The culmination of director Zack Snyder’s recent run of comic book movies, the return of Michael Keaton’s eternally popular take on the caped crusader, and a ridiculously costly tentpole needing to generate enough good commercial and critical love to spur recoupment. There’s more riding on Warner and DC’s ambitious, troubled comic book adaptation of The Flash, said to have cost somewhere in the vicinity of $330m, than perhaps any other recent superhero movie over the past few years. Does it have a fighting chance?
Most will be surprised to hear that it does.
An exceedingly well-written (Christina Dodson scripted) and directed (Andy Muschietti of It fame) live-action on the Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert created character, The Flash remembers what so many recent superhero films- across both Marvel and DC – have forgotten to encompass : Fun.
Gone is the gloomy, sluggish, messy scripting that plagued films like Black Adam (2022) and Shazam : Fury of the Gods (2023), and in its place is a template that smartly cribs ‘old reliables’ like Back to the Future (1985) and Richard Donner’s original Superman (1978) while successfully striving to be its own thing – a pleasurable standalone movie that isn’t so much a sequel or a spin-off to Justice League or Batman vs. Superman but a conclusive Flash movie.
The latest trend in superhero screen efforts is having characters from other universes finally meet up on screen- we saw it on The CW’s Arrowverse, the last live-action Spider-Man movie, Marvel’s Loki series, and recently, animated wonder Spider-Man : Across the Spider-Verse – and that’s hook of The Flash too. You’ll see plenty of cameos – some surprising, fun ones too, hear plenty of punchy, pop-culturey in-jokes, and revel, once again, in seeing two versions of the same iconic comic book character share the screen at the same time.
Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the young superhero first introduced in a family of superhero movies known affectionately as ‘The Snyderverse’, presses pause on his rescue work with Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to try and change a pivotal moment in his past – the murder of his mother, when he was a young boy. Allen manages to use his speedy skills to travel back in time and does manage to change history and save his mother, but he also discovers he’s not in his universe.
This is another universe where another Barry, one without speed force-sponsored skills, lives. If that’s not enough of a predicament, Barry 1’s time messing also sees Kryptonian bad guy General Zod (Michael Shannon) entering the universe, with a plan to destroy it, and when he seeks out the help of friends Batman and Superman he instead finds a different incarnation of Batman (Michael Keaton reprising the role he last played in 1992’s Batman Returns) and Supergirl (Sasha Calle) in place of her cousin. Together, the two Barrys, Batman ’89, and Supergirl team to take on Zod and save this world.
Warners clearly were confident in the product early on, showing the film early to attendees at Las Vegas theater exhibition convention CinemaCon and shortly after, hosting fan screenings of the movie worldwide. Both were wise decisions, with the film performing exceedingly well at those early showings, winning universal praise, and significantly spurring most folks’ interest in seeing the film.
Yes, those early reviews are traditionally over-the-top, gushing, and a little too fervent – some going so far as to either calling it one of the best superhero movies of all time or the best the subgenre has produced since The Dark Knight – but it is true that The Flash is better than many of the recent comic book movies Hollywood has produced over the last five years while being a significant step up for the DCEU. While so much of that is a testament to the combined, singular skills of Muschietti and Dodson, the core trio are also bringing their A-game. Miller is terrific, surprisingly pliable as the two versions of Allen, and it’s an absolute pleasure to see Keaton put the Bat suit back on, but it’s Sasha Calle’s feisty, kick-butt Supergirl who helps the film’s flyby!
The third act suffers from the same issues most of these action-skewed tentpoles do, a rushed, indolent, and not ‘super’ exciting third act – the ‘same old’, if you will – but that’s likely only so noticeable because the first three-quarters of The Flash is so damn good.
The Flash runs circles around other comic book movies you’ve seen of late.