Sunday, March 3, 2024

“THE FLASH”

THE STORY – Worlds collide when the Flash uses his superpowers to travel back in time to change the events of the past. However, when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, he becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation. With no other superheroes to turn to, the Flash looks to coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian — albeit not the one he’s looking for.

THE CAST – Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue & Michael Keaton

THE TEAM – Andy Muschietti (Director) & Christina Hodson (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 144 Minutes


After an unusually long road to get to the big screen, including numerous directors boarding the project only to leave shortly after, “The Flash” is finally here. One thing remained consistent from the beginning: Ezra Miller would portray Barry Allen, the secret identity of The Flash, a role they first started playing in 2016. After this standalone film wrapped production in 2021, Miller spiraled out of control. Among the allegations levied at Miller included grooming, kidnapping, and other inappropriate behavior toward multiple girls ranging from ages 12 to 18, harassment of multiple families, burglary, and more. Additionally, people close to Miller have described the actor’s delusions of being a Messiah ready to bring about the Apocalypse. It’s a long and disturbing list of allegations that Warner Bros. has intentionally tried to ignore as the release date for this film grew closer and closer. Sadly, the quality of the movie does not make up for any wrongdoing, especially of this magnitude. It’s a shame that Warner Bros. and director Andy Muschietti (“IT“) are only singing Miller’s praises and not acknowledging the pain they’ve caused. Almost all of Miller’s legal troubles began after filming “The Flash,” so few would blame the studio for still being proud of the film, but why will they not acknowledge that Miller needs help and to face the consequences of their behavior?

In many ways, this series of heartbreaking events makes “The Flash” tricky to discuss. On the one hand, the film is excellent, representing one of the better DC offerings in recent years. But, on the other hand, none of the film’s successful qualities, including Miller’s fantastic performance, can make up for their alleged violence and wrongdoing. None of it negates the consequences they should face due to their alleged behavior. And yet, both things can be true. If Warner Bros. severed ties with Miller, as it’s obvious they should have, this movie would be less complex to review and would’ve tarnished the outstanding work of the other artists less.

Writer Christina Hodson (On a hot streak with “Birds of Prey” & “Bumblebee“) is one such talented artist. Despite an onslaught of multiverse movies over the last decade with mixed results (and recent excellent ones including the Best Picture Oscar-winning “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and the recently released “Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse“), Hodson’s screenplay for “The Flash” juggles a lot of elements pertaining to time travel, multiple dimensions, intersecting timelines coherently (thank you spaghetti analogy) and in a genuinely entertaining manner. While the previous DC films gave us solid glimpses of Barry Allen’s power, here, he’s front and center and discovering new levels of his abilities as he deals with the ramifications of his actions driven by pure emotion.

Barry’s dad Henry (Ron Livingston), has been in prison, accused of killing Barry’s mom (Maribel Verdú), though Barry knows his dad couldn’t have done it. Distraught over being able to save the world but not his family when he was a little child, Barry decides to use his faster-than-the-speed-of-light powers to manipulate time and prevent his mom’s death. In the process of jumping through time, however, Barry changes the future (and the past) and eventually loses his powers. His powers are eventually gained, but through a younger version of himself, he meets in the alternate timeline as both Barry’s scramble for whatever friends they may have in the preexisting timeline (Such as the Justice League) to help the present Barry find a way back home.

The multiverse angle is used wisely in “The Flash,” allowing variants from the entire history of DC films to come into play without ever feeling cheap (although some cameos serve as purely fan-service rather than pushing the story forward). The movie doesn’t even truly have a big bad villain. Michael Shannon returns as General Zod again in the “Man Of Steel” timeline, but the real conflict is internal as Barry must resolve the cracks in the timeline and learn to let go of his tortured past.

Miller portrays two Barrys in “The Flash,” as the older Barry partners with, the younger Barry to fix the problems caused by traveling through time. While this does not make up for their wrongdoing, Miller delivers two charismatic, very different performances that sell the emotion and the comedy very well. Both Barrys are joined by Michael Keaton, reprising his role of Batman after three decades, and Sasha Calle as Supergirl (who could very deservedly handle her own spin-off feature if DC were willing). These heroes, brought together by rifts in time, make an effective and fun team. Keaton hasn’t let these 30 years away from the cape and cowl slow him down (though a lot of CGI aids him in the process); throughout “The Flash,” he never phones it in. His performance feels dedicated to every action sequence, one-liner, and emotional beat as his Bruce Wayne bonds with Barry over the shared loss of losing his parents. Those diehard original “Batman” fans who always preferred Keaton’s portrayal will surely get a kick out of seeing him again in this mode.

Despite being nearly two-and-a-half hours long, “The Flash” flies by. Muschietti’s direction is a perfect tonal balancing act that makes the action gripping and appropriately silly when necessary. Thanks to engaging performances, clear direction, and a killer script, “The Flash” is the first DC movie to somewhat emulate the early films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something DC has been chasing for a very long time. It has that same level of humor and heart that the DC Universe has largely been missing for over a decade. Yet, it still suffers from visual effects that don’t always look quite right, like so many blockbusters do these days. The use of CGI doubles is particularly jarring, with some of the work looking intentionally unfinished. Additionally, it’s so jam-packed with references to DC films across the span of decades that casual viewers might feel like they’re missing something. Ultimately, “The Flash” doesn’t reinvent the superhero genre by any means, but it’s still one of the most consistently entertaining entries in the genre in years. It’s a reminder of why this genre has snagged the unflinching attention of audiences for so long now and will likely continue to do so.

As genuinely entertaining as “The Flash” is, none of this redeems Miller in any way, shape, or form — nor does any of this review. For months now, the newly-appointed co-CEO of DC Films, James Gunn, has touted “The Flash” as the great reset for the new DC Universe, and in many ways, that’s true. What’s frustrating is that the studio continues to hope that the film’s praise will drown out Miller’s alleged history of abuse. Though Miller’s actions have tarnished “The Flash,” the movie could’ve saved DC by giving them a natural way to recast the character. Time will tell if they change directions. But for now, it’s perfectly okay to enjoy “The Flash” because, in truth, it’s a great movie! But don’t let the merit of the film act as recompense for Miller. Instead, call for justice to be served.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Pure entertainment. A superhero movie that's enormously fun, funny, and thrilling. Great action paired with a coherent multiversal story makes for a satisfying adventure.

THE BAD - Warner Bros. refuses to hold Ezra Miller accountable for their actions, making the film feel like it condones the actor's alleged abuses. The film features inconsistent visual effects and too many unnecessary references to other DC films that come off as purely fan service.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Pure entertainment. A superhero movie that's enormously fun, funny, and thrilling. Great action paired with a coherent multiversal story makes for a satisfying adventure.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Warner Bros. refuses to hold Ezra Miller accountable for their actions, making the film feel like it condones the actor's alleged abuses. The film features inconsistent visual effects and too many unnecessary references to other DC films that come off as purely fan service.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"THE FLASH"