We review one of the most anticipated, and controversial, DC movies ever – The Flash. Is it the masterpiece it was hyped to be?
PLOT: Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), can’t resist the temptation to use his super abilities to turn back time and prevent the murder of his mother. But messing with the timeline propels him to another Earth without a Superman or anyone to protect the planet from General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) invasion. Saddled with another, younger Barry Allen to mentor (also Miller), he soon discovers that another Kryptonian is on earth and seeks this timeline’s Batman (Michael Keaton) to help him.
REVIEW: Warner Bros and DC have been propping up Andy Muschietti’s The Flash for months as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. In April, the studio launched an ambitious early screening campaign where they showed an unfinished version of the film to large groups of people, including the audience at CinemaCon, where I saw it. Due to it being a screening of an unfinished cut, I wasn’t allowed to review the movie formally. Even the polished version I just saw at a press screening was missing a critical post-credits moment that, I’m confident, is meant to launch the next chapter in DC’s on-screen universe.
You’ll notice the disconnect between the early screenings and some of the reviews, which are surprisingly mixed, given the early buzz. Having seen it again, I stand by my original assertion that The Flash is one of the best modern superhero movies. While not in the league of the Christopher Nolan trilogy, it ranks with the best Marvel movies and is expertly made and peppered with enough fan service to delight fans – although some are wondering if perhaps too much of the movie’s focus is on easter eggs. No matter; it’s a total blast.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Ezra Miller, the controversial star who the studio isn’t even having do press due to many issues. While all involved with the film have said the actor is sure to return to the role, Miller’s continued participation in the franchise seems far from a done deal, even if the movie is a smash. However, I’ll give Miller this – the actor makes one heck of a good Flash.
Miller’s been working with various folks to launch a solo Flash movie for years, and it pays off. Muschietti gives Miller ample opportunity to become iconic in the role, playing both an older Barry Allen and his Man of Steel era version. The performance is so winning that it’s a shame Miller’s off-screen antics are set to cast a shadow over the movie it can’t seem to escape.
Folks dead-set on not enjoying the movie because they can’t stand Miller likely won’t be convinced by Muschietti’s film, no matter how much fun it is. Yet, so much about this movie works, not least of which is the return of Michael Keaton as Batman. For those of us who grew up in the eighties and early nineties, Keaton was our Batman, and considering it’s been thirty-one years since he last wore the cape, it’s pretty impressive how seamlessly he picks up the character. In The Flash, Bruce Wayne is a bit of a hermit with long, scraggly hair. He stopped being Batman years ago, but when his world is in peril, he can’t help but become the caped crusader once again. Keaton’s arc as Batman is the movie’s strongest element, and if this is his swan song in the part, he couldn’t have done better. Muschetti and his production team do a good job establishing that this is the world we saw in the Tim Burton Batman movies, with the same Wayne Manor and even the same kitchen Wayne had his date with Vicki Vale in. The only issue is that Keaton’s first big action sequence as Bruce Wayne, set to Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”, features a whole lot of doubling, as does much of the role, so some suspension of disbelief is required here. Then again, it’s a superhero movie, so it being believable shouldn’t be the priority. Speaking of Batman, Ben Affleck also returns to the role, delivering his lightest performance in the part to date. He actually seems to be having a lot of fun in his early scenes, making me wish DC would double down and bring him back in the role. He really suits it, especially if the character in The Brave and the Bold is supposed to be middle-aged, although a pre-credits sequence suggests a different path forward.
Keaton steals the movie, but one also needs to give Sasha Calle credit for her role as Supergirl. She’s a real find, with her the impulsive, more reckless Kryptonian compared to her famous cousin, and she makes the character flawed, complicated and unpolished. It’s very different than other versions of the character, and I could see her becoming a fan favourite.
As good as so much of the movie is, though, The Flash has a few issues. One of these issues is that it doesn’t stand on its own. If you haven’t seen Man of Steel, you’re really going to be stuck, as the whole movie hinges on audiences’ familiarity with Snyder’s film. Michael Shannon may be back as Zod, but his screen time is limited. Muschietti and company assume you know his role well enough that it’s not given a whole lot more in the way of dimension here. Antje Traue as Faora-Ul delivers little more than a cameo.
The movie also maybe goes overboard in the fan service department during the climax. Many of the surprises have already been spoiled elsewhere, but Muschietti lays it on a little too thick, and the CGI used to make the sequence pop isn’t the movie’s strongest suit. However, the score by Benjamin Wallfisch is terrific, reusing a few classic themes in order to give us a welcome dose of nostalgia. Muschetti also keeps the pace really tight, delivering perhaps the most purely entertaining DC movie ever.
So is The Flash a classic? The jury is still out. How it winds up being perceived down the line likely depends on what’s going to follow up. Is it a one-off for Miller/ Keaton and Calle? We’ll see, but if it is, I had more fun watching this than any superhero movie in a long time
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-flash-review/