In news, non-illustrated, Review

THE FLASH, the latest DC adaptation from Warner Bros., has many things going for it that could bode well for further adventures of the speedy superhero. The Flash’s abilities are novel, the way director Andy Muschietti and his CGI wizards shoot his running effects are wholly impressive, and there’s a joie de vivre here often missing from previous films. Still, THE FLASH has a few things working against it too. Ezra Miller is definitely an acquired taste as the lead character. The film’s alternative universe storyline is hardly novel at this point in the comic book movie pantheon. Perhaps most troubling of all is how much more interesting both the older Batman character (Michael Keaton, returning to the part for the first time since 1992) and the new Supergirl character (Sasha Calle) are in support. More than the title character, they really bring the movie to life, giving it its genuine zip.

It doesn’t help either that the CW television program of THE FLASH (2014-2023) did such a superb job in adapting the source material by comics writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert. Lead Grant Gustin essayed a much more charming and likable lead too, but if you’re going to make the Flash’s alter ego Barry Allen into a hopelessly neurotic nerd, Miller’s your man/child. Unfortunately, the film gives us a double dose of neuroses as we get two Barry Allen’s when the original meets his doppelganger in the past via time travel.

That plotline kicks in when Barry discovers he can visit the past with his super speed, so he sets his sites to years earlier where he hopes to save his mother (Maribel Verdu) from being murdered and spare his father (Ron Livingston) from being wrongfully accused of the crime. But when Barry arrives, he encounters his younger adult self and things get complicated very fast. In order to keep his quicksilver powers, the two Barry’s must work to recreate the accident that enabled it. They’re successful and the past Barry is indeed imbued with the gifts of speed. However, the modern Barry ends up being robbed of his. Thus are the consequences of toying with timelines. (Any action always has consequences in such narratives, don’t you know?)

Looking for help to return things to normal, the two Barry’s seek out billionaire Bruce Wayne/Batman, his Justice League colleague. But in this new setting, the character of Bruce is different. He’s not Ben Affleck, as he was in the JUSTICE LEAGUE saga and earlier in this film, but rather Keaton, the original 1989 Dark Knight. Such casting is all the cheekier as a number of his BATMAN quips and tropes are sprinkled throughout this one. The quote “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” will get a big laugh from audiences, as will the bat plane framed against the moon shown late in the third act.

The fanboy fun extends even farther as Michael Shannon returns as the evil General Zod from 2013’s MAN OF STEEL, but Henry Cavill’s Superman is nowhere to be found. With no Supes in sight, THE FLASH instead gives us a new take on Kara Zor-El/Supergirl. She’s the Kryptonian in residence here on Earth, now employed to battle her home planet’s invading villain. Calle plays the Supergirl part with gravitas and fearlessness, a much weightier take on the part than Melissa Benoist’s breezy girl-next-door approach on the CW’s SUPERGIRL series from 2015-2021. The WB/DC powers would be wise to give Calle her own starring vehicle as she’s so good, you can’t take your eyes off her when she’s onscreen.

Despite the attributes of Keaton and Calle’s presence, along with some very clever cameos in the film as well, the script by Christina Hodson and screen story by Joby Harold makes some crucial mistakes, starting with the overdone time travel/multiverse angle. That trope has been done to death in far too many comic book adaptations this past decade, and it gets boring fast. It doesn’t help matters either that a far superior multiverse film, SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE, just opening to raves just a few weeks ago. The film throws too much confusing and confounding plot points into the mix late in the game as well, in addition to a lot of the action sequences making a mess of time and place.

Hopefully, Warner Bros. can improve matters as James Gunn takes over the DC adaptations. He should spearhead a sequel to THE FLASH that is grounded in one world, not several. It would also behoove him to rein in Miller’s excesses, should he remain in the part. (There has been much discussion over replacing him after the actor’s awful escapades in public bars and such.) Finally, here’s hoping that Gunn keeps Calle around as Supergirl. I’d hate to think that her appearance in the DC Universe was a mere (ahem) flash in the pan.

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