The Flash movie poster

The Flash

In theaters June 16, 2023


144 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , ,

We’re going to separate art from the artist here and talk about The Flash (2023), not an origin story so much as the DCU dipping its toe into a Multiverse in an ambitious reset.

Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) has a problem with time. He’s chronically late, whether it’s to work, at work logging and analyzing evidence as a forensic technician or racing to an extinction-level event. He feels put-upon by the members of the Justice League, as he often plays cleanup when they’re busy saving the world elsewhere. Being the new guy who can’t say no is a problem, but it’s decidedly a Barry problem, along with excessive tardiness and a painfully thorough, if slow, work ethic. While juggling work and heroics, Barry is also heavily invested in freeing his father from prison for the murder of his mother several years back. Barry knows his father didn’t do it, but none of the available evidence can support it.

He discovers quite by accident that if properly motivated, he can run hard and fast enough to slip into a pocket of time as time is happening. This lends itself to all sorts of mischief as it’s already been discussed what can happen when time is tampered with. This doesn’t stop Barry, as Barry wants what Barry wants, creating a cascade of shifts in time affecting not only events, but people. In this new reality, Barry has a chance to right some perceived wrongs, but at what cost to the entire universe remains the question.

That’s all I want to say about The Flash since everything else could be considered a major spoiler, but I can say this – this was the first DC film (Shazam notwithstanding) that the DCU didn’t dwell on the dark, dank and destructive. That’s not to say The Flash doesn’t get dark because, yes indeed, but it’s not the moribund, ethically confused dark of Aquaman (2018) or Wonder Woman 1984 (2020). Unlike the other superpowered or independent wealthy adults in the room, Barry has to work for a living, and combining his job with his heroic hobby, so overall he’s wound pretty tight. The Flash creates not just an origin story for Barry but lays the foundation for an emotional and layered performance few expect from superhero movies. There is actual introspection when he can see how things could have been, allowing him to question how he became the man and hero he believes he is.

Ezra Miller brings a flawed nuance to Barry Allen, fleshing him out from the nervous and eager to please kid from Zack Snyder’s The Justice League (2021) to an anxious harried adult incapable of getting past his own personal traumas, but too driven to reach out for help. As the story branches, we see the Barry that is and the Barry that could have been, and Miller deftly manages the roles with equal measures of wonder and jaded weariness. While The Flash is yet another story tiptoeing around the theory of The Butterfly Effect, the unintended consequences present themselves in flips and sidesteps with things that are simultaneously familiar and wildly unexpected.

Director Andy Muschietti does his level best to wrangle a very complicated plot into a linear story that doesn’t require multiple installments across years. The Flash manages to be both busy and unruffled, much like Barry when he slows down time, the chaos reduced to frame by frame while maintaining a steady flow. The effect is capturing the frenetic pace of being who can harness the Speed Force and still carry on a clever conversation steeped in anxiety and constant self-doubt.

The Flash isn’t without its missteps, a retired Batman looks like a homeless Howard Hughes, and the weird moments of the past converging on the present and future appear rendered in cringey CGI. These are minor, however, and they’re worth the giggle.

DC doesn’t have a great track record with their origin stories, but The Flash is both a feel-good film that explores the what ifs as well as the now whats and the potential tentpole of summer films. It is by no means a perfect film, but those can’t exist while balancing box office expectations with fanboy fervor. For a film meant to entertain, The Flash certainly meets the mark. The off-screen troubles of its main star may keep some away from the theaters, and you’ll have to decide for yourself if you can separate art from artist. There was very little I was expecting to enjoy of The Flash, but as a reset for the beleaguered DC Universe, there couldn’t be a stronger start.

The Flash (2023) is rated PG-13 for swears, mild drug use, babies being thrown from windows, people being struck by lightning, beaten, stabbed, shot, crushed, and blown up, tearful goodbyes, and Barry Allen’s butt.

The Flash is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

Leave a comment...