The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe has changed. Right? That was the promise sold to fans with last year’s Black Adam. However, that promise fell flat with the Dwayne Johnson-led film, and with the DCEU failing to course correct with Shazam: Fury of the Gods. But DC Studios is hoping all that changes with its latest flick to arrive in theaters, The Flash.
The Flash has long been in gestation, with an initial announced release date of March 28, 2018. With just over five years between that original date and now, the film has finally come to fruition, although not without some changes in DC Studios’ higher-ups and issues behind the scenes. Bringing this film to life are director Andy Muschietti (It, It Chapter 2) and screenwriter Christina Hodson (Bumblebee, Birds of Prey). With so much anticipation, does The Flash live up to the hype, or is it destined for the bargain bin at Walmart? Continue on for some early thoughts of DC’s The Flash.
[Warning: Light spoilers and impressions from The Flash are below!]
A new take on a familiar DC story
Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) is the fastest man alive. Heard that one before right? Having saved the world with the Justice League, he’s back in Central City attempting to live a life that his parents would be proud of. Working as a crime scene investigator, Barry is insanely bright and yet struggles to fit in with those around him. His social awkwardness is blatant in almost every interaction he has throughout his life, so much so that it’s hard to not feel second-hand embarrassment for him.
Both becoming a hero and his social awkwardness is tied to the tragic murder of his mother. This same event took away his father, who was tried and found guilty of her death. That one event propelled his life in such a different direction, haunting him every second of his miserable life. However, with his discovery of being able to manipulate time through the speed force, Barry gets an idea. What if he ran back in time and stopped his mother from dying? What would possibly go wrong?
This decision, which many would make if they were in Barry’s shoes, is the catalyst for major changes and the well-known beginning of Flashpoint. The comic story on which The Flash is based. Elements of this story are well known, with many of the important beats obviously there. However, the comic arc of Flashpoint is more of a guideline that Hodson and Muschietti use to tell their story, however, painting outside the predestined lines.
Messing with time has its consequences and the Earth Barry returns to is not the same one he leaves behind. While his personal life may be perfect, the world itself lacks the heroes it needs to protect it. Barry must put things right, but he’s going to need some help if he’s going to accomplish his mission.
What works in The Flash
It feels bad to admit it, but I didn’t have high hopes for The Flash walking into the show. The DCEU has been a mixed bag from the beginning, however, the most recent films have been lackluster in my opinion. My expectations were tempered for this film prior to seeing it, not wanting to be disappointed. That being said, The Flash exceeded my expectations, cementing itself as my favorite DC film of recent years.
What’s striking about The Flash is both the story itself and the acting of almost everyone involved in the film. The story is all about family and the lengths that someone would go to save them. This message is one that everyone can relate to in some way, shape, or form. Hodson writes with such conviction and depth, sharing a deeper side of Barry than we’ve seen in Justice League.
After the initial opening sequence, right around the time that Flashpoint begins, there’s a major shift in Barry from an awkward young adult to someone holding the weight of the world. While some of this is due to Miller’s acting in the film, it’s also a testament to the writing and direction of the creative team. I was shocked in some ways at the depth and gravity felt with the sucker punch of emotion it delivered.
That isn’t to say the film wasn’t funny, as The Flash is known to be hilarious in most iterations across film, comics, and television shows. But there’s a nice balance and the emotional swings hit harder than any other DC film to date.
Driving home that emotional story is our three main heroes, showcasing that message in different ways. Ezra Miller pulls double duty, playing two Barrys with extremely different life circumstances. One who has everything and one who lost everything. This huge difference between the two leads to an interesting dynamic. Miller brings this to life in a way I didn’t think possible from past outings of this Barry Allen. To say I wasn’t a fan of Miller’s take on Barry in Justice League might be an understatement, but their performance in The Flash proves they can handle the role.
I think that The Flash also does a better job of explaining why Barry is the way he is, as he hasn’t quite developed his confidence. He’s unsure of his life, having never recovered from losing both of his parents. However, throughout The Flash he comes into his own. To fully enjoy the movie, there does have to be a healthy amount of separating the art from the artist because regardless of Miller’s actions in real life, they do justice to this character.
