Monday, June 19, 2023

'The Flash': Much ado about what was that again?


The Flash

Dir: Andy Muschietti

Scr: Christina Hodson

Pho: Henry Braham

Ed: Jason Ballantine, Paul Machliss

Premiere: June 16, 2023

144 min.

Everyone would like to go back and fix the past. That’s just what Barry Allen (the reputationally beleaguered Ezra Miller) does in his first and presumably his last stand-alone feature as the speedy superhero in The Flash.

It’s also something that’s occurred in the DC superhero-movie universe, time and time again – a second-guessing, a reconsideration of the final product through expanded “Ultimate Edition”s and directors’ cuts in an attempt to please fans, and gain additional revenue on the way.

The Flash is the next-to-last entry in the now-abandoned DC Extended Universe model of interrelated films (coming up later this year: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom), which commenced with Man of Steel in 2013, and is popularly referred to as “the Snyderverse,” after director/producer Zach Snyder, whose vision had led the way with entries such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. Now James Gunn, director of the successful Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy for Marvel, and DC’s funny, gory The Suicide Squad, is in charge of things at DC studios and is planning a new series of films even as we speak.

But enough exposition. How’s the film? It’s fairly entertaining, though as is the case with many DC films, it is too long and the CGI has its weak moments. That’s too bad, because this movie really leans on incorporating (spoiler alert!) all manner of alternate time-line Batmans and Supermans into the climax, unleashing a torrent of visual effects that feels like someone trying to push all the keys and pedals of a massive pipe organ.

In the film, the Flash discovers that he can run so fast that he can travel through time (stay with me). His father is imprisoned for his mother’s death, and he wants to go back in time and prevent her murder, or at least exonerate his dad. He succeeds, but in doing so changes reality, past and present, and leaves the Earth open to destruction. He must quickly (of course) round up his own version of the Justice League to try to deal with General Zod, Superman’s Kryptonian opponent on Man of Steel, who was killed trying to conquer Earth in that film.

The movie lives or dies on the effectiveness of its central character, and Ezra Miller does a decent job in his role as the Scarlet Speedster. He handles goofy and confused quite well, but has his problems with darker emotions such as anger and sadness (beware: there is copious weeping in this movie). His work is interesting, but ultimately too lightweight for the more serious underpinnings of the story.

Ben Affleck is back at Batman. But wait! Other Batmans lurk here too, and Michael Keaton kinds of dials it in as alternative-timeline Caped Crusader, one that’s retired into a life of eccentric reclusiveness. Will Flash shake him out of his stupor? What do you think?

Michael Shannon reemerges as Zod, and is given little to do save look menacing and make pronouncements. Jeremy Irons is there in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s faithful servant.

In the end, The Flash is a moderately interesting superhero flick, a standard-gauge genre film that fills in all the blanks in the schematic of how a superhero movie is made. It tries to have fun but bogs down in its self-indulgent conclusion. For those of us who love or study superhero films, there are more questions. Will DC ever stop messing up and redoing their increasingly unsuccessful releases? Can James Gunn right the ship? Will the audience put up with it?



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