I don’t know, but if it was me, the first thing I’d have figured out before dropping a few hundred milly on “The Flash” was how to make someone running really fast not look stupid. Maybe that’s the second thing I would have done, immediately after ensuring the person I cast as the lead wasn’t on a multi-year crime spree.
Anyway, the point is that “The Flash” is a movie about a hero who runs really fast, and all the scenes with fast running look stupid and bad. Seems like a problem.
Director Andy Muschietti told Gizmodo that it looked like shit on purpose. Honestly, considering that VFX workers are sorta the Nike shoe factory workers of Hollywood, I don’t hate that he tried to own it. It means I don’t have to feel bad when I tell you that I have seen anthropomorphic mucus characters in pharmaceutical commercials that look better than most of this film. The CGI is so bad, I think I hate computers now. Bring the abacus back.
The opening sequence features Barry Allen aka the Flash (Ezra Miller) saving a bevy of babies that look like they were animated by an alien who was very briefly told what human babies might look like. They get the shape loosely right. Flash is there to help Batman (Ben Affleck), who can’t even be bothered to explain what’s really happening. Shortly thereafter, the speedy superhero accidentally figures out he can accelerate so hard that he can go back in time and save his mother from being murdered. As the old saying about time travel goes: “Step on as many butterflies as possible, it’s totally cool.”
Barry gets stuck in the recent past with an 18-year-old version of himself. As with “Shazam: Fury of the Gods,” DC movies apparently believe that all teenagers must be consistently restrained from eating glue or making boom-boom in their pants. Eighteen-year-old Barry isn’t “young and wild,” he acts like a lobotomized toddler.
The two Barrys (Barries? Barrii?) find Batman, who is now a different Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton). They need his help to restore older Barry’s powers and to find Superman, who is needed to fight General Zod (Michael Shannon). Because somehow the Flash fixing his mom’s death made it so Superman never became earth’s champion? The explanation they give for this involves a demonstration with dry spaghetti noodles, in case you think they were just bullshitting and making it up as they go.
To be nice for a moment: Keaton’s Batman remains a treasure. His keen awareness of how to walk the line of goofy self-awareness and “I am vengeance!” has been so sorely missed after several decades of serious Bat-brooding. A slew of other cameos would have been inspired and fun, were they not just plopped out there using goofy-ass CGI. Resurrecting dead actors who have worn DC cowls and capes flirts with poor taste, but using animation to depict an actor who is very much alive and very much known for being willing to star in anything seems lazy.
Those were the nice things I have to say.
Not-so-nice stuff includes Miller’s wretched double performance. It’s not just that their real-life behaviors inevitably taint a character who is supposed to be kind and naïve, it’s that they are palpably anti-charismatic. An overly verbose, awkward doofus only works if the character feels genuine. Both Barrys are wholly unlikable, at least partially because Miller’s aggressive intensity feels somehow sinister and not playful. The other part isn’t their fault but the fault of the writers.
If “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” showed how the multiverse can be a resplendent wonderland, “The Flash” shows how it can also be a graveyard for amateur, half-baked ideas. Supergirl (Sasha Calle) isn’t just wasted, she’s flagrantly and hostilely disrespected. Zod, the only real villain to speak of, is barely present. Keaton’s Batman so nakedly steals the show that his complete ejection from the storyline by the final act is wildly upsetting.
The buzz for “The Flash” was everywhere for a very long time. It had stalled in development and was plagued with issues, and the defense was always “But it is so good that it must be seen.” It musn’t! I have seen it, and it absolutely did not need to be seen. Even the post-credit scene is so useless and lame, so without cleverness, that the only thing that can be done for the “DCU” is to nuke it from space and start over. Also, bring Keaton back for a live-action “Batman Beyond,” you cowards. Rant over.
Grade = F
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Felix Vasquez at Cinema Crazed says “It wants to be a science fiction drama, a superhero comedy, and fan service all rolled in to what felt like a two hour comic book movie constructed by a committee.”
Wenlei Ma at News.Com.Au says “Despite superhero fatigue, lead star Ezra Miller’s off-screen controversies, and the fact ‘The Flash’ crams in two too many elements, there is something distinctly exciting about it. It’s not something new, it’s something borrowed.”
Angelica Jade Bastién at Vulture says “The Flash” is “the cinematic equivalent of a snake eating its own tail. This isn’t a film so much as brand management in flailing motion. It’s debilitation. It’s the closing down of all the possibilities a multiverse is meant to represent.”