Why run away from your past when you can run towards it instead? Sprint head-first into our The Flash review.
There’s no denying that the DC Universe has fallen upon The Rockiest of times in the last decade (excuse the pun). With recent releases like Black Adam, Wonder Woman 1984, and Shazam: Fury of the Gods all receiving lukewarm reception at best, it almost seems as if the age of heroes is drawing to a close. That would be the case if not for the sheer style and over-the-top action of a single film that draws upon decades of legendary films and comics.
Even The Flash himself is shocked when DC drops a banger of a movie.
I’m of course talking about 2023’s The Flash, starring Ezra Miller as the titular sprinting superhero alongside a killer cast, including none other than Michael Keaton reprising his finest role. Blending the characters’ comedic stylings with a surprisingly emotive backstory and fan-service that will smack you in the face like a Batarang, could this herald the revival of the DC universe? Read ahead to find out in our The Flash review.
The Flash Review – Story
WARNING: some story spoilers ahead.
All good superhero flicks feature some sort of flashback, but few take it quite as literal as The Flash. After a daring siege on a local hospital, Barry Allen pairs up with none other than The Batman himself to swoop to the rescue. In a sequence as fast-paced and ridiculous as the protagonist himself, the film immediately sets the scene with its slightly absurd, comedic tone.
But things quickly take a turn for the worse when a traumatised Flash is reminded of his troubled past; his mother brutally murdered in cold blood and his father wrongly-imprisoned as her accused assailant. Hoping to quite literally run away from his troubles, Barry sprints aimlessly at light speed only to discover he possesses the ability to run so fast he’s able to turn back time.
“Maybe if I can run fast enough, I can escape my troubled past.”
Taking advantage of this newfound power, he devises a plan to return to the past before his mother’s murder and create a life in which he could happily live alongside her. Any sane time-traveller has heard of “the Butterfly Effect“, where the flapping wings of a butterfly in the past can result in a tornado in the present, but Barry couldn’t care less about consequences.
Throwing caution to the wind, The Flash literally flashes back to the past only to meet… himself. Encountering a younger Barry Allen results in sheer chaos, as the two desperately cooperate to ensure that past-Barry is able to gain his superpowers that occur through a freak accident. But in doing so, the course of superhero history is altered forever when the two stumble across an old friend…
Only one thing’s stronger than superpowers, and that’s a mother’s love.
The narrative of The Flash causes emotional whiplash like you would never believe. There are moments throughout the film that are genuinely hilarious or unashamedly stupid, and scenes that show off the true action that hero films are known for. Though there are moments that are equally as tender, human, and even tear-jerking. In isolation, these themes may have fallen flat, but in the strange concoction created in the story of The Flash, they somehow work to enhance one another.
The Flash Review – Acting and Direction
What can I say about Ezra Miller that hasn’t already been said? Debuting at The Flash / Barry Allen in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Miller has brought his distinct style and silliness to the character in live action like never before. And given the spotlight at last in The Flash, Miller embraces the character entirely in more ways than one.
Playing both present day Flash and a younger alternate reality Barry Allen, the two (despite being the same actor) bring such a superb dynamic to the film. Endlessly entertaining, the interactions, banter, and believable relationship that Miller manages to achieve with himself is nothing short of impressive. There was not even a single moment during the film where I thought I was watching the exact same person on the screen.
Never meet your heroes. Or yourself.
Beyond Barry, there are many characters throughout the film that will inspire not only DC fans, but anyone familiar with superhero films of the ’90s. Michael Keaton returns to reprise his role as The Batman, and in doing so effortlessly reignites the Burton/Schumacher quadrilogy. Seeing his swagger, style, and sense of humour once again return is the ultimate treat for any ’90s kid who grew up seeing Keaton on the big screen and still doesn’t want to grow up.
Michael Keaton is still the best Batman. You can’t convince me otherwise.
By blending elements of earlier DC films, while capturing a more modern style seen in other superhero films (particularly those that explore the concept of a “multiverse”), The Flash sets itself apart from any other DC movie of the last decade. While there are the typical massive action set pieces, explosions, and fight scenes, these are interspersed with a generous helping of comedy and character development. Despite clocking in at a hefty 2 hours and 35 minutes, one of the lengthier DC films, its excellent pacing makes it feel as if it goes by in a flash.
Batman’s biggest challenge yet: babysitting twins.
There is really only one downside to The Flash, and it’s unfortunately glaringly obvious throughout many scenes. In a film that pushes the boundaries of reality, its reliance on CGI is truly its biggest downfall. Many moments include unpolished and unpleasant CGI that almost ruins the reality of certain sequences, reminding you that this is not in fact real. To say its rough around the edges is an understatement – there are moments where the special effects seem as if they’re well and truly lagging behind other modern films despite its blockbuster budget.
Some CGI leaves a lot to the imagination.
To clarify, this review is based off an early preview screening of the film. There is the possibility that the CGI will be touched up in the final release, and if it is, we’ll update this section with our thoughts based on the theatrical release.
The Flash Review – Soundtrack and Audio
No hero would be complete without an epic score to accompany, and The Flash certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department either. Composed by film veteran and composer extraordinaire, Benjamin Wallfisch (Blade Runner 2049, It), the music you’ll hear throughout the film is as much an original piece as it is to the films that have come before it.
Clearly taking inspiration from Danny Elfman’s iconic style, you’ll be treated to tracks reminiscent of Batman Returns that feel perfectly at home alongside the bold brass now made popular to accompany modern heroes. Just take a listen to one of the best tracks:
“I Am Batman” is a superb tribute to accompany the reveal of a beloved hero.
Audio throughout the movie is of an equally high standard, with every hard-hitting punch, flitting sprint, and dramatic landing paired with effects to enhance the impact when experienced in cinema. As a stickler for film audio, every scene felt well-balanced and as impactful as possible, from the most adrenaline-fuelled action down to Barry’s touching and emotive moments with his family.
Like the sheer surprise caused by tremendous flash of lightning appearing instantaneously, The Flash is shockingly good. This is undoubtedly one of the finest moments from DC in the last decade, thanks not only to Ezra Miller’s hilarious and captivating performance in the lead role, but the return of fan-favourite Michael Keaton as The Batman so many of us know and love. Brilliantly blending comedy, action, and emotion in an energy-fuelled mix, you should be sprinting to your nearest cinema to see The Flash as soon as possible.
So, why should you see The Flash?
- Stellar performance from Ezra Miller as two vastly-different characters
- Love Michael Keaton as Batman? You’d be mad to miss out on this
- Brilliant blend of hilarious comedy, adrenaline-fuelled action, and genuine emotion
- Soundtrack that draws upon and builds on the best audio elements of DC films
But why shouldn’t you see The Flash?
- Several scenes feature incredibly unpolished and dated CGI
- No interest in the Batman films of the ’90s? The fan-service may be lost on you
A preview screening was kindly provided by Warner Bros. Pictures and Team Retro for the purpose of this review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our film reviews and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about all the latest releases!