me on-screen. There would be moments of enjoyment, but too few and far between to recommend this film to most people.
On a brighter note there are things that do work – Michael Keaton’s Batman is in top form. It feels like no time has passed (other than the grey hair and some extra wrinkles) as Keaton slips back into the role, and batsuit, like it was yesterday. He’s funny, charismatic, and menacing when needed. He gets all the best toys to play with and steals every scene he graces. As a kid who grew up with the Nolan Trilogy of Batman films I don’t have much nostalgia for Keaton, but I did thoroughly appreciate his caped crusader. If Keaton is your Batman, then this film will do you justice. Ezra Miller is also excellent in this film in which they do most of the heavy lifting as the two Barry Allens. Most of the time Miller is just playing off themself with no one else there to assist, which really speaks volumes to their acting chops. With some really emotionally heavy moments towards the end, I felt Miller handled the gravity of those scenes incredibly well.
In the end, The Flash doesn’t try anything new and instead tries to capitalise on the success of DC creatives before it. The film winds up playing it safe with bland action and horrible CGI, resulting in a generic superhero flick that is only worth it for die-hard Keaton fans.