Movie Review ~ The Flash

The Facts:

Synopsis: Barry Allen uses his super speed to change the past, but his attempt to save his family creates a world without superheroes, forcing him to race for his life to save the future.
Stars: Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue, Michael Keaton
Director: Andy Muschietti
Rated: PG-13
Running Length: 144 minutes
TMMM Score: (8.5/10)
Review: For a while, no one was sure that The Flash would make it to theaters. The myriad of problems that preceded the release of the newest film in the DC Extended Universe all occurred after the film was, by all accounts, complete, so I’m not going to dive into those here. Instead, I will focus on the film deemed necessary by its studio to hold it above the swarming tide of trouble and protect it at all costs. After seeing it and enjoying it immensely for the adrenaline rush of nostalgia-tinged entertainment it brings with it, I can understand why.

The Flash represents a rarity in the darkness of what we know as the DC Extended Universe. Like the well-received Wonder Woman in 2017 and its absurdly reviled sequel in 2020, it’s an opportunity to bring lightness to a heavy-handed franchise that continues to dig its heels into a tone that audiences aren’t responding to. They have shown they derive energy from the heroes with a pep in their steps and productions that remember the fans that built the studio sending these endless films out to the masses. The Flash is that very kind of film. While it’s far from perfect and has notable stumbles, it’s an undeniable joy to witness what director Andy Muschietti (Mama) and screenwriter Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) have delivered.

Called into action during an overheated prologue (one that shows some of the iffy special effects that will be featured more prominently later) that sees him work with Ben Affleck’s Batman to perform a daring rescue, Barry Allen (Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) finds himself back home. Memories of the past stir; visions of his deceased mother (Maribel Verdú) and his father (Ron Livingston, The Conjuring), who is now accused of her vicious murder. Convinced his dad is innocent, Barry enters the Speed Force and travels back in time to try and prevent her murder, but his simple act changes everything and erases the heroes of the present.

Returning to the present, Barry runs into a “new” Barry that isn’t as well adjusted even with two parents and sets out to find the one man that might be able to help: Bruce Wayne. Yet this Bruce Wayne isn’t the same one he recently teamed up with. In his place is an alternate Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton, 1989’s Batman), who has long hung up his cowl now that Gotham is safer. When a freak accident robs the old Barry of his powers and gives them to the new Barry, the two must convince Bruce to help them find a way back…to the future. Getting there won’t be as easy as getting back was; any new wrinkle will cause further changes.

For a film that calls to mind 1989’s Back to the Future Part II (released just five months after Tim Burton’s Batman catapulted Keaton to a new level of stardom), Hodson’s script is surprisingly agile and stays on course. Time travel movies can get a little wonky the longer they go on. Still, The Flash doesn’t lose the thread but builds from it in interesting ways, adding in new characters not yet seen (like Sasha Calle’s Supergirl) and bringing back characters from previous DC Extended Universe films. Why wouldn’t they be back in full force without any superhero to defeat them?

The performances help keep the material humming, with Miller a disarmingly dynamic screen presence. Much of their work is with a double of themselves, and it’s handled quite nicely. They also share good vibes with Keaton, who, let’s face it, walks away with the movie almost on sheer goodwill alone. Keaton reminds us why he was, and always will be, the best Batman (with the best Batsuit, Batmobile, Batcave, etc.), and once he’s introduced, you’ll find the movie dims just a tad whenever he’s offscreen. Thankfully, Muschietti has anticipated this, keeping Keaton front and center for much of the film’s nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time.

The weird Speed Force sequences when Barry travels through time are where the film gets dinged, often rightfully so. People pass by through time and look exactly like characters from The Polar Express film Robert Zemeckis made in 2004. Every time this effect is used and used often, it snaps you out of whatever spell the film casts. It manages to right itself somewhat for a finale moment bound to satisfy even the most scowling critics.

Rumor has it that The Flash must hit a list of milestones before its already-written sequel will be greenlit. That seems unfair, considering how many other films in this DC Extended Universe have gotten blank checks to do what they please. The film feels like a positive step (race?) forward in DC’s long-standing battle with Marvel for supremacy. This is the tone they should aim for, so let’s hope audiences come out in full force for this one and send that message back with box office returns.

Where to watch The Flash

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