Stars: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, Sasha Calle, Kiersey Clemons, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú
There was a period earlier this year when it seemed like a real possibility that the first solo outing for Ezra Miller’s speedy DC superhero, Barry Allen/The Flash would never see the light of day, due to Miller’s shocking behaviour in Florida. Nevertheless, here it is, albeit with an assurance from Warner Brothers that the troubled actor is seeking counselling. Only time will tell if the studio and actor can weather the storm.
For the most part, the most part being the first two acts, this is an entertaining ride. It’s certainly one of the better entries in the Warner Bros/DC universe thanks to a smart script and fine performances.
It gets off to a racing start with a sequence in which the socially anxious, tetchy Barry is trying to buy his favourite daily high-calorie sandwich (the super speed running takes it out on him), but the regular server is off work so Barry must deal with their torturously slow and pedantic replacement. During the wait, Barry is informed of a terrorist attack in neighbouring Gotham City. The usual why-can’t-the-other superheroes-deal-with-this is dealt with in an amusingly economic manner. Arriving at the scene, Barry is confronted with a collapsing building and a literal baby shower, a scenario realised in a very amusingly and ingenious sequence which looks to Looney Tunes cartoons for inspiration and manages to be edgy and bad taste-skirting, but without the adolescent guffawing that characterised DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’ pictures. Tellingly, ‘The Flash’ was written by Christina Hodson, the female writer of ‘Suicide Squad’ spin-off ‘Birds of Prey’.
While running in frustration at his various personal travails, Barry discovers he can go faster than the speed of light and travel back in time. He ponders going to back in order to save his murdered mother Maribel (Verdú) and free his wrongly imprisoned father (Livingston) who was accused of the crime. Bruce Wayne (Affleck), who knows a thing or two about murdered parents, advises him against it, pointing out that emotional scars are part of what makes a person.
Barry ignores his mentor’s advice and travels back prior to his mother’s murder where he meets his younger, even more garrulous eighteen-year-old self, but also discovers that his trip has knocked all of space and time out of whack. The vengeful Kryptonian General Zod (Shannon) has just arrived on Earth and, alas, Barry is unable to trace three of his fellow Justice League members. Accompanied by younger Barry, he goes to see Bruce Wayne, who in this altered universe is the Michael Keaton incarnation.
So far, Argentinian director Muschietti, best known for horror fare such as ‘Mama’ and the ‘It’ remake, maintains an appropriately keen pace while exhibiting a light touch in the comedy scenes. Keaton brings a real gravitas and pathos to his ageing Bruce Wayne. Miller can be a fine comic performer, if a little too hyperactive, but the multiple scenes of Barry bickering with his younger self feel a little de trop and in want of an editor’s scissors.
As the journey into the multiverse progresses, summoning up some old familiar faces on the way, the scripting becomes more convoluted with the anything-can-happen scenario rendering Barry’s quest inconsequential. As with DC films, the CGI effects are occasionally lurid and ugly with the battle scenes overcrowded and ersatz-looking.
Still, for the most part, this is an enjoyable yarn that indicates there may be life in the old spandex yet.
The Flash is released on 16th June
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