It's fast, furious and funny. But traveling faster than the speed of light comes with the increased risk of tripping up.
The long-awaited, somewhat controversial "The Flash" has finally reached theaters. And while it deals with yet another messy multiverse that at times runs itself in circles, Ezra Miller's dual role as a future and past Barry Allen gets this one past the finish line...just barely.
***SOME MINOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW***
It's probably not a good sign that "The Flash" relies heavily on other, better-known DC Comics characters, instead of letting its spotlighted hero pave his own way. We've seen this version of the character before in the DCCU (The DC Comics Cinematic Universe), back in 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," and "Suicide Squad" as well as in 2017's "Justice League." He's never been given his own time. And now, with a movie that bears his name, he once again feels like an ensemble character next to the likes of Batman, Superman, and even Supergirl.
It's clear however, that this lack of apparent confidence in the character is not due to its star, Ezra Miller. Despite dominating the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past year or so, Ezra is among the finest actors of their generation (Ezra uses they/them pronouns). They were a breakout star all the way back in 2011's "We Need To Talk About Kevin," and they also stood out that year in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Harry Potter fans may best recognize them as Credence Barebone from the "Fantastic Beasts" movies, and they've been one of the most under-rated natural stars in Hollywood over the past decade.
It's fine to have your own opinions as to their personal struggles, but it's no denying that Miller makes a perfect Barry Allen...the socially-awkward yet charming young adult who gets struck by lightning, becoming the world's fastest superhero when he turns into his alter-ego, The Flash.
When "The Flash" picks up, Barry is still fighting crime and checking in with his close confidants, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Wayne Manor's resident butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons). Barry longs to have a friend, so it's a bit sad when we see Wayne turn down an invitation given to him from Barry. "Maybe some other time," Bruce tells Barry.
Bruce had know idea just how literal those words would become.
In a fit of depression, The Flash goes so fast that he breaks the space-time-continuum. He discovers that he can actually use this rift to travel back in time...and he fantasizes about doing so to go back and save his mother, who was brutally murdered in a mysterious home invasion when Barry was a bit younger.
We all know how this works, right? We've seen "Back to the Future," and so has Barry. As long as he doesn't disrupt anything major or run into his former self while back in time, he should be able to recreate a brighter future where his mother is still alive.
But that wouldn't make a good movie. Barry not only screws things up, but he screws things up MAJORLY. As he and his younger self work to figure out just how the heck to fix what they've broken, they seek out his closest ally, Batman, only to discover that THIS Batman is not Ben Affleck. The other members of the Justice League don't even exist in this timeline, which means (I guess?) that the upcoming alien invasion by General Zod (Michael Shannon) that occurred during "Man of Steel" has nothing standing in its way.
This Batman - somehow - has a full understanding of how the space-time continuum operates. And apparently it is quite easy to gain Flash-like powers if you have a chemistry set and a good weather app. It leads them to a confrontation with Zod, while a multitude of worlds begin colliding all around them.
Look, not much of "The Flash" makes sense. It's a barrage on the senses matched with a steady-flow of the only currency Hollywood seems to deal in these days: Fan-service. There are a LOT of fan-service moments that will make people in the audience cheer and clap. I felt caught up in a lot of it, honestly. It's only when you take a step back and think about what you just saw, that it all begins unraveling quicker than Flash's multiverse.
The main grievance I felt upon reflection is how little of "The Flash" feels like its own. Barry sort of acts as the glue between some shocking sequences featuring a bunch of different Batmen and incarnations of a Super-person. "The Flash" doesn't even get his own villain, having to do battle with a bad guy that has already been vanquished once before. Even the concept of using multiverses seems tired and borrowed. Split into two, we don't even get to latch on to one Barry Allen. Everything feels messy, and is set at such a fast-pace that you almost feel like they purposely don't want you to stop to catch your breath, since that might lead you to you correctly identifying all of this as it really is: Complete nonsense.
Still...despite all of this!!!...I left the theater feeling like I had fun. If nothing else, Barry Allen is the most entertaining, the most charismatic and definitely the most upbeat character that we've met in the DCCU. It felt good to leave all the darkness and all of the seriousness of the previous DCCU films behind.
"The Flash" proves that the DCCU can be a riot. What the DCCU has still yet to prove after several films is that it can tell cohesive stories. Nobody quite knows what the future holds, given that there have been major changes at the top, with "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn taking over the entire cinematic vision for the DCCU moving forward.
Will The Flash return? When he does will it be Ezra Miller? What does the gasp-inducing final scene mean for the future of the DCCU?
Nobody knows...and given the chaos, I believe that also includes James Gunn. Here's hoping he's able to bottle up some of the lightning that runs rampant through "The Flash."
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy.
Run Time: 2 hours 24 minutes.
Starring: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Kiersey Clemons, Ron Livingston, Michael Shannon, Sasha Calle.
Directed by Andy Muschietti ("It Chapter Two," "It," "Mama").
"The Flash" is in theaters on Friday, June 16th, 2023.
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