A Review by Victor DeBonis
“The Flash” is a movie that has a few interesting ideas and neat bits but is ultimately a muddled and honestly frustrating experience. The production of this film was reportedly a nightmare and was constantly delayed, and this project was passed on from director to director since trying to get off the ground around 2014. I was aware of this, yet I’ve also seen my fair share of movies that can go through a less-than-prosperous production and still come out strong. And, at the end of the day, I’m always trying to find the best from whatever film I see, regardless of whatever the circumstances might be.
I can certainly list off a couple of things that do work in this film, too. Acting works, overall, with all performers doing their best with what’s in front of them, including Michael Keaton as (in my eyes) the best live-action Batman with the same fast-thinking intelligence and power and Sasha Callie superbly playing a version of Supergirl as hurt yet powerful and compassionate. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t smile when I saw Keaton flying around in his Nightwing and suit, and Callie’s version of Supergirl deserves a good movie or mini-series to explore her character more because the backstory with her, accompanied by her great performance (even if not given much screen time to shine as more as she could), provided promise.
Putting aside my thoughts about Ezra Miller about my thoughts about him regarding his behavior (I sincerely hope that he is working on finding ways to appropriately deal with the demons that he has, so he can be a better person), he, in terms of an actor, does fine as present-day Barry and works in his dramatic moments, and I completely believe when he is conversing with a younger, less experienced version of himself (even when the younger version of himself was frustrating with a capital “F” and we’ll get to that in a minute).
I honestly admire a few emotional scenes from this and a couple of the ideas that they were attempting to explore regarding actions and consequences and whether one’s bad events are not necessarily good for happening but have a place in one’s story. The latter theme was explored in the recent “Across the Spiderverse” and, regardless of the execution, I will always root for a film that tries to tackle it.
Aside from this, this film was a chore to sit through and boasted values through its production and story that just don’t demonstrate what a blockbuster film worth its salt should show.
For starters, many CG effects in this are awful. The photography capturing Miller talking with two versions of himself is done well, but there are scenes involving humans in disastrous scenes, early on, and my jaw almost dropped because I felt that I was looking at creepy puppet dolls instead of humans that look convincing enough from a computer. Plenty of scenes involving people in more recent and past versions occur in this film, and the textures in this film and their attempts at movement are hideous and come across as semi-demonic in regards to their appearances. I’ve honestly looked at clips from bad PS3 games that appeared more convincing and pleasant to witness.
While a few lines (and one scene involving a live actor that I couldn’t help but laugh at, given this actor’s particular history with a certain character) got chuckles out of me, I found much of the humor in this film to be grating and forced. People in this film do the ill-advised act in comedy of persisting with repeatedly doing a gag, even if the joke is done well enough the first time around. Unfortunate, comedic events happen in this film with no sense of timing, and people will end up looking dumb or have some absurd thing attached to them every two or five minutes in a desperate attempt to come across as funny.
A fight sequence in this movie literally contains moments of a character puking his guts out intercut with scenes of another character taking people down in furious fashion. As a wise Sesame Street character once sang, one of these things is not like the other.
And, then, there’s younger Barry. Younger Barry has to be one of the most irritating characters I’ve seen on-screen in a while. Every two minutes, he’s making a random sound or commenting or complaining about something that’s very obvious or even eating food in a grotesque way. I get that he’s supposed to come across as a bit of a jokester and lacking some maturity, but he was almost insufferable in this. The younger version of Barry is almost on par with Sam Witwicky, which is never a good sign in my book.
On top of that, I honestly don’t mind a character initially being a bit of a complainer or showing off a more unheroic part at the start on principle. Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope” was somewhat whiny before he headed off on his quest with Obi-Wan. An all-time favorite of mine, “Spirited Away” shows the main character complaining a solid amount before she starts her journey. In movies, such as these, they knew to leave them as flawed but relatable and likable enough to encourage you to follow them to see where they ended up. The writing in a solid movie regarding character development knows what to leave as something to improve without overly focusing on what makes them awkward.
Here, “The Flash” focuses way too much on making younger Barry awkward to be around, and, although the film leads where it does, I found a part of myself wishing for Zod to vaporize him when it got closer to the climax.
Some action scenes work fine, and there are admittedly neat scenes of seeing what it’s like to run at the Flash’s speed across the country. The initial sequence of Supergirl delivering punches and zipping around with fury in a shot is admittedly awesome. Yet, when the aforementioned subpar CGI rears its head in other action sequences or focuses more on the slow motion than needed, the film loses more of its edge.