Super supporting cast: Sasha Calle, Michael Keaton, and Ben Affleck
However, the true highlights for me are Michael Keaton and Sasha Calle as Batman and Supergirl respectively. One of the best parts of The Flash is that we get not one, but two Batmans, both of which had some of the best scenes in the film. Ben Affleck’s action sequence at the beginning of the film will stand out as one of my all-time favorite sequences from the DCEU. That scene alone cemented that Affleck deserves to continue on as Batman because his epicness has only just begun.
Keaton’s Batman comes into the film about halfway through, signaling a shift in the direction and nature of The Flash. This is a battle-worn, Bruce Wayne. He, just like Barry Prime, has lost everything. He feels vastly different from Keaton’s Batman from the 1980s, and yet somehow the same. But that’s by design in the world he inhabits.
Keaton slips back into the role of Bruce Wayne flawlessly, in a way that brings together decades of DC films. His return is both important to the story, as well as a healthy dose of fan service. After seeing the film, I couldn’t picture a single other Batman from DC’s past who could have slipped into this film the way he did.
Sasha Calle is the newcomer to the DC franchise as Kara a.k.a. Supergirl. Her performance is excellent in almost every way, distancing her version of Supergirl from others. Just like the other two main heroes in this film, Kara has lost everything, including her freedom for a large chunk of her life. Unlike the other two, instead of turning inward, she displaces her anger and sadness outwardly, at least at first.
Calle was stunning in the role, and hopefully, she gets to continue within the DCU. It would be a shame for her to be a one-and-done with the performance she gave in The Flash.
The action in the film is some of the best I’ve seen from recent DC films. There’s a nice mixture of styles of fighting, from traditional Flash techniques, to hand to hand combat, even aerial fight scenes. There are action moments for each hero, allowing them to shine without taking the sparkle from another. Also, the cameos that occur in this film are likely to excite fans of almost every decade of DC’s film and television. Some still took my breath away, even if I knew they were coming.
What doesn’t work in The Flash
Even though The Flash is the best of DC’s most recent offerings, it isn’t exempt from some issues. The film suffered from some pacing problems as the film moved from one act to another. There are periods of time that move so quickly, almost flawlessly, which make this movie worth it. However, there are also times when the story slows to a painstakingly slow crawl. There were a few moments when I found myself checking my watch to see how long it had been. Thankfully, The Flash wasn’t plagued with too many of these, both enough to make me wonder if a bit of restructuring could have been beneficial here.
Perhaps the biggest problem was the spotty visual effects throughout the film. It should be noted that the cut of the film we saw was not the final cut, therefore some of the VFX could improve before it’s released. However, with the film coming to theaters in less than a month, I have my doubts about how much it can truly improve. There are moments that are so laughable with the CGI, that it pulled me straight out of the film, there are also moments where it’s spectacular. Sometimes these two coincide, in an odd, slightly offputting way.
Finale thoughts on The Flash
Overall, I found The Flash to be a strong entry into the DCEU. This film left me wanting more, as it feels like this franchise had finally found its footing after years of tripping over itself. This is a Flash film through and through, not sacrificing its story to demand world-building. Yes, The Flash does some world-building, especially in the final act which gives you hints about the future. It may be that the DCEU is not defunct, however, with the way the film concludes, the path forward to the new James Gunn and Peter Safran DCU is visible. That is if the two decide to take it.
The Flash does so much stuff right, regardless of the stuff it did wrong. It captures the essence of this character’s origin, explaining who he is, and propels him into the hero he is supposed to be. The hero we know from comics. Issues aside, The Flash is worth a journey to the theater, as this spectacle should be seen on the big screen.
My rating for this film:
★★★ / ♥♥♥♥
The Flash arrives in theaters on June 16, 2023. Will you be seeing the film in theaters? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our DC Showcase of Flashpoint!