The Flash film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

The Flash

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on June 16, 2023

Theatrical Release:
June 16, 2023

Fun, imaginative, and only somewhat derivative, "The Flash" is the most enjoyable movie from DC since Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy wrapped up.

Running Time144 min

RatingPG-13

Running Time 144 min

RatingPG-13

Andy Muschietti

Christina Hodson (screenplay); John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Joby Harold (story)

Ezra Miller (Barry Allen/The Flash), Sasha Calle (Kara Zor-El/Supergirl), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Ron Livingston (Henry Allen), Maribel Verdú (Nora Allen), Kiersey Clemons (Iris West), Antje Traue (Faora-Ul), Michael Keaton (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Temuera Morrison (Thomas Curry), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman), Saoirse-Monica Jackson (Patty Spivot), Rudy Mancuso (Albert Desmond), Luke Brandon Field (Al Falcone), Nicolas Cage (Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman), George Clooney (Bruce Wayne/Batman)


The Flash (2023)

by Luke Bonanno

It’s extremely tempting to turn every review of a DC Studios film into a deep dive of their catalog and a critique of their oft-evolving gameplan. Superhero movies dominate not just the movie industry but journalism’s coverage of them. So much has been written about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC’s attempts, and repeated failure, to rival it.

In light of this, I’m challenging myself to make my review of The Flash be simply a review of The Flash. Sure, I have to tell you where this fits into comic book cinema at large and note the most obvious references and inspirations. But I will refrain from using this article to reflect on DC’s disappointments and speculate on where James Gunn might take this collection of big ticket brands moving forward.

My reluctance to recap comes not from any desire to defend DC or the industry’s unwavering faith in superhero movies at the expense of so many other things. These reflections have simply been ongoing for so long and, no matter the position taken, tend to be ridiculous and hyperbolic. The Flash deserves to be judged on its own merits, or as much as it can be in light of its many calculated connections and references to other movies.

After a re-edit, an array of fan clamor, and some legal issues, ezra miller still returns as the flash in 2023's "the flash. "

Introduced onscreen back in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Flash has had to wait a while to get his own vehicle. For a while, it felt like it might never happen, given the various controversies and legal problems surrounding star Ezra Miller. Those issues pose further tempting tangents, as the subject of cancel culture and its hypocritical application in Hollywood could easily fill a long book. Suffice it to say, DC and parent company Warner Bros. Discovery could easily have pulled the plug on this project, quieting negative press and probably getting a huge tax break in the process. The studios more or less invented the concept of cancelling a movie after it’s already been filmed, doing just that on Batgirl, a $90 million movie that was supposed to be released last year.

That DC and Warner did not take such a dramatic step to similarly scrap The Flash demonstrates the studio’s faith in the creative and commercial prospects of this undertaking. I’m happy to report that faith was not misplaced. Fun, imaginative, and only somewhat derivative, The Flash is the most enjoyable movie from DC since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy wrapped up. No, this comic adventure directed by It‘s Andy Muschietti does not reach Nolan’s lofty heights and it’s not even on the same level as the second tier of MCU triumphs, like the Iron Man trilogy and Shang-Chi. But it’s got enough going for it to categorize it as fun summer popcorn cinema rather than noisy, hollow spectacle.

Muschietti opens the movie with a big set piece that establishes both tone and scale. The Flash, alias Barry Allen (Miller), needs to fuel up to power his speedy heroics, ordering and impatently awaiting a high-protein coffee shop breakfast. Before he can get that, heroics call, as he has to save an army of newborn babies falling out of a targeted, collapsing hospital. Being able to slow down time makes for visually arresting action, as anyone who’s seen X-Men: Days of Future Past will recall. It’s a strong start to The Flash that is only mildly tainted by cameo appearances made by allies Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), each supplying a whiff of that Justice League stank.

Two flashes (ezra miller) and a supergirl (sasha calle) still need additional help to save the world.

When Barry discovers he can move so fast as to turn back time, he thinks of the perfect way to put such tremendous powers to use. He vows to return to his teenage years to change the incident that robbed him of both his parents. Specifically, Barry considers that putting a single can of tomatoes into a supermarket cart will prevent his mother (Maribel Verdú) from being fatally stabbed and his father (now Ron Livingston) from getting wrongly arrested and tried for murder.

You’ve seen enough movies to know the paradoxes that messing with time travel creates. Screenwriters Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) and Joby Harold (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) know you have, and respect that much, while still hoping you’ll remain open to the ideas they bring to this always-compelling topic. The ideas may be best summarized in a memorable little speech about spaghetti delivered by one aging, hirsute Bruce Wayne (none other than Michael Keaton). The old Batman of Tim Burton’s films is reluctant to assist the twenty-something Barry and the slightly younger teenaged self he inadvertently crosses paths with. But they need him, we need him, and, by God, The Flash needs him.

Marvel could never copyright the concept of a multiverse, which The Flash therefore delights in exploring. The influence of Spider-Man: No Way Home is plain to see here and that’s far from the first instance of DC borrowing pages from Marvel’s absurdly lucrative playbook. If No Way Home hadn’t blown moviegoers’ minds eighteen months ago with its top-secret explosion of nostalgia, then The Flash‘s landing of Keaton, nearly a decade after Birdman and over three since last playing the Caped Crusader, would have generated serious shockwaves. Even without that impact, it’s still inspired and rewarding casting. Septuagenarian Keaton is, without a doubt, the best thing about this movie, generating those some profound feelings that other recent iconic ’80s movie reprisals by the likes of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and the Ghostbusters have.

"you wanna get nuts? " michael keaton returns as batman for the first time in 31 years.

The movie, however, is not called Batman Returns. It is The Flash. Getting so much weight and heart from Keaton’s fringe reprisal threatens to undercut everything else that Hodson, Harold, and Muschietti are trying to achieve here. Gladly, it does not do that. The principal story involving the two Barrys is more entertaining and inventive than you expect, given the character’s role in the franchise to date and the bad vibes generated by the actor’s utterly unpleasant actions off-screen. The narrative presented here engages more than any recent one presented by the studio, especially improving upon the oddly acclaimed pair of Gunn’s The Suicide Squad and Matt Reeves’ The Batman, which are both thankfully kept out of this film’s nostalgic circle jerk.

That selling point gets pushed a little too hard in the climactic moments of The Flash, as the movie’s actually sobering and appealing plot temporarily grinds to a halt for a parade of past Superpeople. They are either digitally resurrected or, in the case of Nicolas Cage (realizing his dream of playing Jor-El a quarter-century after Burton’s Superman movie got shelved), digitally enhanced. For sure, these scenes are electric and invite oohs and aahs from multiple generations, but they also have the effect of turning what is intended as a standalone piece of comedic and dramatic storytelling into a theme park water show. It doesn’t help that some of the movie’s countless visual effects are perplexingly unsightly, utilizing some archaic technology that renders three-dimensional CGI characters like a 1996 PlayStation video game or The Mummy Returns. At the same time, some of the visuals are genuinely dynamic, so this weird contrast is all the more confusing and, with a reported budget of $220 million, fairly indefensible.

It is equally easy to prop up and tear down The Flash. There’s very little room for tempered reactions in the current discourse surrounding superhero movies. But with an open mind, I think you’ll find this to be a very good, not quite great summer movie. It has some hearty chuckles, some inevitable whiz-bang, and so much going on that Michael Shannon returning as General Zod amounts to practically a footnote. Muschietti’s work does not inspire the same love and hate that Zack Snyder’s ambitious creations do, but in a year full of big movies that are easy to loathe and dismiss, I am happy to simply like this one without reservation.

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