"The Flash" stars Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue, Ben Affleck, and Michael Keaton. Released on June 16, 2023, the film has Barry Allen bringing unintended consequences to his timeline.
The film is directed by Andy Muschietti, who also directed "Mama", "It", and "It Chapter Two". It is based on the DC Comics character of the same name by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino. It is also the thirteenth film in the DC Extended Universe. It's been a long time coming, ladies and gentlemen, but we've finally reached the end of one DC era and the beginning of a new one. Granted, we still have the Aquaman sequel left in December, but aside from that, the DC Extended Universe crafted by Zack Snyder concludes with yet another multiverse story, as if we don't have enough of those already. It has had its ups and downs in the past decade, mostly downs, but regarding the state it's in now, it's best that someone else takes charge of revamping the cinematic universe. Before we see the new approach take shape in 2025 with "Superman: Legacy", we have another member of Snyder's Justice League team embarking on a solo adventure, leaving only Batfleck and Cyborg with nothing because Warner Brothers Discovery doesn't understand fan demand.
The member I'm referencing is the fastest man alive, The Flash, whose quips were just as quick as his reflexes. Snyder's take on the quirky superhero, played by Ezra Miller, was met with divisiveness by fans regarding the somber tone and Miller's performance. However, the character has enough moments in his arc from "Zack Snyder's Justice League" to make this version above mediocre. In fact, it's enough for the studio to continue Flash's journey within this universe with his long-awaited solo film that would conclude the superhero saga that started with "Man of Steel". It's been a long rocky road to get to that "Flashpoint", especially regarding Miller's recent actions outside their career, but we've pulled through for the sake of seeing Michael Keaton in his bat suit again on the big screen. Now that that moment has finally arrived, was the wait worth it? Let's find out.
The story follows Barry Allen (Miller) continuing to protect Central City as The Flash after the events of "Justice League". Amid his duties, however, Barry is still haunted by his past, in which his mother, Nora (Verdú), was killed, resulting in his wrongfully convicted father, Henry (Livingston), being placed behind bars. Barry eventually discovers a part of his "Speed Force" ability that allows him to travel through time, so he uses it to go back and prevent Nora's death. Unfortunately, upon doing so, Barry creates an alternate timeline where metahumans are nonexistent. Even worse, the new universe is under attack by General Zod (Shannon), a Kryptonian general invading Earth with his army. With his world in peril, Barry enlists the help of his younger self, an alternate version of Batman (Keaton), and a Kryptonian named Kara Zor-El (Calle) to defeat Zod and return to his original universe.
Regarding my experience with the DC lore, Flash is one of the minor superheroes besides Batman and Superman I have appreciated throughout my years. With his super speed and quips that were as quick as the Road Runner, Flash is a charismatic hero worthy of standing alongside his fellow Justice League members. Although, I've never been able to watch the "Flash" television series that just concluded last month. I guess I wasn't quick enough to join that club. So there was no doubt I was ecstatic to see this character be adapted for the big screen, even though what we got now wasn't what we intended. Still, it happened, and now we have a solo film featuring one of the fastest heroes alive…before Warner Brothers Discovery reboots the entire universe.
The story in "The Flash" is influenced by the DC comic storyline "Flashpoint", which involves many different versions of the DC superheroes. In other words, it's another multiverse movie attempting to capitalize on Marvel's cinematic take on the concept. However, there's more to this film than just another trip through the different universes. "The Flash" also depicts Barry's struggle to live without their parents, similar to how his mentor Bruce (Affleck) goes through, and his attempt to change his past. Unfortunately, it resulted in him learning about the consequences of changing the timeline. "The Flash" uses the multiverse element to reflect on Barry's quest to come to terms with the past to live a brighter future. This message has been highly relevant for everyone who's been on this path, and some of the movies and television shows have portrayed it thoughtfully and entertainingly. Fortunately, "The Flash" marks another addition to that list, resulting in an enjoyable and slightly ambitious installment in the DC Extended Universe.
Regarding the story, "The Flash" isn't what I would call a groundbreaking superhero masterpiece, as it offered the usual superhero elements we've seen in previous movies in terms of Christina Hodson's screenplay. It has a suitably-written plot that benefits from its emotional beats, light-hearted tone, and action. However, it also faces the challenge of balancing its story with nostalgia baiting. As mentioned before, "The Flash" is another multiverse movie that takes advantage of providing Easter eggs and cameo appearances, which can be fun for major DC fans but can also be a distraction for regular moviegoers. At points, the film's fan service work in advancing the story, while there were other times when it's just there for the sake of nostalgia, including Michael Keaton's "let's get nuts" line. The balance can be pretty messy on specific occasions. However, the remaining moments where it doesn't were enjoyable enough to provide a fun visual trip down memory lane, even if it doesn't match the high standards of other multiverse movies like "Spider-Man: No Way Home".
