The Flash (2023)
The Flash (2023)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 24 min.

Release Date: June 16th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Andy Muschietti Actors: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Ben Affleck, Antje Traue, Kiersey Clemons, Maribel Verdu

 


 

W

hen he’s not aiding the Justice League in apprehending otherworldly supervillains or thwarting gangsters’ heinous plots to destroy entire cities, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), AKA The Flash, works tirelessly at the Central City Research Lab as a forensic investigator. After evidence to overturn his father’s erroneous conviction of his mother’s homicide fails to materialize, Barry decides to use his superpowers to turn back the clock to prevent her tragic demise in the first place. But toying with the past brings both expected challenges and unforeseen adversities when a mysterious figure interrupts Barry’s attempts to expunge his calamitous loss, leaving him stranded in a timeline devoid of superheroes. Now, in order to combat a cataclysmic threat to this parallel universe, Barry must team up with some unlikely allies – including a retired crimefighter and an impertinent youth desperate to prove his abilities.

There’s no introduction whatsoever; audiences will need to be thoroughly caught up on the characters of the DC universe, as well as with Barry’s life, career, familial situations, and his role in the realm of superheroes (some of which is presented for the first time, but with a sense of familiarity, as if his current struggles have been previously detailed). Strangely, in DC’s attempts to compete with Marvel’s Avengers, their Justice League equivalent is doing everything in reverse. Whereas the Avengers received introductory movies that led to their filmic collaboration, the Justice League basically started things off, before being followed by separate origins pictures. As a result, this isn’t the first appearance of The Flash, even though it’s designed to be a story chronicling his humble beginnings.

Formulaically, it’s quick to dive into self-mockery, utilizing an abundance of humor to offset the unconvincing elements of the special effects (Barry’s sprinting is one of the oddest, as he tends to merely run in place while zipping through landscapes, surrounded by electricity, not quite lining up his movements with what would be necessary to represent rapid speeds). If the script doesn’t take itself too seriously, perhaps viewers won’t scrutinize the over-dependance on computer-animated creations crashing and careening into one another. Actual vehicle collisions, explosions, and stunts stand out, while the typical maelstrom of lightning bolts and other CG effects primarily serve to distract. It’s quick to jump into action sequences as well, orchestrating a silly, dominate-the-world conceit for a frenetic opening that boasts tremendous catastrophes – the brunt of which focuses on hyper-complex, slow-motion orchestrations that are never as engaging or as funny as the kind executed with Quicksilver from “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

“You running a marathon or something?” Perhaps most problematic of all is “The Flash’s” timing (and not solely in the sense of pacing). It has the grave misfortune of not just paying conspicuous homage to infinitely better properties (poking fun at “Back to the Future,” or borrowing a line from “RoboCop” about seeking out a health care professional after a traumatic rescue), but also employing a plot that is remarkably similar to recent superhero flicks. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” reunited cast members from previous entries (overlapping unrelated universes for a greatest-hits reunion, instigated by a tremendously harebrained mistake that causes a movie’s worth of havoc), while “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” just established the notion of unchangeable canon events (not that this is a particularly fitting idea for any time-travel story). And even Barry’s unworldliness and general naïveté, fused with his inability to function at a normal job due to his superhero extracurriculars and his awkwardness around his flimsy love interest (Kiersey Clemons), are uncomfortably similar to Holland’s take on Spider-Man. Despite the different protagonists and settings, there’s a striking scarcity of originality.

Curiously, since this entire premise is an episode of colossal recklessness that needs to be resolved in order to untangle a hopelessly knotted timeline (or multiverse), it’s something of an independent, standalone adventure – which wouldn’t have to mess with preexisting storylines, were it not for the fact that it’s irrelevant, now that DC is bringing its existing Justice League character arcs to a close. Nevertheless, there’s plenty here for fans: seeing Keaton reprise his part from ’89 is unusually rewarding (supplemented favorably by Danny Elfman’s momentous theme music); bringing back Michael Shannon and Antje Traue for a few more face-offs is welcome; and reinventing the Superman persona with a twist has its moments – among several other surprises. It’s also impressive that so much of “The Flash” involves having two versions of Miller appear onscreen simultaneously, allowing them to create a lighthearted repartee. But when it’s reiterated often that time is inconsequential, or that characters are caught in an endless paradox, it’s difficult to dismiss just how rickety the time-travel-as-a-bowl-of-spaghetti concept is; much of the overstuffed running time feels meaningless when the order – and inevitability – of events can continue to be so easily manipulated and reworked. “Call Superman!”

– The Massie Twins 5/10

  • 5/10


The DC Extended Universe


Man of Steel (2013)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Suicide Squad (2016)

Wonder Woman (2017)

Justice League (2017)

Aquaman (2018)

Shazam! (2019)

Birds of Prey (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Black Adam (2022)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

The Flash (2023)

Blue Beetle (2023)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)