Following on from the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel, The Flash now has his own cinematic entry in the DCEU. While historically acting as comic relief in other films, Barry Allen now gets to break out on his own and for the most part does incredibly well, even if he’s let down by the rest of the film.
Directed by Andy Muschietti (IT, Mama) and starring Ezra Miller, the film opens on Barry Allen, aka The Flash, as he heads to work to pick up his favourite sandwich. On his way he’s waylaid by Alfred (Jeremy Irons), requesting Barry’s help with an incident in Gotham City. After discovering he wasn’t Alfred’s first choice, Barry heads off to help rescue survivors of a terrorist incident at a hospital, while Batman (Ben Affleck) chases after the men responsible.
An obligatory slow-motion scene ensues as Barry rescues a nursery of babies and then returns to work. Here he’s met by an old college friend and reporter Iris West (Kiersey Clemons), who questions him about the impending appeal of his father Henry (Ron Livingston), who was jailed for the wrongful murder of his mother 10 years ago. Overcome by his emotions, Barry accidentally uses the Speed Force to travel back in time to earlier that day.
Despite warnings from Bruce, Barry decides to use the Speed Force to travel back in time to prevent the murder of his mother. He succeeds, but on his return to the present day, he’s knocked into an alternate version of 2013 where his mother is still alive. Here he meets his alternate 18-year-old self and as they get to know each other, General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth. Determined to assemble the Justice League, the two Barries team up with an aged alternate version of Batman (Michael Keaton) and Superman’s cousin Kara (Sasha Calle) to try and prevent Zod from invading.
I can say without a doubt that, excluding James Gunn’s almost standalone Suicide Squad requel, The Flash is the most enjoyable entry into the DCEU so far. It’s certainly the closest DC has gotten to recreating what the Marvel films have excelled at for years, perfectly balancing humour with heart and a lot of superhero antics and silliness. The problem is that The Flash doesn’t execute this anywhere near as well. While there are a handful of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, most of the jokes and quips don’t land or are incredibly cringe-worthy. Keaton’s Batman tends to get most of the latter, which is a shame as this partly spoilt his return as the Caped Crusader, something I’d been dying to see. It was still brilliant to see him back alongside all the old-school Batman gear we haven’t seen in over 30 years, but the cheesy one-liners didn’t do him any favours.
Personal controversies aside, Ezra Miller is fantastic as Barry and portrays that abrasive yet endearing character incredibly well. He excels playing the two alternate and very different Barries, from the humour to the more serious heart-warming sides of each, although personally, I did find the 18-year-old Barry’s teenage exuberance particularly irritating. The rest of the cast is good, but this is undoubtedly Miller’s show, although some surprise cameos in the final act did threaten to overshadow a little as they were pure genius, even if one of them was horrifically CGI’d.
Unfortunately, CGI in general is one of the biggest problems here. Some of it is quite good, but the rest of it varies from average to downright terrible. The CGI around the Speed Force and time travel aspects are particularly jarring, especially when the faces of actors already in the film have been replaced by CGI, which really made no sense. I know that CGI is a necessity in superhero films, but here it’s a huge disappointment. It isn’t helped by the fact that we’ve seen the superfast character/slow-motion scene a number of times before and here it isn’t done particularly well, especially not when compared to the standout Quicksilver scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past. This is where The Flash suffers the most as there are direct comparisons to Marvel where The Flash comes off worse – from the script to the CGI, even the entire plot around the multiverse isn’t original and something we’ve seen Marvel do much better.
Overall, The Flash is a deserving solo outing and a much-needed boost to the DCEU, even if it is one of the last films to be released from this universe. It’s just unfortunate that it is seriously let down by the general execution.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!