Steven’s Review – “The Flash” Runs Towards a Troubling DC Film Crossroads

After many years in development, the film adaptation of “The Flash” has finally arrived in theaters. Acting as a bridge between the previous decade of the DC Extended Universe and the upcoming reboot overseen by James Gunn and Peter Safran, director Andy Muschietti (“It Chapters One and Two”) has delivered a competent; yet ultimately uneven effort for DC.

The film centers around The Flash, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) attempting to use the “speed force” superpower to undo a personal tragedy. Though Barry succeeds in doing so, this also results in the Justice League never forming. As a nigh-unopposed General Zod (Michael Shannon) wreaks havoc in an alternate 2013; Barry must forge a reluctant alliance with an aged Batman (Michael Keaton, reprising the role for the first time since 1992’s “Batman Returns”), the enigmatic Supergirl (Sasha Calle) and an alternate version of The Flash (Ezra Miller again) to set things right.

“The Flash” arrives at a tumultuous time for both DC on film and Warner Bros. as a whole, which is coming off a wide range of divisive creative and business decisions (with the shelving of the standalone “Batgirl” film ranking among the most infamous).

Though the film is rife with issues on and offscreen, the lead performances are not among them. The Flash as a character was among the better-received aspects of previous DCEU movies; and while Miller’s rendition of Barry Allen is unlikely to win over any new fans; those who enjoyed the character in the past films will likely be satisfied.

Both Keaton and Ben Affleck are welcome inclusions as their respective portrayals of Batman, as is Sasha Calle for her rendition of Supergirl. The musical score by Benjamin Wallfisch compliments familiar DC universe themes with the film’s own energetic music.

That’s not to say the film is completely worth the hype. Far from it — over the course of 144 minutes; the tone attempts to balance superhero action, family drama and offbeat comedy with mixed results. Despite a reported budget of over $220 million, the film’s visual effects noticeably look worse than the previous films in the franchise. An early scene where The Flash has to rescue infants from a collapsing hospital maternity ward has been compared unfavorably to action scenes featuring the character on the CW television series.

Without any major spoilers, a climactic scene set in the DC Multiverse “Chronobowl” comes off less as the intended tribute to the onscreen legacy of previous DC adaptations and more like a cutscene from the video game “Injustice 2.”

“The Flash” is not just an indicator of the issues faced by DC on film, it is a clear representation of them. Even with James Gunn and Peter Safran set to reboot the franchise; Muschietti has expressed interest in both a sequel and directing the upcoming “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” Given the issues faced by this film, the prospect is running toward a troubling crossroads.

(Note: The film’s lead actor, Ezra Miller is currently facing a myriad of legal and mental health problems as of this writing. This review’s words toward Miller’s performance do not reflect on them as a person.)

Directed By Andy Muschietti

Starring Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, Kiersey Clemmons, Michael Shannon and Sasha Calle

Rated PG-13

My Rating: ***/5

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