Occasionally, the direction of the discourse becomes too toxic to actively engage with a film. In the case of The Flash, the ship had sailed years ago. The off-set antics of star Ezra Miller became known beyond the industry. Many directors had entered and exited the project, resulting in muddled visions. Perhaps worst of all, DC had already moved onto a new future. With some time and space, I wanted to give The Flash as clean of a look as I could.
Unfortunately, Andy Muschietti‘s The Flash stumbles out the gate. While Miller overcomes one-half of a frustrating performance, the bloated CG and Pre-Visual effects destroy any hope The Flash had of rising above the fray. Beyond the ghoulish choice to reanimate several heroes of years gone by, the sludge that covers the screen makes the world feel incomplete and inadequate. The Flash will not be remembered as the worst DC film of the era, but it certainly earns its title as the biggest miss.
Barry Allen (Miller) struggles to keep his life together with his father’s parole hearing fast approaching. Suddenly one night, he discovers he can rewind the day’s events. With enough speed, he can potentially go back in time and stop his mother’s death, and thus prevent his father from going to prison. Despite the warnings of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), he goes back. However, when another speedster knocks him out of the Speed Force, Barry finds himself in an alternate dimension. Here, there is a Supergirl (Sasha Calle), a different Batman (Michael Keaton), and a Barry Allen (also Miller) who never lived without his mother. When Zod (Michael Shannon) returns to destroy the planet again, a new metahuman team attempts to save the day.
In terms of story, The Flash attempts to revive one of Allen’s most famous plotlines from the comics. However, the missteps come early, as the world is populated with more prominent DC canon heroes. While this brings nostalgia and reminds the audience of The Flash’s context, this does nothing to help the Barry Allen plotline. Instead, the battleground of the film becomes the narrative. Stuck between finding emotional resonance for Allen and delivering nostalgic one-liners for fans, Muschetti can never find the correct tone. It does not help that Muschetti is foisted with a Superman villain, three Batmen, and a Supergirl rather than finding time to interact with Flash’s friends or family.
Miller’s performance must fluctuate between two extremes as well. There’s little doubt that Miller can pull off each version of this character, but their interactions with themselves become grating. For any positive growth Miller brings to “Prime” Allen, the annoyance cultivated around Earth-B Allen overwhelms the performance.
Some of this might fall under the nitpick realm if not for the disastrous effects on display. Truly, Injustice: Gods Among Us featured better graphics and stronger renders when it was released. The abysmal look of the world points to a simple truth: the creators did not have an obvious plan for where to take The Flash. The largest spectacles of the movie do not have fine details, the final battle literally takes place in an empty field, and the resurrection of deceased actors comes across as desperate. The final CGI mess is the worst offender, but a scene outside of a hospital is extremely questionable in depicting human babies. We walk straight into the uncanny valley, and the movie never recovers. We have advanced our CGI too far for this to be the acceptable output for a big-budget tentpole.
Making matters worse, The Flash feels like it exists to chase the multiverse trend. Unlike movies like Everything Everywhere All At Once or Spider-Man: No Way Home, the idea of jumping between realities feels old. It does not help that the CW series The Flash already covered most of this narrative and even brought Miller into the fray to explore the multiverse. With a story entirely premised on one person acting selfishly to change the past for themselves and continuing to do so until the final frames, The Flash‘s story crumbles. With bad storytelling and bad visuals, the movie feels like a corporate mandate, not an artistic or commercial endeavor.
While The Flash may not officially be the final DC film of the Snyder era, its slow descent into mediocrity is telling. Say what you will about Snyder’s vision for the universe, but other directors could not replicate it. The tones clashed too violently with other filmmakers’ sensibilities, and we could not find emotional foundations for the characters that populated these narratives. With eighty percent of The Flash devoted to other DC heroes and underwhelming visual effects, the result seems like a foregone conclusion.