It’s almost unfair that The Flash is coming out two weeks after another multiverse superhero movie featuring a character draped in red. The Flash doesn’t reach the skyscraper-size heights of Across the Spider-Verse, although it runs circles around some of the soon-to-be-defunct DCEU’s other efforts. Andy Muschietti’s film has glimpses of greatness, but for every dynamite scene, there’s an idea that falls short of its potential. The Flash won’t rejuvenate interest in the multiverse like Spider-Verse or Everything Everywhere All at Once did. Even if it’s not a trailblazer, The Flash is fun and breezy enough to squeeze a few more miles out of the multiverse premise. Given the complicated production history, the fact that the film made it to the finish line warrants a victory lap.
The Flash is just as much a time travel movie with several nods to Back to the Future. Not only is Eric Stoltz referenced, but both films center on a young hero traveling through time to save his parents while teaming up with an old man. There’s also a love interest (Kiersey Clemons) whose presence is restricted to the opening and ending. Our Marty McFly is Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), who doesn’t need a DeLorean to get back in time. Just his super speed. Time travel works differently for Barry, though, as his actions in the past don’t just alter the future. They shake up the multiverse, allowing Michael Keaton’s Batman to replace Ben Affleck in Barry’s universe. Superman is replaced with Supergirl (Sasha Calle). To make matters even more complicated, Barry encounters his younger, far more obnoxious self.
The controversy surrounding Miller has rivaled the Depp v Heard trial for the past year’s primary source of Hollywood gossip. Putting a pin in Miller’s personal life, how is their performance? One half is good while the other will intensify your longing for Grant Gustin. Miller does fine in the dramatic scenes as Barry grapples with the reproductions of preventing his mother’s death. Maribel Verdú doesn’t get a ton of screen time as Barry’s mom, but their scenes together give the film a beating heart. Barry’s younger counterpart attempts to give the film a funny bone, although he’s more inclined to give you a headache. This Barry is supposed to be an irresponsible 18-year-old, but Miller plays the character like an SNL cast member imitating a 10-year-old, and an inexplicably stupid one at that. Between Miller’s over-acting and jokes that rarely land, it’s like the discount version of Shazam or Jason from The Good Place. Maybe the character was intended to be annoying, but so was Jar Jar Binks.
Keaton is the real star here. The Flash’s team-up with Batman might not have the wow factor of seeing the three live-action Spider-Mans onscreen. Watching Keaton suit up for the first time in over 30 years, though, it’s hard not to get swept up in nostalgia. Granted, some of Keaton’s iconic lines are forced into conversation simply for the trailer’s sake. These movies aside, Keaton reminds us why many still consider him the definitive Dark Knight. Time will only tell if Calle will become the definitive Supergirl, especially since James Gunn will be hitting the DC’s reset switch soon. Hopefully Calle sticks around, as she makes for a badass addition to the team. Her climactic confrontation with General Zod sadly proves underwhelming, but that’s all the more reason to give Calle time to delve deeper into the character.
While the CG is wonky, Muschietti still turns in several brisk action sequences, a highlight involving several babies, a vending machine, and a microwave. Cameos are essentially part of the superhero package at this point, but The Flash has at least two guaranteed to break the internet. Moments such as these touch upon what could’ve been one of the most exhilarating additions to the ever-expanding multiverse sub-genre. Like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it can feel like The Flash is holding out on us. It may not deliver 100%, but about 60% works. The set pieces, callbacks, and genuinely moving scenes make for a solid chapter as the DCEU prepares for its final lap. In another universe, we could’ve gotten an incredible film, but there are darker timelines.