Ezra Miller has been hit-and-miss with his portrayal of Barry in the DC Extended Universe. The attempts were there to give this character a mature and grounded makeover while maintaining his awkwardness and charisma, but they periodically fell short regarding the direction given to the actor. "The Flash" corrected this mistake by providing a lighter tone and a more entertaining Barry while retaining his tragic arc set by the previous installments. Thanks to Andy Muschietti's direction, the film gave Miller more breathing room to embrace their character's charisma, and the result was instantly satisfying. Regardless of what Miller did outside their acting career, the movie allowed them to deliver their best portrayal of Flash in the DCEU. In fact, I would say that Miller did a better job as Flash in this movie compared to them in "Justice League". Miller not only captured the emotional core of the character effectively, but they also delivered some suitable humor to accompany the drama, especially for the alternate version of Barry. The alternate Barry, or "2013-Barry", can periodically be a bit annoying regarding his immature and dense personality, but in some cases, his annoyance balances well with the charm, resulting in some well-deserved chuckles.
Going back to Andy Muschietti, the filmmaker marks the latest to jump from directing horror movies to the DC Universe, following David F. Sandberg for "Shazam". I loved his take on the recent "It" movies, which got me excited to see how his vision would fit in the universe's style and Flash's powers. It's safe to say that I wasn't disappointed with how Muschietti handled these elements despite being restrained by its usual CGI-filled blockbuster shenanigans. Muschietti provided a presentation that's lighter in tone but also thrilling in its scope and action, mainly when Flash uses his super speed. Like Sandberg, Muschietti proves he's capable of delivering different genres outside his horror movies, including superhero films.
Aside from Miller, the rest of the cast were decent in their roles. Sasha Calle makes her feature film debut as Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) after appearing in the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" on CBS. I haven't watched the show because I'm not a huge fan of soap operas, so this was my first experience with Calle, who made history as the first Latina actress to portray Supergirl. While a bit bland sometimes, Calle's performance was good enough to provide a mildly fulfilling take on Superman's powerful cousin. Michael Keaton's return as the Caped Crusader was also a joy to watch, and Ben Affleck's Batman deserves plenty of credit for his amazing final turn as the character, mainly in the first act.
Another thing I want to mention is the film's visual effects. Some DCEU installments may not have the best CGI effects, but they often dazzle or amaze if used correctly. "The Flash" is no exception, as it provides the good, the bad, and the ugly from its visuals. The "good" side of its CGI comes from the audience's perspective of the Flash's abilities. It's easy to admit that I didn't mind the DCEU's take on the Flash because of how unique and enthralling it looks to be in the superhero's shoes. As for the "bad" side, the effects were understandably rough for the character models, and I do mean rough. There were plenty of occasions where I could quickly tell they used CGI for their specific movements, including Keaton in his Batman suit. The same can be said for its third act, which is filled to the brim with visual-heavy chaos and low-level CGI, especially for the multiverse cameos, which belonged to the "ugly" side of the movie's effects. Admittedly, the cameos were crowd-pleasing treats, but the distracting CGI made the impact feel less significant than others. Then, there's the film's post-credit scene, which felt more like a pointless gag than an important tease of what's to come.
Overall, "The Flash" speeds past its flawed hurdles to deliver an entertaining, heartfelt, and action-packed trip through the DC multiverse. A few narrative elements struggled to be on par with the other great superhero films regarding the film's balance of nostalgia and storytelling. It also had plenty of solid visuals to go with the ones that were understandably not so great, mainly in its third act. Nonetheless, the movie continues to provide the heart that was lacking in the earlier DCEU films while delivering the superhero action and fun the DC franchise is known for. It's far from a superhero masterpiece some are claiming it to be. However, thanks to its cast, fun action scenes, and Muschietti's mixture of comedy and heart, "The Flash" is another decent effort from the DCEU that's also the first part of the franchise's fitting farewell before James Gunn creates a new timeline for the universe. Fans of the superhero and even the DC lore itself will definitely have a blast with this movie regarding the Easter eggs and cameos. So now we wait to see if Blue Beetle and Aquaman can conclude the DCEU's final year with a bang.