The Flash is a semi-ambitious, energetic, and funny comic book movie that dishes out fan service in droves. Like many other DC Comic entries, it’s also a mixed bag of tricks. Featuring more flash than substance, it’s entertaining enough but frustratingly disappointing. And disappointingly frustrating.
Ezra Miller, who is controversial to the 1% of film and news buffs who pay attention to that kind of thing, stars as Barry and Barry–two versions of the same awkward young man who are thrust together after Barry #1 runs so fast he discovers he is able to travel through time. Intent to save his murdered mom, he makes a decision that sends ripples through time and space.
Miller is a very good actor who does a very good job here, able to project superhero vibes while their character’s alter ego is about as cringey as they come. They pivot effortlessly between goofy humor and serious drama. Unfortunately, both iterations of Barry Allen portrayed here have the kind of personalities that make even peaceful people, like me, want to punch them in the face. Miller’s version of the Flash was a highlight in the otherwise ho-hum Justice League–when he was a supporting character–but as not only the main character but the two main characters, they (the actor) and him (the character) are… a lot.
Some characters work better in supporting roles, and Barry Allen is pretty fucking annoying.
But The Flash, and how much you enjoy it, is an exercise in tolerance. Maybe you can tolerate Miller, maybe you can’t. Maybe you can tolerate a frenetic story that jumps around somewhat aimlessly, maybe you can’t. Maybe you can tolerate some ridiculous humor, maybe you can’t. The movie toes the line at dangerous speeds.
For me, I laughed out loud plenty during the movie. For example, the opening scene, which involves a very hungry Flash rescuing a bunch of newborn babies as they spiral through the air from 30 stories up, is pretty damn funny (the friend/critic sitting next to me, on the other hand, cringed).
The action, like in so many comic book movies, is less good. While there is plenty of it, nothing stands out as particularly memorable. It doesn’t help that a) The Flash more or less lacks a central villain (General Zod, played by a returning Michael Shannon, is the closest thing, but the story uses him more as a prop than a central baddie); and b) it has pretty terrible special effects at times. The VFX, while not universally bad, are noticeable enough to rip you out of the experience in key moments.
Where the movie does excel is in fan service, which, for this critic, is generally not my favorite element of comic book adaptations. The return of Michael Keaton as Batman is pretty cool to see, even if the material doesn’t do him a ton of favors. The introduction of a badass Supergirl (Sasha Calle) is neat, even if she is underutilized. And a few cameos toward the end had the audience hooting and howling.
Overall, The Flash has just enough entertainment value to suffice, though I really question whether it’s worth paying $20 for a movie ticket when you could watch it on Max in a couple of months. It’s harmless but inconsequential–it certainly won’t stand as one of the greatest comic book movies of all time, despite some early hype.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.