Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews The Flash!

Josh Reviews The Flash!

In The Flash, Ezra Miller reprises his role as Barry Allen, the speedster super-hero.  After helping Batman stop a robbery that turns into a potentially city-destroying crisis, Barry realizes that, if he runs fast enough, he can enter the Speed Force and travel back in time.  Unable to resist the temptation to change the great tragedy in his life, Barry travels back in time and prevents his mother’s murder.  Of course, that leads to ripple effects Barry never imagined, and he finds himself trapped in a world with no meta-humans on the day that General Zod arrives and threatens to destroy Metropolis and take over the world (as seen in the 2013 movie Man of Steel).  The one hero Barry can turn to in this alternate world?  Batman — but not the Ben Affleck Batman who Barry knows… instead it’s Michael Keaton, reprising his role from Tim Burton’s 1989 film!

I loved The Flash!!  I thought this film was an absolute delight.  It’s a lot of fun and very silly at times, but it also has great action-adventure spectacle and some strong character work, particularly by Ezra Miller in what turns out to be not one but two lead roles.  If the DCEU films had all been this much fun, this might have been a great super-hero universe!!

Instead, as we all know, the DCEU is already long-dead, as months ago we learned this “Snyderverse” (that began with Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel a decade ago) is being ended, and replaced with a new connected series of films and TV shows overseen by James Gunn.  And yet, after that news broke, there were still FOUR films connected to the now-defunct DCEU yet to be released!  First was Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and now The Flash, and still to come are Blue Beetle (which might not be so connected to the old DCEU, and could potentially be folded into the new continuity if the movie does well) and the Aquaman sequel.  It’s incredibly bizarre that DC/Warner Brothers Discovery is releasing these films connected to an already-dead continuity and expecting fans to get excited.  (It’s not working; both Shazam! and The Flash have dramatically underperformed at the box office.)

It’s an especially bizarre situation with The Flash, because this film is HUGELY connected to the last decade of DCEU continuity!!  All the film’s trailers have played up the connection to the 1989 Batman film — and that is a HUGE aspect of this film — but, at the same time, the film is intimately connected to the DCEU of the past decade.  First off, the story takes us Back to the Future II style right into Man of Steel, a film that was released a decade ago.  (When Zod starts talking about the Codex, do general audiences have any clue what that means??)  But there are so many connections beyond that!  Almost every member of the Justice League team appears in the film, there are lots of references to the events of the other DCEU movies and even out-of-continuity films like Zach Snyder’s Justice League cut (which is referenced when Barry and Iris debate whether they’d met before — which they did when Barry saved her in the Snyder cut).  I absolutely loved all those connections, but at the same time I thought it was wild that a film this tightly bound to the DCEU continuity was released months after that continuity was publicly ended.

There’s so much I enjoyed about this movie.  Let’s start with Ezra Miller, a young man who has had a lot of very public troubles in the past few years.  It’s sad, and I hope he has been getting the help and support he needs.  Putting that aside (which I understand might be difficult for some to do), his performance in this film is absolutely spectacular.  I was blown away.  I really loved Mr. Miller’s work as Barry Allen in Justice League (both the theatrical cut and the Snyder cut), and he effortlessly steps into center stage here.  I quite like his take on Barry, as someone borderline on the spectrum who has an enormous heart and, at the same time, a tremendous amount of difficulty in connecting with other people.  This performance alone would have been worthy of praise.  But Mr. Miller spends much of the film playing a second role, that of an alternate-universe Barry who never got super-powers.  Mr. Miller spends a huge chunk of time playing against himself, and the result is absolutely extraordinary.  He’s completely convincing as these two characters; he’s able to create very different mannerisms and approaches for the two Barrys.  They’re clearly the same character, but also entirely different people.  It’s a beautiful magic act.  (The visual effects in achieving this effect are also flawless, which helps significantly.)  I’m in awe of Mr. Miller’s work here.  This film shows that he is every bit a super-star actor.  I hope he’s able to get his life in order and that we’ll see his career continue.

Michael Keaton is amazing.  I never ever ever thought I’d get to see him play Batman again.  It was fun seeing him reference that character in Birdman and seeing him play a Marvel super-villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming.  But to see him actually play Batman again?  Amazing.  I grew up with that 1989 Batman movie.  It was a HUGE event in my life when it was released in the summer of ’89, and I’ve watched it countless times over the years.  I love it dearly (even though I’ve always quibbled with aspects of Tim Burton’s depiction of Batman and his world).  So to see this film not only bring back Michael Keaton, but also to dig so deeply into the iconography of that 1989 film, filled me with joy.  It was so cool to see the 1989 suit, the tech, the Batcave, the Batwing, and so much more brought to life so faithfully… and also with lots of little new twists that made everything even cooler for a 2023 audience.  This Batman gets even cooler tech than he got in the ’89 film (or the Batman Returns sequel); he gets to fight and kick ass in a way that was never possible back in ’89.  I loved all that!  Mr. Keaton commands the screen.  And, of course, I ate up all the call-backs.  (Getting to hear Michael Keaton say “I’m Batman” again was a thrill, as was the reprise of the “let’s get nuts” scene.  I also smiled getting to see the small Kitchen where Bruce and Vicki sat on their date in the ’89 film! And I loved the joke of what happens when Barry tries to turn his head when wearing one of Bruce’s 1989 immovable-neck style cowls.)

