When you review movies for the home entertainment release, it’s almost impossible not have a certain level of awareness for how critics and audiences responded to it for the theatrical release. Especially when you are on Twitter. So, it would be fair to say that based on what I had seen from fellow film reviewers and various social media snarks over the past few months, I was coming to ‘The Flash’ expecting the worst. Long story short, I think a lot of you were extremely unkind to this film.
The plot picks up some time after the events of the Justice League, with Barry / The Flash (Ezra Miller) an established member of the superhero team. Haunted by the death of his mother many years earlier—a crime for which his father was wrongly imprisoned—Barry, still overcome with grief and emotion, runs so fast he accidentally travels back in time. Despite being warned by Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) that this is a terrible idea, he goes ahead and uses his faster than light speed powers to travel back in time and prevent his mother from being murdered.
Something goes wrong however on the journey back, and he ends up being spat out in the wrong year. A year where his mother is still alive and his father isn’t in prison…but also where a younger version of himself (yet to acquire his powers) is dodging about. Yes kids, you guessed it, we’re in the multiverse. Where everything looks familiar, but isn’t quite right. Which is ironic, given how the plot essentially becomes a do-over of ‘Man of Steel’.
You can clearly see what the original intention was for this movie (a soft reboot for the DCEU) prior to all the hierarchy changes at Warner Bros. and DC. Barry and younger Barry find themselves caught up in General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) invasion of Earth to find Superman, which as we know was the starting point for the DCEU. They go looking for the other members of the Justice League, but in this timeline, the Kryptonian being on Earth is Kara Zor-El (aka Supergirl) played by Sasha Calle, and Bruce Wayne is an alternate version of the Caped Crusader. I’m sure you saw the trailers…it’s only Michael bloody Keaton.
Director Andy Muscietti marshals all of this remarkably well. There is a lot going on in ‘The Flash’ and for the most part he keeps it fast-paced, fun, funny, and easy to follow. There are some incredible action scenes, but the digital FX work is variable to say the least. Some of it is superb, some it is dire. This is an unfortunate trend for modern blockbusters, but until these artists are given enough time and resource to do their job properly, it will continue.
Where the film really shines however, and where it separates itself from the majority of other films in the DCEU franchise, is that there is a genuine emotional core to the film. Barry’s story is tragic, and heartfelt, and when you strip away all the flash of ‘The Flash’ what you’re left with is a young man who just wants a hug from his mum and to let her know that he turned out okay. Ironic I know, considering the real-world behaviour of the very not okay Ezra Miller.
Which brings us to the complicated issue of the film’s star. His well-documented troubles nearly derailed this film from ever being released. How well you get on the with film will ultimately depend on how well you can separate the art from the artist. Because purely from a performance point of view, he is excellent in this. The dual role gives him the space to evolve both performances of Barry. Original Barry switches from the sugar-loaded fast-talking clown to become more careworn and serious, whilst young Barry allows him to lean into the goofier side of the character. Miller once again shows what a terrific physical performer he is, with a real gift for slapstick humour.
For the vast majority of the running time, I was very much on board with the film and really enjoying it, but it does come a little unstuck in the third act. Firstly, it falls into that all too familiar territory for recent superhero movies of snowballing into a giant CG cosmic mess. Muschietti and his writers then make a couple of very questionable choices, which really take you out of the film. One made me feel very queasy at just how crass it was, and another will make absolutely no sense to anyone who isn’t steeped in insider Hollywood knowledge.
Ultimately however, this is one of the best entries in what has been a somewhat difficult franchise to get on board with. It’s warm and funny and spectacular, and considering the development problems this film went through, and the off-screen troubles faced by its star, it’s a miracle that such a rollickingly fun blockbuster has emerged.
The special features on the disc begin with an in-depth behind the scenes documentary, taking us from pandemic era pre-production, through the epic shoot across various locations, massive green-screen sound stages, and huge purpose-built sets. Fans of 90s era TV show Gladiators, will be thrilled to see who Miller’s stunt trainer was for this film!
The disc also includes featurettes on key sequences, and deep dives into the return of Michael Keaton, the origins of Supergirl and her inclusion in this film. All 6 episodes of The Flash podcast ‘Escape the Midnight Circus’ starring Max Greenfield are also included on the disc. If you are purchasing the 4K UHD you also get additional featurettes and deleted scenes.
Cast: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon Director: Andy Muschietti Writer: Christina Hodson Released By: Warner Bros. UK Certificate: 12 Duration: 144 mins Release Date: 18th September 2022