The hype is real. DC’s The Flash may not be the greatest comic book movie ever made, but it comes damn close. Easily the best in the genre since Spiderman: No Way Home, this fresh, invigorating, and hugely entertaining summer treat is as good as it gets when it comes to cinematic takes on superheroes.
Let’s give credit to director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Christina Hodson for making what was becoming a worn out movie genre a brand new life with a smart, funny, thrilling, emotional, and altogether swell take on a character that has been around 80+ years, but until now never got the showcase he deserves. And bringing him vividly alive in a rich and dazzlingly dual performance in which he brilliantly plays opposite himself is Ezra Miller, and simply put, better casting you could not imagine. Whatever the well-publicized previous troubles the actor had in his own life simply do not matter here, he is the real deal and a superhero superstar is born.
In fact I would hesitate to even put this film on the same level as others in the increasingly tired genre that both Marvel and DC have run into the ground. This is a comic book movie for everyone, even if you aren’t inclined to like this kind of flick. If anything it probably has more in common and spirit with movies like Back To The Future, the 1985 hit that it actually hilariously references more than once, and in ways hard core BTTF fans are going to go batsh*t crazy over. And speaking of DC’s crown jewel (or one of them) Batman is back all the way from Tim Burton’s 1989 movie that brought him a new kind of fame in the form of Michael Keaton, lured one more time into his batsuit and not only killing it, but making the character more poignant that he has ever been.
Starting off with a bang, Barry Allen stops in a coffee shop and while waiting for his order to come up gets an urgent call from Alfred (a cameo from Jeremy Irons) alerting him to a life-saving job he is needed for urgently. In no time he is in his red suit, transformed as The Flash and saving the day from a collapsing hospital building, one where the entire the maternity ward flies out the windows with a baby shower raining over the street below until he manages to freeze it in time, save all the babies, and slip back into the coffee shop as Barry just in time to be handed his order. “I hope it didn’t take too long for you,” the clerk says to him.
The action continues though on a bridge where he and his friend Bruce Wayne aka Batman must also team up to cut off certain disaster (here they get the help of another superstar superhero in a brief but amusing cameo). In their down time Barry tells Bruce (Ben Affleck reprising his own Batman role) that he has figured out a way to go back in time and he’s excited at the prospect of taking it further back to the period where his beloved mother Nora (a fine Marikl Verdu) was found stabbed to death and his father Henry (Ron Livingston) pinned as the one who did it. His goal is to go back and change the circumstances that not only would give his incarcerated dad the alibi that would prove he didn’t do it, but also prevent the death from ever happening in the first place. Bruce, also someone whose parents died tragically, tries to tell him it might not be wise to twist fate but nevertheless Barry doesn’t listen. All hell breaks loose.
Barry finds himself back in his childhood home, having dinner with his parents who notice he is a bit more mature now that he is back from his first semester in college. Soon though Barry discovers he has landed right back when he was 18 , an awkward kid, and the date happens to be the same as when a lab accident gave him his “powers” when struck by lightning. From here on this becomes a weird buddy movie in which the awkward Barry gets those powers while the time travelling Barry loses his. It becomes a riotously funny relationship with himself, one that gets serious when General Zod (Michael Shannon) enters the picture with evil designs of his own. The two Barrys find themselves in a race to save the planet – or this alternate planet in the multiverse – and for that a visit to Wayne Manor is in order to enlist the services of Batman. However when an older grizzled Bruce Wayne (Keaton) appears in the run down mansion, it is a Batman that Barry doesn’t know. This whole sequence leading to their discovery of the locked up Batcave and unveliling of the long dormant Batmobile of years ago, is fantastic stuff as is watching Keaton’s Bruce Wayne find his way back into the saddle so to speak. The stage is set for a battle royale in which the entire history of not just Batman, but Superman come back to life thanks to some truly remarkable work from the visual effects wizards behind the scenes.
Along the way they head to Siberia where they hope to free an imprisoned Clark Kent aka Superman but instead find a beaten and locked up Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl (Sasha Calle) to be rescued and returned to the front lines. There are so many surprises in store along the way , and still to come, including stunning sequences that elicited applause on my second viewing of the film (the first was at CinemaCon in an unfinished form). It is undeniably a crowd pleaser and a comic book movie that makes all the right choices.
Miller, previously turning up in the role in supporting (in Justice League , Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad) is just sensational taking on the whole enchilada this time, especially considering the tough task of playing two completely different versions of Barry, both credible and believable. With this essentially also being the story of a son trying to bring back his mother, Miller really gets the emotional aspect just right and gives Barry Allen aka The Flash real poignancy and gravitas. Keaton does the same thing is his return to the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and quite frankly has never been better in the role. It is a terrific reinvention of the character for the actor, and for Batman himself. Calle is excellent as Supergirl, and it is fun to see Shannon taking on more weight as Zod. Kiesey Clemons is sweet as a reporter who takes a romantic interest in Barry while trying to get his real story. The cameos are equally satisfying and, no spoiler, one towards the end will have audiences reeling with delight.
Production values across the board are first rate in film produced by Barbara Muschietti and Michael Disco. Warner Bros. will release it June 16. If this isn’t a smash hit, I can’t imagine what is.
Title: The Flash
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Director: Andy Muschietti
Screenwriter: Christina Hodson. Story by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein and Joby Harold
Cast: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton , Michael Shannon, Sasha Calle, Ron Livingston, Marikl Verdu, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Trive, Ben Affleck.
Running Time: 2 hours and 24 minutes