I really enjoyed the tone of the film.  It’s a lot more fun and funny than I expected.  Its tone is more like a Marvel film than the dour, super-serious “Snyderverse” DCEU films have been.  This was a strong choice.  Right from the opening production cards, through the jokey title reveal, through the end credits (that play out as we watch a falling dog), I loved the silly and playful tone.  That really worked for me.  At the same time, Ezra Miller was able to sell the sometimes-painful emotional journey his character was going through.  That balance worked well.  And the film’s bonkers final 30 minutes went into directions I’d never expected.

OK, thus concludes the opening portion of my review.

Ready to dive into SPOILER territory??

Here goes!!

Let’s start with the opening falling-babies scene.  That scene was wild and crazy.  It was so silly; it was sitting on the knife’s edge of parody.  But I thought it was great.  It did a great job setting the tone for the movie.  The only problem was that the CGI on the babies was so bad that I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be real babies or plastic dolls.  (This confusion was exacerbated by the lunacy of a dozen babies falling out of a skyscraper.  I kept thinking: are they really showing us a dozen babies falling out of a skyscraper??)  I’m not sure I understand why the CGI on the babies was so fake and rubbery-looking.  (The CGI in this film was incredibly uneven.  The two-Barrys stuff was perfect.  But the Chrono-Bowl looked terrible, in my opinion.)

I loved seeing Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons back again as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Alfred. These are two wonderful DCEU characters who I’d have loved to have seen lots more of.  Both are terrific.  I wish we’d gotten a series of solo Batman films with Ben Affleck.  He’s great as this older, more grizzled Batman.  I liked that this film allowed Mr. Affleck to play a slightly lighter version of the character.  He’s great.  It’s nice that this film picked up on Bruce and Barry’s friendship, which was a strong aspect of Justice League.

I thought it was very cool that most of the Justice League team appears in this film.  It’s no surprise that Ray Fisher, who has so vociferously criticized Warner Brothers, did not appear here as Cyborg.  The real shocker for me was that poor Henry Cavill was not included.  After reprising the role of Superman at the end of Black Adam, it was announced that Mr. Cavill was not in fact returning to the role in future Man of Steel sequels.  I know he filmed scenes for this film (or at least one scene — the ending).  I was really surprised they couldn’t find a way to include him, especially when so many others, including Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, did appear.

I loved Sasha Calle as Supergirl.  I loved this version of Supergirl!!  I thought they made all the right choices, and I really enjoyed Ms. Calle’s performance.  I loved her intro, which was ripped right out of the comics.  Her costume was terrific.  Her full body costume was cool and still sexy, and far less silly than the character’s flying around in a mini-skirt.  I’d have loved to have seen even more of her in the film.  I wanted to better understand how she escaped Krypton and what’s happened to her since.  I also was surprised we didn’t get to see her character again in the last 20-ish minutes.  As the film leaves her, she’s destined to repeatedly die at Zod’s hands.  What a strange choice, to suggest there’s no possible future for this character!  (In one of the various different endings planned for this film, she apparently would have reappeared at the end.  I’d have liked to have seen that.  I’d have liked to have seen Michael Keaton’s Batman also be more involved in the ending, and to have reappeared before the end credits rolled.  Narratively, it’s weird to me that Batman and Supergirl are killed by the villain and we don’t see them again.  That feels anticlimactic to me, and also weird emotionally — Zod wins on that alternate Earth and turns it into Krypton!  The movie sort of movie skips right over that.)

I loved revisiting Man of Steel, and I was delighted to see Michael Shannon’s Zod again.  But I was bummed Mr. Shannon didn’t have more to do.  I thought he’d be the main villain, but that’s not the case.  The film strangely doesn’t have a main villain, until the final 10 or so minutes, which is an unusual choice!  I respect the boldness.  But I did want to have seen a lot more of Zod.  I wanted more of the sense that he was really about to conquer the world without Superman around.

I quite liked the notion that the film built to “Black Flash” (a classic Flash comics villain) in the end, with Barry 2 revealed to be the villain.  That’s a potent idea but it comes and goes way too fast.  Once Barry 2 is revealed as the monster evil Flash, he’s dealt with too quickly.  It doesn’t help the climactic sequence that the Chrono-Bowl is a lame CGI mess.  To me this is the film’s one major mis-step.  I wanted to more feel the heartbreak at the end.  But it all whooshes by way too quickly.

