The Flash – movie review

These days you can’t make a superhero movie without reference to the multiverse – and so it is in the latest DC offering, The Flash.

The nerdish, insecure Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), who works in criminal forensics, is the voraciously hungry pivotal figure. As The Flash, he is a founding member of The Justice League, but forever down on himself. Even though he has rescued many in distress, he regards himself as being treated badly … called upon only when his hero, Batman, isn’t available. The Flash gained his superpower – incredible speed – after being doused in chemicals following a lightning strike.

Barry’s upbring has been shaped by a tragic event that saw his beloved mother Nora (Maribel Verdu) stabbed to death. His father (Nora’s husband) Henry (Ron Livingstone) is incarcerated for the crime. Henry has always protested his innocence and Barry believes him. The outcome of Henry’s appeal is imminent, although his expectations of success are low. Then Barry, in the guise of The Flash, chances upon a way to re-write history, to turn back the clock and ensure his mother never died. Although he is warned that going back in time and making over a single event can upset the equilibrium of the universe, The Flash can’t help himself.

There he comes face to face with himself. Suddenly, there is an older and a younger Flash and the pair must learn to work together. But, as had been forecast, time travel can have devastating consequences. As a result of the older Flash’s action, Earth is under extreme threat from dreaded supervillain General Zod (Michael Shannon). The “Flashes” are not alone in fighting the enemy though.  In their corner is Batman (Michael Keaton) and Supergirl (Sashe Calle).

Director Andy Muschietti (IT) crams a lot into 144 minutes of intense action with cameos galore, and you must concentrate to follow all the threads. The first Batman we meet is Ben Affleck, while Gal Gadot appears briefly as Wonder Woman. A reverential nod to superheroes past is included.  Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey) and Joby Harold (Transformers: Rise of the Beasts) provide the screenplay. Frankly, I appreciated Barry Allen’s fraught back story and his endeavour to bring back his mum more than the superheroes at war angle.

The goofy characterisation of Allen by Ezra Miller and his awkwardness around virtually everybody is quite endearing. I also liked the arc given to both Affleck and Keaton as iterations of Batman. Affleck first played the crusader in 2016, but with Keaton we have to go back to 1989. I loved their nostalgic returns here. There are quite a few memorable scenes in The Flash, especially early on. Among them is Affleck as Batman on a souped-up motorbike with more gadgets than James Bond in hot pursuit of a getaway car featuring gun-toting thieves. Contrast that with The Flash running out of petrol as a building collapses and “a baby shower” beckons. That was one of the funniest moments in the film. I also salute the amusing reference to the Back to the Future movies, which appears as the plot unfolds.

Notwithstanding my basic enjoyment of the picture, I can’t say I am a massive fan of the ongoing trend in superhero films – whether Marvel or DC – of introducing ever more characters into plotlines. I know the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, but I – for one – would like to see that reined in. Still, for the most part The Flash remains entertaining and engaging, if over-extended.

Alex First

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