The Flash Movie Review: Barry Allen’s Cinematic Adventure Is Officially Here
After years of development hell, Andy Muschietti’s The Flash is finally here and, for the most part, doesn’t disappoint. It’s a bonkers superhero tale packed with emotion and heart, stakes of great magnitude, and some of the best, most creative action seen in a comic book flick.
First things first, this is a Barry Allen story through and through. We pick up a few years after the events of Justice League (it’s up to you which one) as we, the audience, reunite with Ezra Miller’s Scarlet Speedster, an underachieving, double-life-juggling young man with a habit of being late.
The film starts strong, with an opening that throws you straight into the madness that is Barry’s life. It serves as a great reintroduction, getting us up to speed (pun intended), and plants the seeds for what’s to come later on. Barry rescuing the babies was a creative and hilarious demonstration of his powers that had me rolling in my seat. Paired with the Batcycle chase, it was an awesome sequence and kick-starter, showcasing the every day for our heroes. Of course, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman also made a cameo appearance, helping Bruce and Barry finish the job, and just in the nick of time too! It was a short and bittersweet final appearance for both characters, and our last scene with Affleck’s Bruce Wayne was as much meaningful to him as it was impactful for our protagonist.
Despite Bruce’s wise words, Barry goes against them, tempted by the possibility of saving his mother, Nora, and having the life he was ‘meant’ to have. As expected, Barry’s seemingly harmless act had major repercussions. The future he returned to was, unsurprisingly, not the one he left behind.
The dynamic between the two Barrys in The Flash was wildly entertaining and one of the best things about the movie. Comic relief aside, having our older, more seasoned Barry interact with his younger, goofier self was a compelling story element, and we got to see his origin through an unusually different lens. This was a refreshing choice as so many comic book films follow the trend of being an origin story – some feeling repetitive -, but we didn’t need that here, and Muschietti clearly recognized that.
All controversy aside, Miller delivers what will certainly go down as one of the greatest superhero performances ever. They play not one but three different versions of the Barry Allen character. The Barry we know, his younger self, and his dark and twisted future variant. Between meeting himself and realizing his act of selfishness caused the absence of Superman and, certainly, the end of the world, Barry (accompanied by his younger self) sought the help of Batman. Just not his Batman…
Enter: Michael Keaton. Most expected a languid performance, but no – he was marvelous. With moments of mentorship, epic fight scenes, and getting to see the infamous Batwing fly again, the return of 89’ Batman was a surreal experience, and I loved every second. Soon after his introduction, Supergirl, played by the scene-stealing Sasha Calle, was brought into the fold. Calle plays a stoic, vengeful Kara Zor-El who initially struggles to put her trust in the others. After regaining her strength, she returned to help Barry get his speed back so that they may stand a chance to stop General Zod together. Both of these characters were an absolute delight to watch, and I will admit a small part of me wishes we could have spent more time with them, given the film dedicates the entire middle section of the film to introducing them. Granted, this is not their story, and it would’ve been easy for, say, Keaton’s Batman to overshadow if not to be written and used the way he was.
For all the praise I can give The Flash, the third act left me unsatisfied and confused. The film doesn’t necessarily lose focus, but it does become convoluted in its execution. Predictably, the true antagonist of the film was Barry himself. While I don’t have an issue with this, the big twist wasn’t especially shocking.
Despite the abrupt goodbye, I did enjoy Bruce’s story and development. However, one of my biggest disappointments from the third act (and a movie as a whole) was how insignificant Calle’s Supergirl ended up being. She fought General Zod, and a cheap, anticlimactic death followed that I, unfortunately, felt nothing for – both times. Again, as much as this was Barry’s story, it was a shame, having spent such a large part of the film getting to know her, that there was no payoff for the character.
Finally, to talk about the elephant in the room, the multiverse scene. I will give the film credit where credit is due; their depiction of the speed force was clever and creative from a visual standpoint. For instance, how Barry would run in reverse when going back through his memories (and, as a result, time). At the climax of the film, Barry’s costly error leads to the collapse of the multiverse. We get various glimpses at the different earths, with cameos of old favorites, such as Adam West’s Batman, Christopher Reeves’ Superman, and, maybe most shockingly, Nicholas Cage’s Superman from the canned Superman: Lives. The scene, in concept, was fine, but the uncanniness of the CGI deepfakes completely took me out of it. There was also something questionable, if not a bit immoral, about reviving actors all for a point and gasp from the audience. There were a plethora of other DC characters, who were arguably more relevant to the movie, that could have appeared instead. These eye-candy multiverse sequences have become increasingly common since CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, and after watching The Flash, it’s safe to say they’ve lost the allure they once had.
At its core, this was a story about a young man processing and coming to terms with the death of his mother, cursed with a superpower too good to be true, and the weight of the world on his shoulders. Lessons were learned, allies were lost, and in the end, Barry landed right where he started. While he lost everything all over again, to say he gained nothing would be wrong, fundamentally. Not only did he return, matured through the experience, but he was healed of his wounds and freed of his grief – liberated. And through that liberation, that new perspective and state of mind, he was able to prove his father innocent. In the words of Bruce Wayne, ‘These scars make us who we are. We’re never meant to go back and fix them’.
As far as superhero experiences go, The Flash is a standout in my eyes. It’s flawed, but beneath the clunky, the wonky, and the questionable, there’s a beautiful story, with strong performances across the cast and a great balance of humor, action, and emotion.