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Film Review: ‘The Flash’ is the Big DC Adventure You’ve Been Waiting For

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Now this is what the DCEU was capable of. With a few exceptions, much of what DC and Warner Bros. was doing with their superheroes tended to underwhelm. Sure, the Snyderverse, as it was called, had its fans, but nothing ever consistently clicked. Now, with that world closed, here comes at long last The Flash, which is the sort of big, fun, and even emotional, adventure that we knew they had the abilities to do. It’s perhaps too late for the prior era of DC and WB filmmaking, with James Gunn taking over to go in a new direction, but if nothing else, it shows just how good a well done version of this can be.

The Flash mixes heart, humor, and large scale action to tell an epic story that ties in so much. I’ll be sure to steer clear of spoilers, of course, but I will advise you all to do the same. So many of the surprises work best when they wash over you without knowing them in advance. Now, you won’t enjoy this any less, but seeing it as blind as possible is a plus. As such, I won’t include anything here that’s not readily available in the trailers.

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A take on the Flashpoint storyline, we first meet back up with Barry Allen / The Flash (Ezra Miller) as he’s engaging in some Justice League duties. He’s happy to be on the team, but feels like Bruce Wayne / Batman (Ben Affleck) only has him cleaning up messes. Barry is also concerned with his wrongly imprisoned father Henry Allen (Ron Livingston), who is about to have his appeal heard for the murder of mother / wife Nora Allen (Maribel Verdú). During a frustrated run, Barry goes fast enough that he realizes he can travel back in time, giving him an idea. He runs it past Bruce, who advises against it, but Barry can’t resist. Going back, he makes changes to keep his family intact, but inadvertently alters the future. Suddenly, he’s trapped in a world in which General Zod (Michael Shannon) has returned, while metahumans don’t exist. Plus, there’s a younger version of Barry on hand as well.

Realizing the mess he’s made, Barry, along with other Barry, seeks out help. Figuring there’s only one superhero out there, he needs to find Superman, though when he realizes there’s a Batman in this universe, he figures there’s at least one old friend. Of course, he comes across not his Bruce Wayne, but a retired one (Michael Keaton) that’s initially reluctant to help. Soon, however, he’s on board, assisting in freeing Barry’s Kryptonian ally, who turns out to be Supergirl (Sasha Calle) instead. Together, this new team will attempt to take on Zod and save everyone. But, can everyone be saved, and if so, what’s the cost?

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*A quick note about Ezra Miller. Their legal troubles are well documented and anyone who feels uncomfortable with seeing a movie they’re starring in is well within their rights. I’m merely reviewing the film and their performance. In no way is it in support of their actions or excusing them.*

The cast here is quite good, in particular Ben Affleck, Michael Keaton, and Ezra Miller. Affleck really has found his Bruce Wayne here, making you wish he’d been able to keep going as Batman. One early scene involving a surprising comment really shows why he was an underrated choice for this part in the first place. As for Michael Keaton, it’s a pleasure to see him back under the cowl. He slips into the part seamlessly and relishes the chance, so even though he’s mainly in one section of the flick, it’s a memorable return. Plus, his iconic lines, which appeared shoehorned in when featured in the trailers, play much better in context. I’ll keep the Miller praise short, in case that’s bothersome, but they have such a great handle on the role, you quickly forget about the actor and just admire the touching and humorous performance. If Sasha Calle will get further cracks at playing Supergirl, count me in. She only hints at what she’s capable of, but it’s a compelling and different take. Ron Livingston has a nice moment as Henry, while Maribel Verdú shows you why Barry would go to these lengths to save her. Michael Shannon is an extended cameo, essentially, but he’s still having fun with this villainous role. Supporting players include Kiersey Clemons, Jeremy Irons, Rudy Mancuso, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Antje Traue, and more, many of which I wouldn’t dare say here.

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Director Andy Muschietti, along with writers Christina Hodson and Joby Harold, brings a real sense of fun to this epic. The comedic aspects actually work better than the action, though the opening set-piece is quite good. However, more jokes about Back to the Future, as opposed to the CGI climax, would have been appreciated. As soon as the effects take over, we lose the characters too, and that’s my only real gripe here. Especially with Keaton’s Batman, you want more of what would be him in costume, as opposed to a computer generated effect. Otherwise, Muschietti and company do a great job investing you in this multiverse story.

On a personal note, I wasn’t quite expecting to be hit so hard by the mother-son aspect of things. Now, for those who don’t know, I lost my mother unexpectedly back in January, so I’m sensitive to all things mom. So, the crux of this story involves several moments that brought tears to my eyes. Would that have happened last year, prior to my tragedy? Probably not, but here in 2023 it did, so I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that. Your mileage here may vary, but for me, in my situation, those elements wrecked me.

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While this likely closes the book on this era of the DC Universe and Gunn will be off doing his own take, it at least shows the potential for that series of films. The remaining DC movies could still impress, but this really feels like the swan song for what’s come before. Assuming that’s the case, it completes a flawed group of flicks, but one with some fascinating titles, The Flash ranking quite highly among them.

The Flash isn’t The Batman or The Suicide Squad, but it’s probably the best DC effort aside from those since Christopher Nolan completed his Batman trilogy. We’re knee-deep in the multiverse being a part of Marvel’s universe, both in live action and in animation, so this other effort offers up something a bit different. This is likely going to be a big hit, and rightly so. The cinematic pleasures offered up here are significant.

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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