I was not a fan of the DC Synderverse. There were pieces of it I enjoyed, like Ben Affleck as Batman or Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. But I found most of it to be a sloppy, poorly-conceived attempt at building a cinematic universe, especially when you compare it to Marvel’s initial 10-year run.
I also thought it was unnecessarily grim — the look of it, the tone of much of it, and even specific characters like Superman. There is, of course, room for different takes on all characters, but the Superman I like is an optimistic boy scout, who stands in brilliant juxtaposition to Batman’s moodiness. (I also liked the first Wonder Woman movie the first time I saw it, but found it long and boring upon rewatch).
But we’re here to talk about The Flash!
I won’t get into any of the Ezra Miller controversies, but I was glad to see this movie coming out, if only as a welcome end to the Snyderverse and a reset for James Gunn (and Peter Safran) to parachute in to retool the DC films.
In The Flash, Barry Allen still grapples with his father being wrongly incarcerated for murdering his mother. He uses his powers to go back in time to change the past, but causes much more harm to the entire multiverse.
Flash was touted by David Zaslav, Warner Discovery CEO, as being, “the best super hero movie [he’d] ever seen.” I’m guessing he hasn’t seen too many superhero movies. However, while it has plenty of issues we’ll get into, I did enjoy it, perhaps more than any other Snyderverse movie.
I was skeptical about Michael Keaton’s return as Batman (which would have been so much more fun if they hadn’t had to ruin the surprise in the marketing). I am getting sick of multiverse stories, especially when used as a weak excuse to bring older IP into the mix to sell tickets with cheap nostalgia. However, while my principles are still solid, I will admit that Keaton was one of the best parts of the movie. So was Kara Zor-El, aka, Supergirl, a new character in this cinematic universe. In fact, while I didn’t want a three-hour movie, I think they could have focused more on Bruce and Kara’s stories — they were much more interesting than Barry.
I wonder if some of this rests on Ezra Miller. It would seem to me that they are okay as a bit player in a Justice League movie, as the annoying sidekick, but I don’t believe they have the lead character charisma to carry the film.
They might not have the comedy chops either. I’d submit that The Flash was funny, but not hilarious. I’m not sure if the script needed another pass or it’s fully on Miller not being able to deliver jokes well. I smiled through the whole movie, but rarely laughed out loud.
The Flash also has problems sticking to its own rules, which is not a good thing in a superhero movie. In one scene we establish that Barry heals incredibly quickly, but later, he’s shot in the knee and doesn’t seem to heal until later. Kara Zor-El also has the powers of Superman, yet her skin is pierced easily by General Zod (maybe it’s a special Kryptonite tool, but that isn’t explained). And — while there is some power-up explanation offered in the film, we see Flash kicking the asses of at least a dozen Kryptonians, which is silly. The whole Justice League wasn’t able to stop Superman, but Flash can stop a bunch of them? And if he can stop so many Kryptonians so easily, why can’t he stop Zod?
I also have to point out the CGI, which was abysmal. I know a lot of people are referencing the babies and some of the surprises at the end, which I agree look like Polar Express, dead-eyed, uncanny valley, nightmare fuel. (I’ve heard a few people rightly question how some of the speed scenes look so bad when we already have the X-Men Quicksilver scene that proves how good it can be). But my problem was more fundamental than that; capes looked fake, costumes looked painted on, the whole universe, while bright and reminiscent of certain eras of comic books, just looked too fake. Director Andy Muschietti claims this was on purpose, which he doesn’t seem to realize just makes it worse.
Wow, it sure sounds like I hated this movie.
Not so — I just think it had a lot of sloppy issues. While I didn’t love it, I really did enjoy it quite a bit. It had a good story, it was fun and freewheeling, and it moved along quickly enough that you didn’t have to sit in some of these bad details too long. It also had a solid thematic core and some great emotional beats, especially revolving around the mother/son story and how death affects us. Especially poignant in Barry’s scenes with Affleck and even Keaton, whose mothers were also murdered.
And as happened with the Flashpoint comics The Flash is loosely based on, I hope now we can retcon the whole darn Snyderverse and see what James Gunn can do. There are a lot of people screaming about superhero fatigue, but no one says that after a string of good movies. And lately, both DC and Marvel have been cranking out garbage, Marvel headed deeper into its own weak multi-verse story (with another cancelled actor, no less).
The Flash was not as bad as its box office might suggest. In fact, it was a lot of fun. But I sure hope Marvel can pull out of their tailspin and that James Gunn can bring life to a new DC universe, to once again convince us, that a man can fly.