Quick show of hands – who loves laughing at babies plunging from tall buildings?
The creators of “The Flash” sure do, and while it’s never in doubt the tykes will survive it shows the commitment the film has to nuclear-grade silliness.
It trumps all, especially storytelling and logic.
Ezra Miller’s solo DCEU project isn’t without laughs. Far from it. It’s still such a smorgasbord of juvenile antics it breezes by without leaving much behind.
Miller is back as Barry Allen, the super-speedster now awaiting his father’s trial for the death of his mother (Maribel Verdú). He’s innocent, Barry says, but he knows there’s not enough evidence to spare pappy (Ron Livingston) serious jail time.
Right away it’s clear “The Flash” isn’t sweating many story details, a harbinger of things to come.
Barry discovers he can go back in time by running at lightning speed, so he does just that to stop the events leading up to his mother’s death.
Naturally, as we’ve learned in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and the recent “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” tampering with time has … consequences.
Our hero doesn’t listen.
Suddenly he’s standing beside a younger version of himself (Miller, again) in a time loop where his mother never dies. Except that changes the course of history, leaving mankind unable to ward off a Kryptonian menace, General Zod (a disinterested Michael Shannon).
We definitely need another hero beyond the titular one, and if you’ve seen the trailers you know some of what’s coming next.
“The Flash” starts strong, albeit a baby gag that doesn’t know how quickly it wears thin. Director Andy Muschietti (“It”) delivers some eye-popping action, complete with familiar super faces.
The frothy tone is disorienting at first. Yes, we’ve seen Batfleck before, but he’s usually grim and uncompromising. Now, he’s cracking wise as if the SnyderVerse never happened.
(Just wait for the next DCEU tonal snap when James Gunn officially takes over)
Still, the movie is full-on entertaining, and Barry’s grief over losing his mother grounds some, not all, of the scenes.
The plot is straightforward, too, and we know the tidal wave of Easter eggs is but minutes away. Yet the return of Michael Keaton as Batman still disappoints. He’s introduced in a ludicrous fight scene, suggesting the older Bruce Wayne gave up crime-fighting decades ago. (the reason why is, yet again, absurd)
The next moment, he’s springing into action like it’s 1989. Is any of this gonna make sense?
View this post on Instagram
Other plot devices soak up too much screen time and make the logic gaps in the “Fast & Furious” saga look quaint by comparison.
We still have Miller, whose geeky hero is a welcome change from the usual fare. The actor, who uses they/them pronouns off screen and boasts a gargantuan rap sheet, proves curiously endearing no matter how much an individual “Flash” scene stumbles.
“The Flash” plays out like “Justice League Lite,” complete with the introduction of Supergirl (Sasha Calle). It’s hard to know if she’s either a terrible casting choice or Muschietti’s direction dooms any chance of Calle deserving future Super gigs.
The best superhero movies are as insanely long as “The Flash” (2 hours, 24 minutes) but manage to let characters breathe between the CGI madness.
And “The Flash” is all about CGI, often in ways that suggest the studio cut corners at the worst possible times. Much of the superhero action plays out like a video game, disconnecting audiences from the humans allegedly portraying various heroes.
It’s 2023. Middling FX should never take us out of a blockbuster experience. Unforgivable.
We’re already exhausted by the multiverse gimmick, intended to bring back beloved characters/actors for a tall, sweaty glass of Member Berries. “No Way Home” made that gimmick matter, and it’s now clear how difficult that task remains.
“The Flash” is all about squandered potential.
Seeing the mighty Keaton resume a role that silenced all the naysayers 30+ years ago? Meh, let’s just pretend he’s 30-something and let CGI/stuntmen do most of the heavy lifting. Oh, and make him repeat some classic lines from the Tim Burton feature but without any of the gravitas.
Miller’s singular screen presence? The actor’s character is too busy striking Flash poses to get lost in the role.
The return of Shannon as Zod? A great screen villain reads his lines like a Trump voter is standing behind the camera.
You’ll laugh, early and often, at “The Flash.” Once the laughs subside you’ll realize just how inferior the film is to both the hype and previous super epics.
HiT or Miss: “The Flash” isn’t a dud, and it’s never dull. The super silly saga reminds us the genre’s better days remain behind us.