For movie studios everything, everywhere, all at once, seems to be about the multiverse. The DCU first dipped its toes into the idea of the multiverse and time-traveling with Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Since then, the comic book-inspired cinematic universe has attempted a soft reboot, veering away from its initial less-than-perfectly executed plan. The Flash, however, does not quite serve as a total reset. It tells a Flash story loosely inspired by the Flashpoint comic. And it is an affecting one.

When he was a child Barry Allen’s (Ezra Miller) mother, Nora (Maribel Verdu), was murdered. His father (Ron Livingston) was wrongly accused and now faces life imprisonment. Barry tries tirelessly with the help of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to prove his father’s innocence, but one last lifeline proves unfruitful. With his newly discovered time travel ability, Barry decides to race to the past and change the events that led to his mother’s death, despite Bruce’s warning of the unforeseen circumstances this can bring.

At first, it seems Barry may have succeeded, but things quickly go awry. Barry finds himself powerless and stuck in an alternate reality. With the help of alternate dimensions, Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne, he must find a way to get back to his reality while trying to save the one he is trapped in.

The Flash 2023 DC WB

The earnest scenes between Barry and his parents are the best in the movie. Audiences understand Flash’s motivations even though the world around him faces impending destruction. Maybe it was best to let the past be, but with such astounding abilities, who would not at least try to change the course of events that took a loved one? Themes about the fragility of life and the thin line fate operate on are minimally explored in this movie. That is a shame.

The Flash’s central story is a heartfelt one. It deserves better telling than the one Warner Brothers manages to muster up. The core of the movie is layered by (to put it succinctly) a whole lot of bad.

Without entering spoiler territory, the details of how time travel and the multiverse work do not make much sense. Furthermore, the different conflicts presented can be remedied in more logical ways. The obvious lies within grasp, but the film conveniently looks away.

The quality or lack thereof of the CGI is distracting. The consistently unpolished look makes one wonder whether this was an artistic choice or if there were significant budget cuts for the digital effects team. The movie relies too heavily on CGI, and the final product is inexcusable.

Consistent with a tradition that dates to Space Jam: A New Legacy, Warner Brothers is also intent on reminding audiences of its extensive collection of intellectual properties. During a tactless scene near the end, the WB decided it was a good idea to regurgitate past characters and splatter them all over the screen as a self-pat on the back. The studio is too concerned with ingratiating itself and its fans in favor of producing a quality film. There are a tiring number of cameos and enough “wink-wink” moments to make one’s eyes dry.

The Flash 2023 DC WB

Warner Brothers brought in considerable talent to try and right the DCU ship. Director Andy Muschietti tries his darndest to find the north star but is obviously handed a broken compass by his bosses. Studio interference also negatively affects the work of writers Christina Hodson and Joby Harold. They do manage to create a simple plot concerning the crux of the story, echoing the vile randomness of life. Audiences will surely never forget the can of tomatoes ever again when grocery shopping. Unfortunately, the scribes are held prisoners by needing to make sense of and explain the finer details of time travel and its effects, even though it too often fails to make sense. The obligatory comic relief often falls flat, and the desire to continuously allude to the DCU bog down the script.

One cannot discuss The Flash without addressing the scarlet elephant in the room. Ezra Miller returns to play both versions of Barry Allen. Between their reprisal, Miller has been the subject of disturbing allegations and toxic behavior. As a small and insignificant footnote in the grander scheme of what Miller’s future holds, this is likely the last time they will play the character.

They are included in almost every scene here. Miller manages to play both Allens with their differentiating quirks. Currently, Allen is more comfortable with his Flash persona. He is ready for more responsibilities and a greater purpose as the titular hero. However, his main purpose is to clear his father’s name. He is more mature yet no less socially awkward than when audiences last saw him. The Alternate reality Allen is an annoying, guffawing idiot. He does play an important role as the movie progresses, helping the other Allen confront difficult realizations about himself. Miller is solid in both roles and equally portrays the humor and gravitas well. However, it is impossible to fully enjoy their performance considering their problematic and dangerous conduct.

Joining Flash for his latest adventure is not one but two Batmen. Ben Affleck returns in a weird-looking cowl, but nonetheless, seeing his version of The Dark Knight race through Gotham and beat criminals to a pulp is immensely satisfying.

The Flash 2023 DC WB

Michael Keaton returns to “get nuts” as the alternate reality Batman. Somewhere in between Jumanji’s Alan Parrish and Dr. Franken-bat is Keaton’s Bruce Wayne. As he did in the Tim Burton films, he joyfully plays Batman with a gothic weirdness that no other actor has come close to replicating. Watching him fly as Danny Elfman’s classic theme swells through the theater speakers adds palpable joy.

Rounding out the central cast is Sasha Calle as Supergirl. She takes the responsibility of bringing an iconic character to life seriously. Unfortunately, she is not given much to do. Michael Shannon makes his return as General Zod in what must be a “walk in the park” turn for an actor of his talents.

The Flash carries the most egregious distinction of all other DCU movies: disappointing. The movie carried the hopes of a franchise racing away from the past into a brighter future. Instead, it goes nowhere. Rather than fully embracing a retcon, it speeds towards the past and cracks open the Warner Brothers vault as a penance offering for its recent transgressions.

Even more disappointing is that there is a good movie lying somewhere inside this indigestible and bloated mess. It has too many ingredients and the wrong recipe to make anything edible. Maybe all it needs is a simple can of tomatoes to make it appetizing and delicious.

Borja’s rating 4.5/10

What do you think of The Flash? Let us know your thoughts of the DC Film in the comments below! Watch The Flash in theaters on June 16th, 2023.

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