Worlds collide in the Scarlet Speedster’s first-ever solo film, which is filled with awe and nostalgia.
After nearly 20 years in development with numerous directors, writers, and actors attached to the project, The Flash finally has raced past the finished line. It’s been a long time coming for the superhero who’s faster than speed of time, but he finally gets the spotlight in a tentpole summer blockbuster after further delays and hiccups because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its titular star. While it’s not the best comic book movie of the year (that title belongs to last week’s release for now), there’s a lot to like in this love letter to DC lore. Filled with action, humor, and nostalgia mixed with emotional moments that actually hit, The Flash is a winner.
Loosely based on the popular comic book storyline Flashpoint, The Flash finds Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) discovering the ability to go back in time. Knowing this, Barry wants to prevent the murder of his mom, which then led to his dad being wrongfully sent to prison. When Barry goes back in time to prevent this terrible occurrence from happening, he fractures the multiverse that finds him in a timeline where Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg do not exist, along with running into another version of himself that’s still in college. On top of that, General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his army have made it to earth to terraform the planet (which also happened in 2013’s Man of Steel). With no Justice League around to help him, Barry and the other version of himself seek help from this universe’s Batman (Michael Keaton), who hasn’t gone nuts in more than a few years.
Right off the bat, like starting a race with a loose lace in your shoe, lets get out of the way the area of the film’s one big con. In a time where bad-looking visual effects have been a focal point of criticism for Marvel Studios films released over the past year, there are some very spotty visual effects in a couple of scenes of The Flash that look like something out of a movie from the 2000s. These visual effects pertain to whenever the Flash uses his powers. Sometimes, the effects showing off the Flash’s speed look fantastic. However, there are times where they look wonky, like in the film’s opening sequence. Whether this was intentional or not remains a question mark, but more than one colleague of mine pointed out the questionable visual effects after the screening.
With all that said about some of the visual effects, The Flash is still a great time for the most part. Showing off the Flash’s abilities via the usage of speed, the action causes excitement or laughs as moments are slowed down for the speedster to fix things. And while we watch all this action play out, we also get to hear Benjamin Wallfisch’s immaculate Flash-centric score that pairs well. And even though the return of a certain bat might generate the most excitement here, The Flash does right by its comic book character in hitting home (literally) with the emotion its character is burdened with and what drives him as the superhero that he is. A number of comic book movies post-Avengers: Endgame have been entertaining to extents but have missed that emotional core. That is not the case here with The Flash, where the emotions that Barry feels for losing both his parents are the center point of the movie and they don’t miss a beat.
Once viewed as a fever dream, there has been a run of comic book films that have borrowed the multiverse concept and it has now gone from Marvel to DC. The usage of this concept in The Flash works well due in large part to the Michael Keaton’s return in the cape and cowl that will almost certainly elicit cheers from audience members who grew up with his character from 1989. While Keaton’s return might take longer than one would wish for here, his presence brings the whole film up another level that will have fans grinning from ear to ear (not to mention Wallfisch pays homage to the score from 1989’s Batman and it’s outstanding). In addition to a different Batman, we also get Supergirl in her first-ever appearance in the DC universe. Played terrifically by Sasha Calle, it sparks more than enough interest to see a version of her character get a solo film in the future.
With 2023 being the final year of this current iteration of the DC universe on film, The Flash leaves its mark as one of the very best of the entire film slate that has run for a decade now. Where the Flash character goes from here with James Gunn steering the ship for DC remains to be seen. However, Gunn is wise to keep director Andy Muschietti around, whose talents behind the camera have helped him land the director’s chair for the upcoming Batman film set in Gunn’s DC universe. While The Flash might not be in the upper echelon of comic book films due in part to some of the visuals, it does hit the mark high thanks to its crowd-pleasing effect from its nostalgia, story, and great mix of action, humor and drama that leaves many other comic book films released over the past few years in the dust.