Movie Review: THE FLASH Starring Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle
“It’s Flashin’ time!”
…is what fans of The Flash probably don’t say, nor does anyone who wishes to avoid being on a list somewhere.
I’m not very clever. 🙁
Alas, The Flash is now in theaters after a rather contentious production, thanks in no small part to Ezra Miller’s legal and personal struggles. As the DC film universe looks to rebound under the guidance of James Gunn and Peter Safran, The Flash is serving as a bit of a segue to their vision of the future from the old iteration of the DC Extended Universe.
Deriving its storyline from the “Flashpoint” story arc, the film revolves around Barry (Miller) and his inadvertent discovery that if he runs fast enough, he can travel through time to the past. While he has some concerns, he eventually decides to travel in time to prevent his mother from being murdered, thus keeping his father from being convicted of the crime.
Now, anyone who’s seen The Butterfly Effect or even Back to the Future (which, to the film’s credit, is humorously acknowledged) knows that if you change the past, it invariably alters the future timeline, and not necessarily in a good way. But The Flash takes things to an even more extreme, as it’s not just the timeline since her murder that’s affected in this timeline, but many events that come before it. It’s an entirely different world, and when he prematurely exits his time travel and ends up in 2013, Barry finds out just how much he’s changed the world: Arthur Curry/Aquaman was never born, Superman is nowhere to be found, and so on.
Barry does run into 18-year-old Barry, though, and inadvertently recruits him to help muster up what assistance he can. They travel to Gotham City, seeking the help of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), only to discover Bruce is a very different person (Michael Keaton) in this timeline. It’s a tremendous fan service to longtime fans of the Batman film franchise, and in fact, there’s quite a bit of fan service in the rest of the film: various cameos and appearances, musical nods, and so on. I’ll admit that as a casual observer, I probably missed quite a bit, but I was able to catch a decent amount of them.
Fortunately, the movie is still quite entertaining even if you aren’t huge into the DC universe. The story is simple yet engaging, and for all the issues surrounding Ezra, they can certainly act. At the heart of the film is a story of a son who misses his mom, and Miller does a fantastic job bringing some humanity into what’s otherwise a dizzying action spectacle. Miller is engaging and has terrific comedic timing, yet is fully capable of presenting a softer, more vulnerable side. Keaton, too, does a fine job as the venerable Bruce Wayne/Batman, offering moments of levity and charisma just about any time he’s on screen.
Perhaps my biggest gripe comes from what’s also at times a tremendous asset: the visuals. Most of the time, the visuals are slick and superbly animated, but at times the screen is filled with multiple instances of busy movement, and it’s tough to keep track of. And the last 15 minutes or so, it feels like the visual effects took a noticeable downturn. It’s not awful, but in this day and age, I’ve come to expect better given the time and budget. I also have a gripe with the conclusion, as I feel something happens in the last few minutes that somewhat counters the entire buildup, but I can’t go too in-depth about it, as it’d basically spoil the ending. I’d be curious if others felt the same way I do.
Overall, though, The Flash was quite entertaining and more than worthy of being a summer blockbuster tentpole. There are a lot of fantastically-timed cameos, and the story and acting performances were for the most part very well done. I brought my buddy Phil, a huge comics/DC fan, and he shared many of the same thoughts as I. When pressed for a letter grade, he offered a B-, as he also felt the visuals detracted from the film and he wasn’t happy with one plot change. I’m not sure whether they’ll make another film featuring Miller, but if not, then they put on a terrific performance for a finale. There is one post-credits scene at the very end, so be sure to stick around.
The Flash gets a B