What’s it about?
Barry Allen uses his super speed to change the past, but his attempt to save his family creates a world without super heroes, forcing him to race for his life in order to save the future.
What’d we think?
I’m reviewing the movie, not Ezra Miller, and not the DCU as a whole, so keep that in mind when I say that The Flash is a funny, action-packed superhero flick that finally delivers on the promise of what the DC superhero movies could have been. The movie opens with a big action setpiece that gives us Barry at the peak of his powers, and a glimpse into what life as a superhero means for Barry’s personal life. The plot is kicked into gear fairly early when Barry messes around with the timeline to try to retroactively save the life of his mother, finding himself in a universe where his mother is alive, but no other superheroes exist. Oh, and a younger, unpowered version of himself is present.
Ezra Miller’s performance as Barry Allen had received a lukewarm reception from fans in their earlier appearances, so building an entire movie around an obnoxious comic relief character was always going to be tricky. The movie deftly gets around this by pairing Barry with the younger, even more annoying version of the character that forces Older Barry to act as the straight man to himself, while getting a taste of how irritating he can be to deal with. Miller is fantastic in the dual roles, imbuing the older version of the character with a sense of responsibility and tragic burden, while ramping up the babbling idiot version of the character when playing Younger Barry. Their performance is easily the highlight of the movie, with the dual roles giving them a chance to give the character real depth, while also being funnier than they’ve ever had a chance to be before.
The Young Barry/Older Barry duo teaming up to track down whatever superheroes they can find makes up the second act of the movie, which (as the promotional material for the movie made sure everyone knew) leads them to finding an older, retired Bruce Wayne, played by Michael Keaton. Keaton’s role is more than a quick cameo, and he’s wonderful as a very different kind of Bruce, and while a lot of his time as Batman is CGI acrobatics, we get a new kind of old-school Batman that’s just a treat to see on the screen. The other big name in the mix is Kara (Supergirl to you and me), and while there’s not much that can be said about her role in the movie without giving too much away, Sasha Calle does a good job with the limited material she has to work with.
While there’s a lot to like about the movie, there’s a huge amount of dodgy CGI that’s frequently put front and centre. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge criticism in itself, but the sheer volume of scenes from the opening right up to the climax that feature uncanny valley Wax People really pulled me out of the movie at key times that really required my investment. The final act both rushes important revelations and drags out sequences that needed to be quicker, which ends the movie on a weaker note than its strong opening sets up. Having said that, the final scene is probably also the movie’s best joke, so I still had a big smile on my face as the credits rolled.
It’s hard to gauge how well The Flash will perform with viewers that don’t have a broader understanding of the earlier DC movies, but it’s core story is solid and self-contained, mostly nailing the tonal balance of tragedy and comedy with only a few forgivable missteps. It’s a fun time at the movies, but nothing earth-shattering.