Movie: THE FLASH (2023)
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Andy Muschietti
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Flash (2023): Barry Allen is struck by a bolt of lightning and thus, an extraordinary power is born inside him: The Speed Force. When he uses this power to run back in time and save his mother, he creates a world without heroes and General Zod has returned. To defeat him, his only hope rest in the hands of a retired Batman, another Barry and an imprisoned Kryptonian.
While this review is marked with a spoiler warning, I will try to avoid spoilers except where absolutely unavoidable. And where unavoidable, I will try to keep them as vague as possible. With an amazing movie like this, I don’t want to risk diminishing the experience in any way for viewers who haven’t already seen it.
I have to say right off the bat that I absolutely loved this movie. I am not sure how the mainstream audience will feel about this entry in the DCEU, but most fans should love it, presuming the don’t refuse to give it a chance due to the actor starring in the titular role.
Right off the start, this movie signals a departure from the DCEU into the James Gunn era of DC movies by debuting the new DC filming opening animation. I would hesitate to say it’s better or worse than the one used for the DCEU films, as I’m still not sure which I like better myself.
But it does serve as a delineation between the DCEU and the Gunn era movies. It does so much more clearly than the movies have so far, as we have so far gotten a soft reboot, with some movies strongly tied to the DCEU still coming out, including Shazam: Fury of the Gods, Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom, and of course, The Flash).
The plotline borrows elements from the comic storyline Flashpoint, which launched led into DC’s New 52 hard reboot. This has led many to speculate that The Flash would do the same thing, with this version of the Flashpoint, leading to a reboot of the DCEU into Gunn’s era of DC movies.
However, there are only two notable changes to this version of the DCU once Barry fixes the mess he made. One is a deliberate change Barry made, which seems to have worked out well, even though he was courting disaster by attempting it (When will you ever learn about messing with time, Barry?).
The other is a last minute twist. If the DCEU were continuing, it would be a major change for future movies, but it’s likely just a passing joke that will not affect any of Gunn’s future DC projects. But other than these two changes, it still seems to be the same old DCEU.
Speaking of Flashpoint, I liked that they accurately recreated Thomas Wayne’s device for restoring Barry’s powers from the comics. References like that show that Muschietti is familiar with and pays respect to the original source material. Generally, ignoring or disrespecting the original comics is the quickest way to turn off the superhero fan-base. And I’m glad to see Muschietti avoiding this pitfall that so many superhero movies fall into.
Initially, in the Flashpoint comics storyline, it was implied that Barry’s messing with time was the cause of all the changes introduced in the New 52 era. But somehow Barry’s actions affected events that took place earlier in the timeline, which doesn’t match DC’s rules regarding the timeline. Eventually, it was revealed that these changes were due to Doctor Manhattan messing with time, but the original explanation didn’t seem to make any sense.
However, Batman gives an alternate explanation how Barry’s interference has caused changes up and down the timestream. Using uncooked spaghetti as a prop, he demonstrates that there are unchangeable points where timelines intersect. When you make changes in the past, you pivot the entire timeline on that fixed point, changing both the future and the past. I really appreciate that the movie took the time to address a potential plot hole that much of the audience might not even realized is a problem.
One of the best things about this movie is the wealth of guest appearances and cameos of various DC characters from various live action versions. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot feature prominently in the movie’s opening. And of course, Michael Keaton also reprises his turn as Batman.
And I expect that there will be much talk about the Multiverse scene near the end of the movie. Using archival footage and computer trickery, we are shown various DC heroes from movies and TV shows. It comes as no surprise that Christopher Reeve and Adam West are acknowledged here. But there are some surprising appearances.
One particular hero me by complete surprise. It comes from a movie that was never made, but has become rather notorious among the fandom. Those who know the story will find this reference absolutely hilarious, but I imagine that the rest of the audience will be left scratching their heads in confusion.
I can hardly wait until I get the home video version of The Flash so that I can go through this scene frame by frame. I’m eager to see who else I might have missed.
