Another Take: The Flash
Even if it's not the best superhero film ever, "The Flash" stands out as one of the strongest additions to the DCEU.
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After not being impressed with the releases of “Black Adam” and, most recently, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” Warner Bros and the DCEU needed a big hit that won’t fail with critics and box office numbers. And though his team members had individual movies until now that varied in quality, the world has been waiting to see what a big-screen version of “The Flash” would be like. Every comic book reader is familiar with the character Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino created.
Being the most recent in a universe that will conclude at the end of the year, there was some trepidation for one of the most anticipated comic book movies released this year. The development behind this is something else, from the endless roster of directors originally attached but left to the creative differences (Rick Famuyiwa, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, etc.) right into the bewildering amount of news related to its lead star. Never has a movie gone through this many difficult hurdles throughout the years.
Those signs alone can make it hard for anyone to get excited. But after James Gunn’s glowing recommendation and the reactions from an early screening from Cinema Con a couple of months ago, the hype surrounding this was hopeful to the where it’s almost a miracle this exists. Will this film, which I finally saw a week early, go down in history as one of the greatest comic book movies? No, but “The Flash” is so unbelievably entertaining that it managed to win me over in just 144 minutes.
As a member of the Justice League, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) goes about his day-to-day life as his superhero alter ego, The Flash, who gained superhuman speed after a freak accident. When he’s not cleaning up the smaller messes, he has a job as a criminologist in Central City to prove the innocence of his father, Henry (Ron Livingston), after he was wrongfully conceived of murdering Barry’s mother, Nora (Maribel Verdú). Out of frustration one night, Barry discovers he can travel through time when he runs fast enough, which gives him the idea to fix things to prevent his mother’s death, despite Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) saying it could have dangerous effects on the future.
He accomplished this goal, only to discover he finds himself ten years before in a timeline where he meets his younger self years back, but enters a world without meta-humans, leading to the return of General Zod (Michael Shannon) arriving on Earth. In order to save the universe, both Barry’s enlists the help of an older Bruce Wayne/ Batman (Michael Keaton) and later an imprisoned Kryptonian named Kara Zor-El (Sasha Calle) to get back home.
I’ve been familiar with the character despite needing to learn more lore-wise about the DC speedster. But it got a fan base around the comics or those who watched The CW series starring Grant Gustin, which recently wrapped up nine seasons. Director Andy Muschietti (“It”) and screenwriter Christina Hodson (“Bumblebee,” “Birds of Prey”) do a great job of making a Flash adaptation that can satisfy most of the fans out there that didn’t feel overcrowded, having the focus on the central character than the scale of the set pieces, while touching on the theme of not everything can change or letting our past control who we are. The vibe Muschietti gives throughout gives off a cheerful mixture of the first two “Spider-Man” movies from Sam Raimi and the “Back to the Future” trilogy when it goes into the time travel elements of the narrative, and it’s pretty ambitious to tackle Geoff Johns’ Flashpoint storyline instead of going for an origin story. But this also deals with how DC deals with its multiverse. Pretty understandable if you ask me that one of the more coherent involvements of multiverse-centered plots.
Credit to Muschietti for injecting a mix of action, humor, and a little heart that DC fans have been clamoring for through its surprises and all. Nothing is taken too seriously. And speaking of action, he definitely delivered fun and exciting set pieces one after the next. The opening after the title sets the tone for the rest of the film in showcasing what The Flash does to save any situation while Batman is taking care of other business in a way you don’t see every day that offers some early laughs and instantly hooked me on forward.
With Miller’s involvement, it’s understandable why so many had reservations about seeing this. I certainly thought that in the past year, I didn’t want to get into the off-screen behavior they’ve gone through that made me dislike the controversial actor. Though without delving into his past and solely focusing on his performance to give them a chance, Miller does a great job. I’m shocked myself. Their take on Barry Allen/ The Flash warmed up to me after seeing more of what he can do inside “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” and it’s carried over for Miller to understand having the qualities of making this character simultaneously goofy yet adventurous. Does this performance make me forgive the crimes he’s done? Nope, but I felt sympathetic for Barry in believing he wants to be the right thing and understand the challenges of what’s coming.
And there’s not just one Barry Allen, but two because Barry has to interact with his 18-year-old self. It’s not always possible to have one actor perform multiple roles. Still, while it wasn’t as seamless as we’ve seen in the past, such as with Lindsay Lohan in “The Parent Trap” or Lupita Nyongo in “Us,” there’s something about having two versions of Barry putting their thoughts together that strangely worked for me. Barry in the present is the high school nerd, while Barry in the past is the stoner, almost dumb athlete who needs tutoring to pass. Even when 18-year-old Barry becomes irritable, they realize it.
Even though this movie was dubbed The Flash, my whole focus was on Michael Keaton. As a lifelong Batman fan, hearing that this picture will feature the return of the icon known as Keaton to reprise his most famous character to date, Bruce Wayne/ Batman, sounded too good to be true, and he’s by far the best component of the film. Keaton’s willingness to be thrown in here made sense since he can comprehend Barry’s perspective while coping with a deceased parent, willing to come out of retirement to save the planet from disaster.
Even though his stint as Batman was brief in both Tim Burton’s “Batman ‘89” and “Batman Returns,” he remains my second favorite actor to play the hero after Christian Bale. And he returns to this role with ease, with the fanboy in me loving practically every scene he’s in when donning the black suit once more. I had this giant smile on my face like a kid in a candy store when it gives you those shots of nostalgia that might be forced to a fan service degree, but I can’t help but love it because I’m a nerd. I love we get to see Keaton back in something DC related since the shelved Batgirl will never see the light of day, unfortunately.
Sasha Calle, who plays the DCEU’s Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, is a newcomer to the film industry. She offers an impressive portrayal that stands out from the other incarnations of the character as the lone Kryptonian on Earth in the absence of his cousin. There isn’t much time with her before she’s introduced, but her fierce screen presence kicks ass. Let’s hope Calle gets her own spin-off that’s leagues better than what we got nearly 40 years ago. Do you remember that?
Would I call it a perfect time? Not quite; a few issues kept it from being a great time. For instance, the CGI looked great during the action, while others can distract whenever Barry travels through time (and you’ll know when) or when you can tell there are two Millers on-screen; it looked too much like a video game that needed to be more polished or not look too fake. And while the comedy doesn’t always hit when it comes to corny gags, I was shocked by how frequently I laughed out loud, making this one of the funnier superhero movies that don’t always sacrifice the drama when it has to be taken seriously. But it finds the heart when it’s between Barry and his mother, making for the emotional crux that admittedly almost made me tear up near the end.
It can be difficult for everyone to find satisfaction in comic book movies at times, and this will not be for people who have already decided based on those involved, which is a little unfair. Despite its flaws, this is a delightful summer movie designed to be a crowd-pleaser, almost making me wish it came out immediately after “Wonder Woman.” Thank fortunate I didn’t hear any spoilers because some real reactions inspire the audience to clap enthusiastically. If the rumors are true and Muschietti might do “The Brave and the Bold,” I wouldn’t hate that idea after what he pulled off here.
And it doesn’t come close to being as great as what we got lately with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and especially “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” But regarding DC, you’re looking at one of its most substantial entries in the past few years.
Overall, “The Flash” took me by surprise. Not a massive game-changer for comic book films and won’t please everybody, but this was such a refreshing recharge for the DCEU we needed with some fast-paced action sequences under Muschietti’s direction, an engaging plot, and a standout return from Keaton as Bruce Wayne/ Batman. What can I say? I had a good time.