The Flash Proves You Shouldn’t Sprint a Marathon

The supposed conclusion to the DCEU is an imperfect but emotional and enjoyable ride to the end

Reader Rating0 Votes
Great performances from all actors
While not perfect, this is easily the best writing in a DCEU film in a long time
Blue Beetle looks good... that's got nothing to do with this movie, but the trailer's pretty cool
Clunky script, and overwrought world-building bogs the movie down
Forced nostalgia doesn't really work when almost all the features aren't actually connected to the film
Do we still need Aquaman 2? Can we just skip ahead?

All things considered, the Flash is pretty much the perfect character to both end a run of films desperately in need of a reset, as well as to begin a franchise anew. And, of the many stories which exist, the iconic 2011 arc Flashpoint is the perfect source to usher in a fresh start so ambivalent that it might only serve to confuse audiences.

So, yes, The Flash seems to have somewhat done its job in as predictable a way as possible. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends entirely on what comes next.

From very early on, the rushed pacing of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) exposed many of the risks it would face in its attempt to quickly achieve what the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had already spent a good 5 years on. A confounding take on Superman, followed by a laughably gritty attempt to adapt The Dark Knight Returns, and a tragically butchered Suicide Squad set the tone early for the DCEU.

Therein lies a large part of the injustice faced by The Flash. (See what I did there with the ‘injustice’ thing?)

Saddled with the responsibility of grasping the frayed threads of the suffocating DCEU while continuing to stitch through the fabric of what may come to be, The Flash shoulders the Kryptonian task of achieving the near impossible–all while maintaining a narrative significant to its titular character.

The weight of the task is especially noticeable with Ezra Miller’s portrayal as Barry Allen. That, too, as two different Barrys. While his performance is incredible, both comical and emotional, the writing choices in play for this iconic character (since 2017’s Justice League) remain somewhat jarring. The social awkwardness and displaced humour are not features of the Barry Allen many are familiar with, and it forms a hurdle in accepting the character for who he is.

Of course, a lot of these pre-conceived expectations are the result of the more Wally West-influenced adaptations of the Flash, going as far back as the 1990 TV show with John Wesley Shipp and as recent as the now-concluded 2014 series featuring Grant Gustin.

Nevertheless, Miller pulls through with a strong character arc, always keeping the narrative focus on Barry despite the unsurprisingly scene-stealing presence of the Batmen.

The much anticipated Bruce Waynes are succinctly set up as mentor figures to Barry and the relationship seamlessly transitions from one Batman to another despite the change in actor… and character… and universe. Which is remarkable considering how easy this movie could have made it for itself by essentially presenting a fan’s wish-fuelled Batman extravaganza. Instead, director Andy Muschietti, along with the writing of the remarkable Christina Hodson, limit the Bat to the role of an enigmatic and eccentric mentor, never stealing the narrative or robbing Barry the value of proper development.

Michael Keaton’s return as a Batman similar to (if not the same as) the 1989 film’s is interestingly allocated. The evolution of his career as a vigilante, as well as Gotham City’s fate is surprisingly poignant, and his return to going nuts is well-earned (though the line itself could have been better set up). Sadly, while this may be a farewell to Ben Affleck’s term as the caped crusader, there is little fanfare or closure with his appearance, for better or worse.

Teamed-up with Sasha Calle’s Kara Zor-El–yet another character challenged with living up to a recent, beloved depiction on TV–this makeshift Justice League is not only intriguing, but almost makes you wish we weren’t in the final days of the DCEU… almost.

Calle’s portrayal of Supergirl is a far cry from the televised version many would be familiar with, being a cross between the post-Flashpoint New 52 iteration and the Kal-El of the Flashpoint reality. In spite of the lack of screen time for the character, she succeeds in delivering a guttural and ferocious revisit of Man of Steel’s climatic battle, retroactively making that movie worth sitting through (one time).

Unfortunately, the film does crack under its own weight at some points. The script gets clunky, and certain bits feel like they’re just played for laughs, bordering on parody. Some early super speed sequences, which should have been visually amazing, feel lacklustre–almost as if the creative choice was to simply avoid anything too similar to the later X-Men movies’ Quicksilver scenes.

Most egregious, is an excessively indulgent sequence which does all it can to titillate audiences with as much Easter eggs and nostalgia as possible. The execution of the sequence in question carries all the subtlety of an oncoming truck, and comes off as a terribly animated series of bad decisions as opposed to the salute to past works that it was surely meant to be.

Furthermore, the overuse of this one particular arc in the Flash’s nearly 70-year history of adventures, does the character more harm than good. Having inspired multiple seasons of The CW’s Flash series, as well as playing into two animated films, Flashpoint has become an easy, if not lazy, reset button and needs to be retired.

Ultimately, The Flash displays the potential the DCEU may have had had it taken the time to organically develop and deliver these iconic characters. And, if third time’s the charm, DC’s experiment with horror directors at the helm of their projects finally pays off with Muschietti, following the middling to abysmal work of David Sandberg and James Wan on Shazam!/Sha2am! and Aquaman, respectively.

While the contributions of John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, and Joby Harold certainly play a part in The Flash standing out against most of the DCEU, Christina Hodson’s writing must be highlighted, especially given her participation in what was the peak of the franchise with Birds of Prey.

Goodbye or otherwise, The Flash deserves to be judged on its own legs, beyond the reputation and general quality of the soon-to-be-late DCEU.

The Flash hits cinemas on June 13th, and should be caught before he gets away. Also, there is a post-credits scene which works as a cute gag.