THE FLASH review by Mark Walters – Ezra Miller needs Michael Keaton’s help to turn back time

THE FLASH review by Mark Walters – Ezra Miller needs Michael Keaton’s help to turn back time

THE FLASH is a movie that’s had an interesting journey of ups and downs, and for a short period of time it almost looked like it might not get released, even when they completed shooting. After experiencing a revolving door of writers and directors, and some unfortunate controversy surrounding the film’s star Ezra Miller, it seemed like this was a project that might be doomed. But word spread that the movie was good… REALLY good. And the fact it featured the return of Michael Keaton as Batman had fans very excited to see the end result. Every trailer that was released seemed to go over like gangbusters, making it crazy to consider not actually putting the film out. So controversy aside, is the end result worth the wait?

Spinning off from the Zack Snyder-directed JUSTICE LEAGUE movie, THE FLASH follows Barry Allen (Miller), a young man who received the power of super speed and quick healing after an accident involving a lightning strike and some chemicals transforming him from the inside out. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has helped Barry construct a new costume that is capable of handling his high speed movement, and he now spends his days helping those in need, which from time to time reunites him with his Justice League pals, though he never seems to feel like he fully fits in. We’re treated to a big opening sequence in which Barry has to save babies falling out the side of a collapsing hospital, and it’s a fantastic blend of CGI mixed with slow motion action. It also illustrates how in the process of saving the day, these superheroes tend to leave a lot of damage in their wake.

In his private life, Barry is dealing with his father (Ron Livingston) being in jail for murdering his mother, though it’s assumed he’s innocent. In an effort to get him out, Barry is now working in a crime lab analyzing samples and evidence in hopes of finding a way to clear his father. By way of flashback, we see how young Barry witnessed his mother die, and it’s traumatized him for all the years that followed. Soon he learns that by running really fast, he’s able to tap into a sort of Speed Force that allows him to travel back in time to any point in his life. This act gives him the ability to change history, but Bruce warns that attempting such a thing could make matters worse, and potentially destroy everything. Barry chooses his emotions and saves his mother, but in doing so alters the timeline, taking him back to the moment in time where Superman (from MAN OF STEEL) came to earth, and now comes face to face with a teenage Barry who has not yet obtained his powers. But making matters worse, in this timeline, Superman doesn’t arrive, and General Zod (Michael Shannon) is about to destroy the planet in his plan to create a new Kryptonian world. Barry (and younger Barry) must track down Batman in this altered timeline, only here Bruce Wayne (Keaton) is older and out of the superhero game. Barry must talk him into helping stop Zod, along with a little help from another mysterious Kryptonian we haven’t seen before.

THE FLASH is a pretty exciting and satisfying ride as far as superhero films go, and borrows a lot of smart elements from popular DC Comics storylines, while managing to make its own unique story. Miller takes on double duty playing a Barry Allen of two worlds (and ages), one who has seen some rough things, and another who is optimistic and ignorant to the darker problems that lay ahead. As the younger Barry, Miller is appropriately a bit annoying and goofy, which makes sense for the character. But his take on the older Barry, the one we’ve met already in other films, is much more mature and controlled, and a definite improvement from his other outings as The Flash. It’s almost as if this film is telling us that the Barry Allen we saw before was kind of awkward because he needed more experience in the game, and here we’re getting the “real” Barry for the first time. It’s a strong performance and one of Miller’s more impressive roles in an already varied acting career, and he’s particularly great in the emotional scenes.

Newcomer Sasha Calle shows up later in the film as Kara / Supergirl, a very dark take on the classic DC Comics superheroine, but an interesting take at that. I enjoyed her mysterious performance, and actually wished we could have had more time with the character than what we got. Michael Shannon is a welcome face returning as Zod, though isn’t given too much more to do that be the villain for the story, and look angry when things aren’t going his way. We don’t really learn anything new about him here, though we do see how things might have gone if he had started to succeed with his original plan. There’s an explanation why Superman isn’t here this time, and it definitely gives the script a very ominous feel. But let’s face it, the biggest selling point here is seeing Michael Keaton back as the Tim Burton Batman we all fell in love with in 1989. And he’s great, even if used a bit sparingly. Keaton feels very comfortable falling right back into the role, and gets some cheer-worthy moments that made out crowd very happy.

Director Andy Muschietti (IT and IT: CHAPTER TWO) does a terrific job keeping things interesting, and making the action sequences really engaging. The film is a tad long at two hours and 24 minutes, and it does drag a bit in the middle section, but the incredible rescue sequence at the start and epic battle at the end really make up for any other shortcomings the production may have. One thing that really surprised me is how emotional and at times sad the film was, though effectively so. I found myself getting teary-eyed on more than one occasion, more than I expected to, but it’s a welcome surprise in a time where audiences may be experiencing a bit of superhero movie fatigue. I also really loved Benjamin Walfisch’s experimental and exciting musical score, which compliments the film nicely.

The DC Comics movies have been sort of hit and miss in recent years, and the style and direction of Zack Snyder’s efforts have sort of pushed them in a very specific way, for better and sometimes worse, though THE FLASH does a nice job of playing off what came before it, while also doing things in a refreshingly different way. It feels like it exists within the same universe, while not being beholden to it. Strong performances and impressive visuals make this a exciting treat, and easily one of the better offerings from the DC comic adaptations. I’m not sure how audiences will take to it considering Ezra Miller’s recent exploits, but I also think it would be a shame to have such a strong effort hit theaters, only to abandon the characters here and just reboot. Though the ending of the film, which is quite clever, kind of works as a tidy wrap up should this be the last time we see these particular incarnations. I feel like this movie, if nothing else, is a welcoming present to fans who may have struggled with the previous DC movies… almost like a way of saying thanks, and if this is our goodbye, we’re gonna end it in a really pleasing way.

THE FLASH zooms into theaters on June 16, 2022

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.