The Flash DC film starring Ezra Miller in super-hero fast lane, says reviewer
THE FLASH (12A) REVIEWED
Starring: Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Kiersey Clemons, Michael Keaton, Maribel Verdú
Director: Andy Muschietti Running time: 144 minutes
Given how DC Comics’ films have been mainly in the slow lane compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) juggernaut, it’s refreshing to report that The Flash has sprinted among the front-runners to be judged ‘world’s finest super-hero movie’.
I went into this with very low expectations considering the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) terrible recent track record (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Birds of Prey, barring the charismatic Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, were among the last decade’s cape ’n’ tights lowlights).
There was also a very serious back-story concerning The Flash/Barry Allen lead Ezra Miller’s personal life which I won’t bore you with and, as this seems to have been cleared up somewhat (the film wouldn’t have been released, otherwise) I’ll mention it no more. However, this factor, plus director changes, the pandemic, and other setbacks threatened to derail the fast-flick permanently.
Saying it’s the best DCEU film in years is setting a low bar, but it ranks up there with the best of MCU fare thanks to Argentine filmmaker Andy Muschietti, who helmed the well-received Stephen King adaptations It and It Chapter Two, and a brilliant dual turn from Miller, who on the professional front I’ve experienced little.
The Flash is DC’s Fastest Man Alive who can sprint at faster than light speed, but the shtick is that in his alter ego of Allen, he’s always late, including to work on this particular morning. The opening scene catches up with sad-sack Barry trying (and failing) to grab a quick coffee before being summoned by his fellow Justice League members to help save a collapsing hospital while colleague Batman (Ben Affleck) tracks down some gun-toting villains.
We learn that Barry’s mother (Verdú) was murdered while he was a boy and that his father (Livingston) was imprisoned for the crime which Barry is convinced he’s innocent of. So uses his Monarch of Motion powers to go back in time and thwart the killing.
However the Scarlet Speedster sets off a train of events which create an alternate reality where an underachieving bum of a Barry exists, Batman is one Michael Keaton (as per the 1989 film) and is threatened by alien General Zod (Shannon).
The trouble is on this earth, Zod’s fellow Kryptonian, Superman, DOESN’T exist, nor do the rest of the Justice League members like Aquaman or Wonder Woman. But there IS a Supergirl (Calle) and Barry’s makeshift crew need to find her while also finding a way home.
Miller excels as ‘straight’ Barry trying to coach ‘comedy’ Barry into dealing with both life and superheroics, and all the cast do their jobs with a nice nostagic nod from Keaton. A ‘date’ with Barry’s romantic interest Iris West (Clemons) is hilarious.
It’s funny, dramatic, world-endangering – where the DC multiverse is given a full glimpse – and in floppy pages fan lore, the groundbreaking Flash comic #123 (Flash of Two Worlds) from 1961 kicked off the whole alternate earths thing, so old time fans will appreciate the many Easter eggs and cameos, which I won’t spoil.
The third act where all the usual crashy-bashy CGI stuff goes into overdrive is a tad confusing and at times it pointlessly milks its certificate in terms of violence and language.
But overall this is an emotional effort full of humanity amid the fighty stuff that isn’t afraid or embarrassed to wear its comic-book origins on its sleeve – and there aren’t too many DCEU offerings you can say that about.
By Peter Woodhouse