In regards to the ideas of this film, they are, again, not bad ones, and I would’ve loved to seen what this film wanted to discuss if it wasn’t fixating on nostalgia for specific characters or forcing another unfunny joke. A couple of scenes attempt to dive into the idea of not letting one’s bad events stop someone from being a hero, but they’re mostly found around the beginning and the last 10–15 minutes of this film. We don’t truly explore the connection of what the hero’s mother means to him beyond a nice scene at the start of the film and later on, and characters are mainly rushing to get from one point to another to another with occasional moments of the film reminding the audience of the fact that 1989’s “Batman” existed (a movie that I absolutely love but found some of the Easter Eggs to be random).
In addition to all of this, the three main heroes don’t have much chemistry between each other and are just lining up what to do to get from here to there without showing much joy in being in the other’s presence. I get a sense that this film wants to give its’ version of “No Way Home” with DC characters, but there aren’t any fun conversations in which they’re recognizing their camaraderie as heroes or even humorously poking fun at what others perceive as their flaws.
The film just feels off and unfinished to a significant degree.
People, I recognize that I probably sound somewhat harsh as I’m discussing this film. I also recognize that, recently, I have voiced thoughts regarding recent superhero media, in general, that expresses a weariness and frustration that others may not share. Stepping outside of being an unofficial film writer of sorts, I also recognize myself as a strong fan. Fandom is something that comes with its many joys but also carries a deep responsibility in terms of the methods through which fans support something. We’ve all seen what wonderful things come from fandom and what horrible things come from toxic fans. One of those horrible things is when toxic fans attack others who disliked something that they liked/loved or vice versa.
As many of you know, I am a huge fan of superhero stories in both comic and film form. Some superheroes may represent a bigger institution, such as the military complex or such, but many of them are essentially outcasts trying to find peace and demonstrate goodness in a not-so-understanding world. Many oddballs, including myself, have found strong connections and meaning from this. The creators of arguably the very first superhero, Superman, in comic book form came up with the character as a way of providing solace and hope in the midst of arduous, personal circumstances. Superman himself stood as a symbol of hope and optimism around the time that the Great Depression was filling the country with fear and hopelessness. Batman is my favorite character of all time. He may be a work of fiction, but his determination to help others and not let the darkness of his past and his personal present world hurt others is something that I have and always will be in awe of and look up to.
Even when a version of him doesn’t add up or a story involving him is less than great, I will always look up to him as a hero and an honest inspiration because of this. I know, for a fact, that there are fans who admire or look up to the Flash and the other heroes in this movie as well. I talk often about thinking of Batman in regards to my more serious yet caring demeanor and overcoming odds, but, being a passionate runner, I also sometimes comedically think of the Flash when I run and, seriously, of the ability of aerobic running for miles a week and in big runs and such as a “superpower” in itself. I have been open about how much I love “Guardians 3” and “Across the Spiderverse” and see both (in particular, the latter) as what I think of in terms of great blockbusters that give me pretty much everything that I want from the kind.
I tell you all of this because I want to emphasize how much superhero stories mean to me and the rest of the world as well as why it is important that we recognize what works about some more than others. I also mention all of this to illustrate that I don’t speak of which superhero media doesn’t work in my eyes because I think ill of the genre. I love good superhero stories and the genre of them, now and always. I speak of which superhero stories are bad or, in this case, are subpar because I know that, as fans and longtime lovers of these stories, we deserve good tales involving these icons that go beyond just delivering nostalgic winks to the audience and show the heart of what make these characters shine.
It is always welcome to see a familiar actor play a beloved character or a good storyline from a comic brought to life on the screen. For me, though, a good story, a good movie, can’t rely on just this alone. And, in my humble opinion, people higher up are making a significant miscalculation when they continue to blindly follow the idea that nostalgia alone will result in a solid film or story of any kind.
There are good parts about “The Flash” and I can honestly see a truly solid or great narrative trying to come alive. Yet, the weak humor, writing, and special effects rob this film of the bigger heart and charm that tries to find its way but never comes to be. People who are fine enough with a simple superhero film with punching and don’t think too much of production quality or story or the like will probably be alright with this.
As for me, “The Flash” valiantly tries to run forward but winds up falling flat on its face.