The Flash – Barry Allen in the Multiverse of Mediocrity [Film Review]

The Flash
Released: June 15, 2023

Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sacha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston

Mild spoilers below:

One of the best tools at the disposal of comic book filmmakers is that there’s a plethora of solid storylines for them to plunder. The only downside is that the best stories have been adapted over and over and recycled endlessly. DC Comics’ 2011 Flashpoint story is no exception with various adaptations appearing in animation, video games, and television. So when it was announced the long-delayed Flash feature film would be a Flashpoint adaptation it really felt like the studio must be completely devoid of ideas. And ultimately that feels like it rings true. With 80-odd years of Flash stories and the entire multiverse at their disposal the film-makers could have gone for broke and made a truly interesting Flash story, but they didn’t. Instead they’ve produced a milquetoast and tired superhero story that is plenty of fun but ultimately underwhelming.

The Flash finds speedster Barry Allen traveling back in time to save the life of his mother who was murdered when he was a child. Unfortunately messing with the timeline has unintended consequences and Barry finds himself thrust into a completely new reality where superheroes don’t exist. Which is a big problem because before he knows it General Zod (Michael Shannon), a big bad Kyptonian, arrives on Earth with nefarious plans that will ultimately end all life on the planet. Which is a bit much if you ask me but it’s like, Zod’s whole deal. Dude is obsessed. Anyway, Barry has no choice but to team up with an alternate version of himself to build a team of heroes that can stop Zod and save the world. 

The Flash has a lot that works. What Barry wants and what he has lost always feels visceral and important with Miller’s performance managing to walk the line between humour and heartbreak quite effortlessly. Playing the dual roles of an older, wearier Barry and a slightly younger and more energetic version allows Miller to have a bit of fun while also getting mildly serious. Say what you will about Miller as a person but they can act when it counts. 

Unfortunately, for all the fun and action The Flash can’t overcome the worst instincts of modern comic book cinema (god that’s a depressing concept). It really crams nostalgia down our throats, pausing the film so we can applaud pointless moments that feel more like advertisements for IP than actual parts of the story. Like the worst parts of Spider-Man: No Way Home but somehow even more lifeless and brand-oriented. Honestly, when it comes to gratuitous cameos Kevin Smith had it right when he put Mark Hamill in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and just straight up told the audience it was him and to applaud.

No, Hamill is not in the film, but this is how you do a cameo. No fucking around.

Something else that doesn’t really work is that we’re not always completely sure about what is motivating some characters. Michael Keaton’s return as Batman is fun but it leaves us with a lot of questions about his place in the current reality and what he actually hopes to gain from helping. It feels like there’s an entire subplot about his arc that’s missing. Likewise, Supergirl, played by a criminally underused Sacha Calle, seems barely invested in the situation at all and is ultimately reduced to a plot device rather than a fully-fledged character. Which sucks because she casts an imposing as fuck figure all suited up and I’d pay good money to watch her Supergirl kick ass on screen again.

Despite its many shortcomings, this is still a fairly enjoyable film. The comedic beats and action sequences are generally a lot of fun and the banter between the two Barrys never fails to draw a laugh. Still, nothing can save the film from its lackluster storytelling, obvious reshoots, and CG that looks like it was ripped straight out of 2001’s The Mummy Returns. 

Ultimately, I think that this whole thing feels both over and undercooked. I’m sure The Flash will find a few fans out there and I have no doubt that kids will love it but for me, it’s a dud.

Review by: Dave Mullins

Rating: 2/5

The Flash is now in cinemas across Australia. Grab your tickets online today via Warner Bros.