In the nearly nine years since DC and Warner Bros. first announced plans for speedster Barry Allen to serve as a standalone tentpole within its shared universe, Ezra Miller has essentially been the one constant thread holding it all together. Thankfully, that longtime dedication pays off in electrically charged spades in director Andy Muschietti's The Flash, with Miller's pair of performances anchoring a robust, emotional, and downright hilarious adventure that will entertain both comic fans and general audiences alike. It's quite possibly the most fun I've had watching a DC film that didn't star Heath Ledger or Val Kilmer.
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Directed By: Andy Muschietti
Written By: Christina Hodson and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein and Joby Harold
Starring: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, and Antje Traue
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some strong language and partial nudity.
Runtime: 144 minutes
The Flash brings to the big screen one of the character's most heralded comic tales – Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert's Flashpoint from 2011 – which hinges on the age-old paradox-cloaked question: what if you could go back in time and erase your biggest traumas? The blockbuster delivers on the almost-as-age-old answer: you'll probably make a bigger mess of things, and in totally unpredictable ways. For Barry, the dream is to stop his mom Nora (Maribel Verdú) from being murdered – a crime for which his father Henry (Ron Livingston) was wrongly accused.
This adaptation is a loose one to be sure, in that it hones in on DC's live-action universe for its lore-flipping references, which is how we get the gloriousness of Michael Keaton's return as Batman among other awe-inspiring superhero reveals. Given its relatively simple logline as a foundation, and with Miller's Barry Allen having already appeared in prior films Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League, and Suicide Squad, The Flash is able to dive right into the fun without the need for a full first-act introduction or origin story. And the first big action sequence (which should remain unspoiled) is a huge indicator of what’s on the way from the rest of the movie: huge scope, humane heroism, and a heaping dose of irreverence.
The Flash’s script was first penned by Joby Harold (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Obi-Wan Kenobi), with the comedy writer/director team of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves) doing a draft after they’d temporarily signed on to direct; the three share story credit on the finished project. Bumblebee and Birds of Prey writer Christina Hodson came in and tied it all together splendidly, with IT director Andy Muschietti bringing all the bonkers moments to life in colorful, loud and easily enjoyable ways.
Ezra Miller is a perfect Barry Allen(s).
Though he may rock some truly extraordinary capabilities, a big part of Barry Allen's appeal as a character is his steadfast ordinariness. He doesn’t automatically know the best way to handle a crisis in the way that his so-called BFF Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) does, and he doesn’t have an array of cure-all powers and weapons that Superman and others in the Justice League boast. He can’t even make it to work or personal appointments on time, such is his human nature. And though Ezra Miller’s movie stardom may not be so relatable to fans, their performance as Barry feels very much in line with every-person behavior, down to the hero getting overtly aggravated with others when in need of caloric intake.
And that’s just the core iteration of Barry, too. Miller also nails their performance as the Alt-Barry central to the Flashpoint-esque timeline he meets as a result of his past-adjusting efforts. This iteration would fit right at home with Bill S. Preston and Ted Logan from the Bill and Ted movies, and serves as both a self-reflective aid to Barry’s efforts while also being an amusing and constantly awestruck thorn in our hero’s side. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but make damned sure you keep yourself closest of all, especially if Timecop rules don’t apply” would perhaps be a tagline for this movie in some other universe.
Miller’s future as The Flash is uncertain going into the film’s debut, both as a result of controversies surrounding the actor and macro changes in the franchise, but it would be a total crisis on real-life Earth if they don’t continue with this role going forward into the future with DC Studios co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran. Even if this movie doesn’t get a proper sequel in its own right, the Flash has more than enough team-based adventures for Miller to keep Barry Allen’s suit warm for years to come. Somebody’s gotta welcome Wally West to movie audiences, after all.
Andy Muschietti excels at energetic and expectation-dashing action sequences that go for broke.
Regardless of one’s personal mileage for Andy Muschietti’s previous directorial efforts overall — Mama, IT: Chapter 1 and IT: Chapter 2 — he’s undoubtedly proven himself to be adept at creating kinetic and harrowing sequences that take things in directions viewers may not expect. I do happen to be a fan of the three aforementioned projects, and one of my favorite horror movie moments in recent memory is Pennywise’s projector screen appearance in the first IT feature. In that moment and more, Muschietti’s films are filled with moments that ramp up tension to the point where reality breaks, and that cinematic power is on full display in The Flash, where his winningly twisted sense of humor has more room to expand.
From vehicular chases through Gotham City’s streets to airborne battles between planes and spacecraft to Barry’s introduction to the Speed Force, seemingly every scene is identifiable by one of the director’s personal flourishes or another. There are plenty of filmmakers who could successfully film a Bourne-ish style fight scene inside a kitchen in ways that would feel right at home in 90% of superhero cinema, but very few who could make it work equally well as a Three Stooges romp as Muschietti does in The Flash. And it’s worth bringing up the opening sequence again here, since it combines both envelope-pushing weirdness and offbeat heroism that will hopefully remain front and center for DC.
The Flash thrives on paying respect to surrounding DC lore, rather than over-complicating things.
This may go without saying, but just in case: anyone readily anticipating Michael Keaton’s return as Batman gets their money’s worth and then some with The Flash, and there’s no need to worry that the marketing and advertisements are overselling his presence. This is absolutely Barry Allen’s movie — both of them — but Batman is a perfect third wheel if there ever was one. It doesn’t even matter when a moment seems like it exists entirely for fan-servicing, because it genuinely does service fans, and it’s Keaton, and it all rips dick (as at least one version of Barry Allen would say).
Many more past DC efforts are on display throughout, not to mention more than a few Warner Bros. properties such as Scooby-Doo and Looney Tunes, both of which feel right at home in The Flash’s animated and active reality. But to spend too much time talking about other DC references would be to spoil some of the most mind-blowing moments that the cast and crew have to offer throughout the film’s runtime. Those surprises are as much a part of The Flash’s wow factor as anything else, and are somehow just as emotional as the core ambition that drove the speedster to change time in the first place. Be sure to stay until the very end, also, so that you don’t have regrets like Barry.
It doesn’t matter if Tim Burton’s Batman remains your favorite DC movie to date, or if Zack Snyder’s Justice League is your jammiest jam; The Flash is an absolute thrill ride for fans of all eras and ages, with the most well-rounded sense of humor in all of superhero cinema. Speed into theaters to see it with the biggest crowd possible, and you likely won’t be the first to cheer loudly when the word “bat” comes out of Michael Keaton’s mouth.