I quite like how The Flash‘ depicts Barry’s superspeed . The effects team do a fantastic job of conveying the speeds that Barry is capable of moving at. Sometimes, the movie shows Barry moving in real time. For instance, we see the world zoom past as Barry runs from Central City to Gotham in seconds. And this gives the audience an inkling of what being the Flash feels like.
At other times, the world around The Flash slows to a crawl allowing Barry to plan his moves and execute them with precision, even though they happen too fast for anyone else to even see him. At one point, several babies and a dog fall from a collapsing hospital. We then witness Barry carefully maneuvering the babies, debris, and other objects into the exact positions they need to be in to allow Barry to save them all.
And as a bonus treat, the end credits roll over the same scene – except from the viewpoint of the dog.
There is quite a bit of humour in this movie, which serves to make watching Th Flash a fantastically fun experience. There are some smaller gags where Barry and Batman get tangled in Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, leading to the involuntary revelation of some uncomfortable truths.
And pairing Barry with a younger version of himself is mostly comedy gold. Seeing some of his own bad habits from from the outside makes Barry realize how annoying he can be at times. But it also serves to show that Barry is maturing. Meeting a younger, brasher version of himself forces Barry to be the mature one for once.
But there is also a lot of pathos in The Flash‘s story too. The death of Barry’s mother and his father getting framed for her murder has been part of the Flash mythos for the past 14 years. They have been at the central of Barry’s story in both the comics and in the CW TV show. But The Flash movie has given us a fresh take on the story, while keeping the actual events substantially the same.
The younger version of Barry exists in a timeline where his mother is still alive. This gives Barry the dilemma of whether or not to tell his younger self about their mother’s death. It makes Barry resentful that his doppelganger got the happy life Barry should have had, but takes it for granted.
And the scene where Barry interacts directly with his mother for the final time is truly heart-rending.
I also found it interesting that Muschietti leaves the identity of Nora Allen’s killer unrevealed. I was waiting for that revelation, but the story goes out of its way to keep the killer a mystery. Muschietti has revealed the killer’s identity in an interview, but stated that Barry’s confrontation with his mother’s murderer would have to happen in a sequel.
This raises the possibility of a sequel. However, given the change of direction Gunn has planned for future DC movies and the controversy around Ezra Miller, if that sequel will ever happen. But at least it give a glimmer of hope that it might happen someday.
The elephant in the room is Ezra Miller. His presence is one of the biggest issues with The Flash. While Miller portrays a very likable version of Barry Allen, the actor himself is just the opposite. DC ended up delaying the movie’s release in hopes that the controversy would die down, but the controversy remains. And the delay has given Muschietti plenty of time to deliver a polished final cut.
Some have called for recasting the movie with a new actor, but after seeing the film, I can see that doing so would require reshooting most of the movie. Also, regardless of how you feel about the actor, it’s hard to deny that he did a phenomenal job of portraying not only one, but two Barry Allens. Portraying a dual role for most of a movie’s length is a challenging feat, but he pulls it off admirably.
Others have suggested the idea that people should pirate the movie instead of seeing it in the theatre. I find this to be a stupid reaction. Yes, it would Miller to a degree, but it would also be punishing the rest of the cast, crew, writers, the studio and its employees, and others.
And it’s somewhat hypocritical. If you go to the trouble of pirating it, that’s an admission that you believe it’s worth watching. And if it has value, then pirating is stealing. If you find you cannot support the movie, then just forgo watching it altogether.
While I admit some discomfort watching a movie starring Miller, I am the type of person who can separate my appreciation of art from my distaste for the artist. So, I can forgive Warner/DC from going ahead with The Flash despite the controversy. But it might be for the best if they find a new actor if a sequel ever materializes.
I absolutely freakin’ love this movie! The only problem is the casting of Ezra Miller. But since he gave a superb performance and it was too late for WB/DC to recast without raising the cost and lowering the quality, I will give them a pass for this. I also adored every single guest appearance and cameo in the film. After this, I hope Andy Muschietti returns to direct other DC movies. Judging by The Flash, I think we can expect some great things from James Gunn’s era of DC movies.