The Flash is entertaining and exciting, with Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle shining brightest in the film, but the final product is more of a mixed bag of plot threads and unpolished endings.
The Flash, starring Ezra Miller and directed by Andy Muschietti has a long list of things it wanted to accomplish. It is the first solo film featuring the Scarlet Speedster, while also a Flashpoint-inspired multiverse adventure that brings Michael Keaton back to the role of Batman after several decades. The final goal, has changed. It was once meant to spark the next phase of the DCEU under Walter Hamada, now it’s an epilogue to 10 years of storytelling for the DCEU. It’s a lot to accomplish, but the most important goal was served well. The Flash treated the titular character with respect and dignity in his first solo adventure.
The Flash takes place after the events of Justice League and focuses on Barry Allen’s trauma over the death of his mother and the unjust incarceration of his father. After a conversation with Ben Affleck’s Batman, he travels to the past to prevent his mother’s murder. It’s a story that’s been told with high praise across comics, animation, and television, but Muschietti’s version is the most consumable version for general audiences. Taking inspiration from Back to The Future II, The Flash features a constant sense of charisma and charm, mostly led by Ezra Miller’s performance. Miller is at the top of their game as Barry Allen and does a great job portraying multiple versions of the character on screen.
The film also brings Michel Keaton out of retirement for the role of Batman. While at times the theme of another Keaton film, Birdman, becomes strangely apropos, the actor seamlessly blends back into the iconic cowl. Keaton plays the role with the sense of class and stoicism of his original films, though the film tends to treat him like a talking action figure at times. At the push of a button, he will say a line from his old films! For fans of the character, this might play out similarly to seeing Tobey Maguire back for Spider-Man: No Way Home, though Spider-Man did it with quite more tact in my estimation.
The absolute bright spot for the film is Sasha Calle’s Supergirl. Calle exudes the heroism and kindness required to wear the symbol of hope and her casting felt natural. Taking inspiration from Flashpoint Superman, this version of Supergirl still feels very much in the vein of Henry Cavill’s Superman but with her twist. While most signs point to a full reboot coming in James Gunn’s DCU, one can hope that Sasha Calle continues playing Supergirl in the upcoming solo film.
The Flash can feel like a tale of three tonally different acts, and it truly peaks in the second. The first act felt very much like a mixed bag. The VFX left much to be desired during the opening action sequence and dialogue between characters felt almost cartoonish at times. There is a sense of charm to seeing it all play out, but it feels tonally different from where these characters have been in the past decade. The second act is where the film finds its footing and greatness.
Far and away the best part of the film, the second act features the return of Michael Keaton’s Batman, the introduction of Sasha Calle’s Supergirl. The dialogue between the two Barry Allen is also at its best here and you can truly see Muschietti hitting on all cylinders. The third act, however, goes back to the first in terms of VFX hiccups and strange creative choices for the characters. While there is a lot to munch on for long-time fans of DC, the film does not live up to the promises it was making in the previous act. Ultimately, this comes down to this unpolished finish of the film. Some ideas feel very fleshed out, like the dual Barry Allen’s. Other ideas, especially those in the third act, feel a lot less so.
The Flash has gone through several incarnations over the last decade, with an entire television series that came and went in between, but Andy Muschietti’s multiverse-traveling version was built in between multiple regime changes at DC and Warner Bros. Various endings and scenarios were shot for the film through the Walter Hamada era, the brief Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy era, and today’s current James Gunn era. Unfortunately, of all the endings that WB could have gone with for this film, I fear they may have chosen the worst one, which might divide fans and confuse newcomers alike.
Quality-wise, The Flash is a far cry from the achievement that Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse presented in the same month, with the latter featuring sharper writing, direction, and respect for past iterations. Still, The Flash holds its own in the live-action space and that is a testament to Ezra Miller’s commitment to the character and Muschietti’s vision for him. To go back to the original goals, The Flash did very well to honor the titular character and was serviceable as a multiverse adventure but it does not work as a pseudo-finale to the DCEU, which it seemed to have been pigeonholed into becoming pending the upcoming reboot.
When at its best, The Flash is an entertaining adventure across the DC multiverse with Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle leading the way. Ultimately, it ends up as a mixed bag of unpolished ideas and head-scratching endings.