The Flash

Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) is annoyed that he hasn’t had enough calories to feed his metabolism when Alfred (Jeremy Irons) calls on him for a rescue mission when other team members are unavailable.  ‘I’m the janitor of the Justice League,’ Barry grumbles, particularly annoyed at having to clean up his best friend Batman’s (Ben Affleck) messes.  But Barry also runs so fast he discovers he can go back in time.  With his dad Henry (Ron Livingston) wrongly incarcerated for his beloved mother Nora’s (Maribel Verdú, "Y Tu Mamá También") murder, Barry believes one small change is unlikely to trigger the Butterfly Effect, but it ends up seriously complicating the life of “The Flash.”

Laura's Review: B-

Warner Brothers execs, who proclaimed their $200 million movie with scandal-plagued star Ezra Miller the ‘best super hero movie ever made,’ need to cool their jets.  While the movie has plenty of fan-pleasing moments, one featuring a Superman who only exists in a wished for multiverse, it also has its issues and director Andy Muschietti’s ("Mama," "It") desire to keep Miller, who at thirtysomething is too old for the role yet portrays Barry as too juvenile, is hard to fathom.  Why not recast the role with Finn Wolfhard or Jaeden Martell, good actors who are actually 18?  Lucas Hedges would also be an interesting choice.  And there is nothing in “The Flash” to rival Evan Peters’ Quicksilver scene in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

The film begins amusingly enough, The Flash having to carbo-load from a falling vending machine before scooping up babies from a top floor maternity ward (the CGI work here is inconsistent, the infants unnatural looking while a therapy dog could be the real thing).  When Batman and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) finally arrive on the scene, she uses her Lasso of Truth on both the men to tease out some embarrassing admissions.  There’s also some “Spider-Man” adjacent poking at ‘the canon,’ Batman commiserating with The Flash about parental trauma.

Barry’s day job, for which he is ironically always late due to his alter ego, is in criminal forensics because he is attempting to free his father, who was running an errand for his mom when she was murdered.  Unfortunately, Henry’s face is obscured in the grocery store’s security footage and so he decides to simply eradicate the need for the errand by slipping back in time and adding a can of tomatoes to his mom’s grocery cart.  He returns home to both parents, his mom admiring his new haircut when he suddenly glimpses a wholly-different-yet-the-same Barry (also Miller) bounding across the street.

This leads into another inconsistency.  While screenwriter Christina Hodson ("Birds of Prey") gives us multiple versions of Batman, Superman and even the actor who plays Marty McFly across the eventual multiverses created here, The Flash always looks the same.  Needing help to restore his powers and right the mess he’s made, especially after news reports show General Zod (an uninvested Michael Shannon) threatening Earth, Barry takes Barry to meet his best friend, only to find Bruce Wayne as a long-haired recluse (Michael Keaton, this film’s MVP).  With the second Flash on super power training wheels, the trio attempts to save Superman, but find Faora-UI (Antje Traue, "Man of Steel") instead and so a bizarre Justice League is formed, complete with the second Barry in a converted outmoded bat suit.

Like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” much pleasure is derived here from pulling various iterations of beloved characters back into the mix, the filmmakers reaching all the way to the 1950s (unless it flashed by, they missed a fun opportunity to show Ben Affleck as Superman in the George Reeves biopic “Hollywoodland”).  When The Flash goes back in time, it is represented as if he is in the center of a ‘Defending Your Life”-like arena, memories ‘seated’ in the stadium.  Eventually things spin so far out of control, we see giant orbs encased in what look like reels of film strips, each showing alternate versions of Barry’s world, a treat for future at home freeze framing.

Miller, who as The Flash moves like a speed skater, distinguishes his Barrys by playing the initial one as a socially awkward nerd who yearns for former college classmate Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) while the second is a rash and irresponsible teenager who has a date with her that night.        But while Miller’s hyperactive performance conveys both Barry and his well suited super powers, nothing he does is as enjoyable as revisiting Keaton stating ‘I’m Batman.’   

Robin's Review: C+

Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) was struck by lightning and given the power of super speed. When he learns that his ability will allow him to travel back in time, he vows to bring back his dead mother and free his dad from prison for her murder. But, the cost of this plan proves far too high for “The Flash.”

I do not know much about the Flash or his speedy adventures – my knowledge about the comic book character come from episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.” So, I went into seeing “The Flash” with wide open and innocent eyes. As such, it is an interesting collision of the characters of the DCEU and the paradox of time travel.

Barry, now knowing his ability to span time, plans to use this power to go back and make the change to ensure his mom lives, On the way, he bumps into the 2013-Barry – violating one of the “rules” of time travel: do not come in contact with yourself, it could be disastrous. But, the time paradox rules are placed aside in favor of story.

We should be used to the idea of multi-verses with our copious exposure over the years to the DC comics’ universes. Here, as in the recent “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” we get to meet multiple versions of Batman and Super Man (even George Reeves, televisions Super Man from 1952 to ’58, gets a cameo spot as the Man of Steel”.) This will keep the fans occupied as they tick off all the super hero players and who played them.

One of the things that hurt this entry into the DCEU is the chintzy special effects and animation, which fail in comparison the latest Spider-Man. This is too bad because the movie runs for two and a half hours, making interesting special F/X an essential. But, the nuance of the time travel paradox and what a change in the past can do to the present I always find intriguing.

Warner Brothers opens "The Flash" in theaters on 6/16/23.