Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Written by Alexander Reams
For those of us who spent our recent teenage years obsessed with movies, we remember the very chaotic days which followed “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” critical underperformance, and eventual financial underperformance. Everything that had been teased was shifted, and after an “introduction” to the scarlet speedster, a feature with Miller as the Flash was supposed to follow soon after. But it’s been 5 years since we passed the original release date and “The Flash” became one of the most troubled productions in some time. Finally, with a director who didn’t drop out, “The Flash” hit theaters and there’s only one question to ask: “Is this the film we should have gotten?”
It’s a valid question for a film that seemed to change directors every week, from Rick Famuyiwa to the directors of “Game Night,” it seemed like no director could do it until the director of “Mama” made two successful IP films for Warner Bros. and became Andy Muschietti, visionary director of the “It” films. Hired after the success of his duology of films he was given an impossible task: make this film happen. With writer Christina Hodson they set out to tell the iconic “Flashpoint” tale amidst the crumbling DCEU in hopes this film could be the reset DC so badly needed. Using a character like the Flash to play with timelines is a good, even great, idea on paper, but the execution of Barry Allen traveling back in time to save his mother is far inferior to the CW adaptation, and only its parts are the redeemable qualities to a film that bastardizes so much DC history.
Picking up at an undisclosed amount of time after “Justice League” (as to which version, that’s up for debate (despite some easter eggs, more on that later) but this writer vehemently says “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”), Barry Allen is still under the watchful eye of Batman (Ben Affleck) as he learns how to be a “superhero” amidst colleagues like Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). However, the silliness present feels more akin to a Leslie Nielsen film rather than the theatrical debut of a household DC name. Which culminates in a piss-poor CGI-laden scene in a hospital that should never have made the final cut when it looks like it does. Barry feels stuck until he meets Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) and their connection is as obvious as it was written in the screenplay. Their chemistry feels real and facetious between each cut, making the shortness of their scenes all the more glaring in the film’s overall pace.
There is some semblance of balance with “The Flash,” for every scene that underwhelmed, confused, and at times flat-out angered, there were ones that contained extreme nuance, control, and an actual vision that felt like Muschietti’s creation instead of a boardroom or focus group making the decisions. Even down to canon, the evidence of the superior Justice League film being canon despite being consistently disavowed from its parent company is used in Muschietti’s vision to tell a story that is a cautionary tale for current DCEU fans. “The Flash” is obsessed with the past, Barry is obsessed with changing the timeline to save his mother, and the studio is obsessed with its former stars and would-be stars to try and distract from the disservice that is given to the overall idea. There’s even a scene where Barry from the timeline audiences are familiar with explodes and it feels like everyone who cared about the production of this movie gave a “middle finger” to the studio for meddling with the film.
After a wonderfully weary talk with Batman (as we currently know him; Ben Affleck) the pace kicks into high gear. A welcome shift after what can only be described as a rocky opening, and when the iconic Michael Keaton appears on screen the quality jumps in spades because of Keaton’s presence. He embodies Bruce Wayne as if he picked up right where he left off, and “The Flash” quickly becomes the third “Batman” film from Keaton we should’ve gotten. He commands the screen and still provides a space for the younger leads, Miller, and Sasha Calle’s Supergirl/Kara Zor-El, to shine in their roles. And they both do, but Calle leaves an impression unlike any casting decision in recent DC history, her performance is short but nothing short of legendary. I truly believe Calle should be the Supergirl of Gunn’s DC universe. The action sequences with the pair have several comedic one-liners and Keaton knows how to sell them well, and does so with great execution.
When “The Flash” finishes its final time in the speedforce there is a scene with what can only be described as “cameo porn.” One after the other, stars portraying their roles in various alternate universes appear, and that’s all well and good until one that has Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Helen Slater’s Supergirl are clearly deep-faked and CGI’d beyond all recognition. It’s grotesque and disrespectful, to see that at the end of a film that was already on a bit of a losing streak was a gut punch. The memory and influence of Slater and Reeve helped lead the way for the modern superhero star and so many consider them to be the definitive interpretations of their characters, and to see them in such a horrific manner is a spit in the face to all DC fans. And when prominent industry people like Gunn, Tom Cruise, and Stephen King praise it, that validates this work and means it will be a continued practice in the industry. It taints the final minutes of the film as bows are wrapped up nice and neat until Barry runs into Bruce Wayne again… and he looks a little different.
I will continue to ask for the rest of my days “Is this really the Flash movie we should have gotten?” In an age where anyone can be revived on the silver screen and leads can go about a crime spree and still be openly welcomed into its premiere among people who have openly condemned their actions, its hypocrisy and “The Flash” will ultimately be remembered as a monolith for that. At a time when social justice is at the forefront of many minds, the studio behind this film focused its energy on “fixing” the film and saving face. Which shows in every rough CGI panel or why it seems like some actors never met on set. This is what “The Flash” movie has become, and just like the Wonder Woman gag with the Lasso of Truth, it’s old and needs to be forgotten for the sake of DCs future. There are highs in “The Flash” but the lows might be enough to stop it in its tracks.
“The Flash” Trailer