No film in the summer of 2023 has the same level of anticipation as The Flash. Audiences are eager to see this “reset” of the DC universe as soon as possible. The addition of characters like Michael Keaton’s Batman and Sasha Calle’s Supergirl had excitement at an all-time high. Add in the controversies regarding Ezra Miller, and people do not know what to expect. With the positive early reactions, audiences know The Flash is going to be a topic of conversation. All that is left is to ask whether the hype is worth it?
The Flash is one of the more unique superhero outings in recent memory. The story follows Barry Allen (Miller) as he attempts to change the past with his super speed. In his attempt to save his mom (Maribel Verdú), he creates a world without superheroes. Along the way, Allen has to form a new team in an attempt to save and restore the multiverse. What follows is 144 minutes of fan service. That alone will be more than enough for comic fans who want to go along for the ride.
Ezra’s performance as two Barry Allens is the film’s biggest strength. Both versions of Barry have distinct personalities. The hardened hero versus naive “kid” offer’s some genuinely hilarious moments. Their banter early on with Ben Affleck’s Batman gives the film some of its biggest laughs. Those moments get more emotional depth once Keaton and Calle enter the film. Keaton slips back into the Dark Knight persona and stands out in the overcrowded superhero epic. It’s unclear what his future is in the DCEU, but one can hope this is not the last time we see him on screen. The real secret weapon of The Flash is Sasha Calle’s portrayal of Kara Zor-El, or Supergirl.
Some will deem Kara as a character with a rather bland introduction. Her only depth is to be the “tortured hero” bent on protecting the world from General Zod (Michael Shannon). Once Calle teams up with Miller and Keaton, I could’ve watched them in action forever. She offers a subtle rage in her performance, keeping it consistently compelling. What holds those rich character moments back are some incredibly poor visual effects.
Almost every superhero movie has to have a visual effects-heavy third act. The Flash, unfortunately, suffers from that problem. This third act turns into the equivalent of a boss-fight within a video game. With each character fighting like they are video game avatars, it feels like there are no stakes. It is a rather frustrating notion, with the film doing a solid job of establishing the danger of the multiverse. Seeing certain moments be replayed over and over lessens the tension audiences are supposed to feel. Add in some deep-cut superhero cameos, and some non-superhero fans will be left feeling underwhelmed. Thankfully, the third act helps to make the film have a strong finish.
Once the video-game-like fight scenes are finished, the heart of the film circles back. At its core, The Flash is a story about the love of family. The middle act just seems to forget that emotionally stirring idea. As Barry literally races against the clock to save his mother, genuine emotion shines through. Those moments allow for some surprising depth for both Keaton and Calle as well. The problem is that it takes a long time to reach those moments with the film speeding through fan service. Some will find the blending of fan service and heart to be ineffective, but others could be emotionally moved.
The Flash is not the “perfect superhero film” some early reactions would lead you to believe. Thankfully, the film is ripe with some electrifyingly fun moments in its running time. Miller, Calle, and Keaton have an on-screen dynamic that is very engaging. Moments even offer genuine heart and depth for an epic story. It is the rather video-game-like fighting sequences that keep the film from being a masterpiece. Some will forgive those visual effects-heavy moments, but others will roll their eyes. Regardless, The Flash will definitely have audiences talking once the credits roll.
In theaters June 16th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official WB Pictures The Flash webpage.