In the spirit of the film’s theme, here’s a very quick explainer of The Flash’s offscreen origins. Producer James Gunn was recently brought in to oversee a complete reboot of the DC Universe films using The Flash’s Multiverse time travel plot to essentially start from scratch.
This turning point has been hampered by star Ezra Miller, who has been absent from marketing given their recent string of legal issues. (Arrests for disorderly conduct and assault charges.) With all that in mind, it’s easy to forget there’s a film underneath all the headlines.
Miller returns as Barry Allen, a young man with the superhero power of ‘super speed’. He’s struggling with his role as a hero as his father (Ron Livingston) sits in jail, wrongfully convicted of murdering his mother. Barry learns he can travel so fast that time reverses, leading him to attempt to travel back to stop his mother’s death. Of course, it doesn’t go as expected, and Barry finds himself in an alternative world where no other superheroes exist, just as Kryptonian warlord General Zod (Michael Shannon) is invading. Barry teams up with another version of himself, and an alternate Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), hoping to save this world and find a way home.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the dreary recent DC output, fear not. The purpose of the story is to mix everything up, making for a time travel action/comedy that is one of the most entertaining DC adventures yet. By being brave and breaking what has been built over the last decade, director Andy Muschietti (IT) creates a world where no one feels safe from the chop.
Miller embarks on a reference filled dash through DC lore, spearheaded by amazing action scenes and a lot of affection for Keaton’s Batman. It’s a delightful return which feels faithful to the 90s Tim Burton movies, bringing the character back in a way that makes sense. Little touches, like a small reference to Jack Nicholson’s Joker, will be a joy for movie nerds. The film falls foul of over plotting at times, particularly towards the end when the two Barrys try to undo the inevitable.
It’s an occupational hazard for these types of movies, but the script makes sure that its heroes (and audience) keep focused. We also need to talk about Ezra Miller. Their performance is charming, funny, and heartfelt. However, it’s hard to accept them as a loveable underdog given the knowledge of their recent controversies. Luckily, other members of the cast are there to brighten things up. Joining a buoyant Keaton is Sasha Calle as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, a Kryptonian who is embittered by the treatment she has endured.
The role is smaller than expected, but is powerful and sure to build hype. Elsewhere, cameos from the outgoing Justice League members feel tired and contractually obliged. Ending with a nostalgic sequence featuring a number of surprises, The Flash is a spectacular blockbuster that wipes the slate clean for an exciting future. Not everything in the DC Universe worked, but at least it can go out with a bang.
The Flash is in cinemas now