The DCEU is dead, long live the DCEU! Or something like that. The Flash movie is finally hitting theaters and will unintentionally serve as the end of the shared DC Comics cinematic universe, the DCEU, started in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel to make way for James Gunn’s new vision for the beloved franchises. The long troubled production is without question a flashy *ahem* good time, but isn’t quite worth the wait due to some shockingly sub-par CG visuals and a lack of depth for every supporting character aside from The Flash himself, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller).
The Flash opens with a terrific sequence that serves as a farewell to the current DCEU Justice League. The raucous set piece sets the humorous tone, dashed with innovatively choreographed super-powered action that permeates the entirety of the film – you’ll never think of “baby showers” the same way again. Following the successful team up, The Flash finds himself accidentally stumbling back in time after pushing his abilities further than ever. Faced with an opportunity to save his mom and clear his dad of her murder by changing the past, The Flash reluctantly enlists the help of an alternate, younger version of himself for an adventure with the very fate of the DC Multiverse at stake.
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Yes, Ezra Miller’s personal life antics have been part of the issues surrounding this production. For review purposes, however, taken on its own merit, their performance is worthy of high praise. Whether as the young or current Barry, Miller is almost always on screen and owns nearly every second with endless energy and emotion. All the heartfelt moments involving Barry’s parents and his budding brotherly relationship with young Barry are excellent. Although in all fairness, young Barry’s low-brow humor and constant screaming do become grating the further the story moves along and that’s on Miller’s performance as well.
Journeying into the Multiverse allows The Flash to interact with characters and alternate versions of known characters, including the one that fans are most excited to see: the return of Michael Keaton as Batman. Keaton is awesome in the role and still looks great in the suit. Seeing what this iconic version can do in a fight with the help of modern visual effects is going to make a lot of fans really happy. Sadly, there’s not much to the character outside of the Danny Elfman themed nostalgia. Bruce Wayne/Batman shows up, sort of mentors the Barrys, and spouts a couple catch-phrases from the original 1989 Batman and that’s about it – not a lot to unpack with the character arc.
Sasha Calle’s debut as a new version of Supergirl doesn’t have much more luck. The character’s minimal screen time in her first appearance gives little room for the audience to care for Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El. Calle looks great smashing bag guys, but this tortured version of The Last Daughter of Krypton doesn’t get much else to do aside from looking pouty and pissed. Ben Affleck’s final appearance as Bruce Wayne/Batman feels a little more personal for both characters and his Bat-Fleck action is a blast, but the character is also short-changed and not given any sense of closure. Don’t get me started on poor Michael Shannon, who is wasted reprising his role of General Zod from Man of Steel in a sloppily CG’d, glorified cameo capacity…
I really enjoyed the overall bright, comic book tone of the film and director Andy Muscheitti certainly has an ambitious eye for action, providing some incredibly creative sequences that maximize each character’s super-potential. Unfortunately, his visual effects budget (or team) dropped the ball along the way. Sequences throughout, including a late nostalgia grab sequence in the Speed Force, would be worthy of chastising on the small screen CW Arrowverse DC TV shows, but showing up here in a multi-million dollar summer tent pole is embarrassing for all involved. The look isn’t helped when The Flash incorporates scenes from Man of Steel, a film released a decade ago, and yet somehow this film’s versions are significantly worse in the visuals department.
There’s no denying The Flash is a crowd-pleaser and appropriately speeds by, despite its two and a half hour running time – but it’s the empty calorie kind of crowd-pleaser that won’t stand the test of time. There are truly great aspects of the film and lots of reverence for the entirety of all DC Comics in live action media, but it’s too much of a mixed bag to truly get excited about…and perhaps that’s for the best. DC fans can finally let go of this era and look with anticipation towards the next incarnation.
Score: 3.5 out of 5