Of all the comic book films to be released in the last 10 years, perhaps no film has had a more tumultuous journey to the big screen than The Flash. It’s insane to think that ever since Ezra Miller was first cast in the role as Barry Allen back in October 2014, an entire series centered on the Scarlet Speedster was on the air on The CW, only to conclude shortly before the superhero’s first standalone feature film hits theaters. Not to mention, the numerous different writers and directors that signed on and resigned from the project before Andy Muschietti and Christina Hodson signed on as the officially-credited director and screenwriter respectively, as well as the different regimes over at Warner Bros. regarding the trajectory of the DC Extended Universe, whose keys are now in the hands of James Gunn and Peter Safran.
And as for the film’s headlining star Ezra Miller, they have been subject to negative press for more than a year due to their numerous legal issues and have since been receiving treatment for “complex mental health issues.”
After nearly a decade, Warner Bros. Pictures and DC are finally releasing The Flash to the world. Thankfully, amidst all the drama and turbulence, the film itself is an extremely entertaining superhero blockbuster that boasts some big laughs, crowd-pleasing thrills, and a genuine heart thanks to the wonderful direction by Andy Muschietti, a solid script by Christina Hodson, and remarkable performances by its cast.
DC’s The Flash is set years after the events of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) has been committing himself to his superhero work whether it’d be in his hometown of Central City, or on team missions particularly alongside Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck). He struggles with juggling his superhero life and his professional life as a police forensic investigator as he strives to prove the innocence of his father Henry Allen (Ron Livingston), who was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife, Nora Allen (Maribel Verdú). During an emotionally-charged run, Barry realizes that his abilities allow him to travel through time more extensively than he exhibited when he entered the Speed Force to stop Steppenwolf, which leads him to time-travel to prevent his mother’s death. Unfortunately for Barry, he in turn creates a universe without metahumans and must team up with his 18-year-old self, an alternate Batman (Michael Keaton), and Supergirl (Sasha Calle) to stop General Zod (Michael Shannon) and return home to his universe.
Andy Muschietti is the latest filmmaker to make the jump from the horror movie genre to comic book blockbusters. His theatrical debut was with 2013’s Mama, but he really took the world by storm with 2017’s It, followed by 2019’s It: Chapter Two. Following the success of his two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s horror classic, he signed on to finally bring The Flash out of development hell. Muschietti injects much personality in his directing here, bringing out some quality performances out of his cast, and bringing such an inventive take on action sequences. In particular, the film’s opening set-piece is a brilliant showcase of the Speed Force, and is a sensible evolution from what was previously established in Zack Snyder’s Justice League thanks to its visceral nature mixed in with the more lighthearted tone that fits well for Barry Allen.
Christina Hodson, whose previous credits include the heartwarming Transformers spin-off film Bumblebee and the underrated DCEU film Birds of Prey, is the credited screenwriter for the film that includes story credits from Joby Harold and filmmaking duo John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein, the latter two who were previously attached to direct. The script for The Flash is filled with some sharp dialogue that knows when to inject the right amount of humor without getting in the way of the drama at hand. The script also clearly takes some inspiration from Back to the Future, which is referenced in one of the film’s most-clever running gags. Hodson also gets to interject the same heartwarming sensibilities exhibited in her script for Bumblebee in this film, which shines through particularly through the film’s titular protagonist.
Which leads us to the actor behind The Flash. For all the marketing for this film heavily emphasizing Michael Keaton’s return as Batman and the introduction of Sasha Calle as Supergirl, this film is a Flash story from top-to-bottom. The film lives and dies by Ezra Miller, and they turn in one of the most dynamic lead performances of any superhero film in the recent era. What makes Miller such a treat to watch in this film is in how they showcase their best acting sensibilities that many cinephiles were first introduced to through in their acclaimed turns in We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both films are a showcase in Miller’s range as an actor through intense drama and heightened comedy, and they bring that to their performance as both the present day Barry Allen, and his younger counterpart.
Ezra Miller’s dual performance serves as the film’s biggest highlight, and the use of both versions of Barry Allen serves as an entertaining vehicle that plays into the idea of what a person would do if they were to meet their younger self. The dichotomy of a more seasoned Barry encountering his younger self also acknowledges some fans’ previous criticisms regarding Miller’s humorous take on the character as exhibited in the infamous theatrical cut of Justice League.
As for the supporting players to Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton is expectedly great. Returning after about 30 years to his iconic role as Batman, the Academy Award-nominated actor slips back in effortlessly as an older Bruce Wayne. Plus, audiences that grew up watching Keaton and Tim Burton’s films in theaters will certainly get a kick at seeing him in the action scenes, where the limitations of his suit and VFX from the late 80’s and early 90’s are gone. Keaton also shares some solid chemistry with Miller – so much so that one would almost want to see their dynamic continue beyond this film.
Sasha Calle’s Supergirl is also a wonderful addition. While Kara Zor-El is not featured in the film as prominently as Keaton’s Batman, she certainly leaves an impact. Calle is just effortlessly watchable thanks to her commanding presence onscreen, which brings some ferocity to the action scenes. Given that Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is one of the numerous projects announced as part of the DCU’s Chapter One: Gods and Monsters, it would be nice to see Peter Safran and James Gunn bring Calle into the fold to further leave her stamp on the role.
The Flash isn’t without its missteps. The film includes some VFX that leaves a bit to be desired in spots. In some cases, the use of CGI worked stylistically with what Andy Muschietti was going for, particularly in the film’s opening set piece. However, the film’s climactic battle in the third act has some shots that could’ve used more polishing. Also, some of the film’s most questionable imagery is on display during one of the biggest moments of fan service that any superhero film has ever presented.
As for the film’s conclusion, one cannot help but feel that James Gunn intervened in post-production. It’s still an entertaining moment, but given that he is now creatively in charge of the DCU moving forward, the film’s final moments will likely leave the audience with more questions than answers.
Ultimately, The Flash is undoubtedly one of the best films to come out of DC. For all the drama behind-the-scenes in bringing the film to life, it’s a relief that the film turned out as good as it did. Andy Muschietti directed a delightful crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster that will hopefully give audiences a taste of the future that is the DCU to come.