On the other hand, I was delighted by the bonkers extended final sequence, with all those multiverse cameos.  I was thrilled to see the Christopher Reeve version of Superman and the Helen Slater version of Supergirl, as well as all the other cameos from across the ages.  Seeing Nic Cage as Superman fighting a giant spider was amazing.  How many people get that joke???  I can’t believe they used this deep-cut joke as a key part of the climax of this multi-million-dollar blockbuster.  (This is a reference to a story Kevin Smith told on the 2002 DVD An Evening with Kevin Smith.  Click here to watch.)  I’d have loved to have seen Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson’s versions of Batman as well.  (I did find it weird that this Flash movie was so focused on alternate-universe versions of Batman and Superman!)  The CGI in this sequence was a little dodgy, but I loved the big-swing energy of this wackadoodle final sequence, with all of these alternate universes smashing into one another.  That was a hoot.  (However, after cutting Henry Cavill out of the ending of the film, I wish they’d found a way to incorporate his Superman into this collision-of-multiverses sequence.)

One of my main objections to Man of Steel (a movie that I mostly loved), was that thousands died at the end when Zod trashed Metropolis, and yet Superman didn’t seem to care.  I was interested to see this film suggest that the Flash was present in Metropolis that day (just as Batman v. Superman suggested that Batman was there too).  I liked the sequence in which we see that Barry was able to only save one kid.  I thought this movie would then move to redeem the Man of Steel ending and have the Flashes working together to save more people in Metropolis.  Instead, they ignore Metropolis altogether while fighting Zod in the desert.  That was so weird!!  Through that whole desert fight sequence, I was thinking to myself: aren’t thousands of people dying in Metropolis right now?  In this timeline, the Flash isn’t there to even save that one kid!  So he does even worse this time!!  Isn’t that s strange narrative choice?

I quite liked Flash’s super-suit in this film.  I think this version of his costume was much better than the stitched-up Justice League version.  Seeing his costume pop out of his ring, just like in the comics, made me so happy.

Other comments:

  • I loved the opening title-cards, with all the different logos going back through the ages.  That was cool.
  • I enjoyed Kiersey Clemons as Iris West, reprising her role from the Snyder cut of Justice League.  I wish she’d had something (anything!) to actually do in the film.  Her being a reporter and being friends (sort of) with Barry feels like a major conflict of interest; I was surprised that didn’t come into play in the story.  (I’ve seen the Snyder cut, so I enjoyed the reference to Iris’ one scene in that film, though this film’s scene of Barry and Iris’ arguing over whether they’d met before must have been meaningless to most audience members.)
  • On the other hand, the role of Barry’s dad Henry Allen was recast; Billy Crudup played Henry in Justice League, but he was replaced here by Ron Livingston (Band of Brothers).  I liked both actors’ work in the role!
  • It sure takes Batman a long time to stop those bank robbers, huh?
  • I was not expecting to see Gal Gadot, so her cameo was a surprise to me.  I wish she’d had a better scene, though.  We already got a Lasso of Truth joke in Justice League.
  • The final scene with Aquaman was also not as interesting nor funny as I’d hoped.  But it was nice to see him included.  I loved Temeura Morrison’s funny cameo scene.  (He played Arthur Curry’s dad in Aquaman.)
  • I guess Harry Lennix didn’t want to return as General Swanwick, because they killed him off in a long-shot immediately, as soon as Zod encounters the army in the desert!
  • Re-introducing Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne as bearded hermit weirdo was a strange choice, for me.  I thought his big beard looked silly and fake.  Why not have him still be operating as Batnan in this universe?

The George Clooney joke at the end was terrific.  I did not see that coming.  I laughed a lot at that Batman and Robin call-back.

At the same time, it’s sort of sad to me that this movie had to end with the joke of Barry’s being trapped in the Batman and Robin universe, because the chance of this character ever appearing again on-screen is slim.  That’s a shame, because I really enjoy this character!  In another universe, this Flash movie might have ended with the triumphant introduction of a reworked DC movie universe.  A year or two ago, there was a rumor that this movie was going to end with Michael Keaton’s becoming the main Batman in the DCEU, which would have been awesome.  It would have been so weird to have Michael Keaton’s Batman be at the center of a modern DC movie universe, but I’d have loved to have seen where that would have gone.  (Remember that Michael Keaton also filmed sequences for the Batgirl movie that was scrapped.)  I’m bummed this will never come to pass.

I quite enjoyed The Flash.  I wish all the DCEU movies had been this good.  If they had been, I bet they’d still be making ’em.

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