The Flash


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Flash
"I have to give credit for The Flash understanding it is derivative, repetitive, even repeating elements of its opening for comic effect."

Have you seen Back To The Future II? The Flash assumes you have. Indeed it's perhaps more essential to understanding it than anything that's actually in the DCEU. That doesn't just come from a pasta-based explanation of the mechanics of parallel universes through time-travel but also because of Crispin Glover, and maybe Jean-Claude Van Damme.

They're not in it. They've enough weird antagonists, indeed they add to them in the course of events. Between Glover's lawsuit against Universal and subsequent changes to Screen Actors Guild agreements regarding use of likenesses, it becomes important. The Muscles From Brussels is in there for Timecop, naturally, but also because he played twins in Double Impact. He's not alone in that, indeed I could reference Nicolas Cage in Adaptation or Michael Keaton in Multiplicity but their presence would complicate things I'd said earlier.

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As does this being a vehicle for Ezra Miller. Playing Barry Allen, twice, a whole set of discussions around re-casting would probably be even funnier if DC had bitten a bullet rather than binning Batgirl. Even with that I laughed several times more than I did at Shazam! (or Fury Of The Gods) and for the most part I was meant to.

Movie buffs of a certain stripe will get a lot from this. Raquel Welch fulfils a similar role to Rita Hayworth in The Shawshank Redemption, and if you've seen Kevin Smith talking about Jon Peters' creative process then you'll understand why one later sequence has legs to stand on. In its willingness to explore crossover potential and retroactive continuities it does actually have something interesting to say about how toxic it can be to keep trying to fix things and how crossovers can be destructive. That's likely to make a Snyder-cut style fan campaign overwhelmingly ironic, but it's often been observed that fans can be fictions' worst enemies.

In a number of places the intent seems to be to chase Frank Miller's (and Lynn Varley's!) The Dark Knight Returns' lighting, but that's a function of ink on paper, not light on a screen. The novelty's gone too. It hasn't been 1986 for a while. Mechanisms of execution and resurrection add fresh colour (usually blue) to parallels between The Last Son Of Krypton and The Lamb Of God. Neither is alone in coming back from the dead. All manner of cinematic trickery is deployed to round out a massive and evolving cast of characters.

In much the same way that Renfield is more fun if you've seen a fair few Dracula flicks, The Flash is full of nods to other superhero and comic book films. One sequence is very reminiscent of the slo-mo from Dredd, while another reheats cold-leavings from Snyder's Watchmen. An homage to La Pieta seems more borrowed from the equivalent bit with houses in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania than even Children Of Men but it still, in its own way, works. There are more classic nods. If I've translated it right, the Cyrillic on a prisoner's uniform either reads "gassiest" or "most dangerous," as in 'game'.

Director Andy Muschetti is more famous for horror. Mama and its parent short and both parts of the second It. There's a lot of darkness here, plenty of spooky, and countless effects shots. Some of which, especially in the "time bowl" are in a multidimensionally uncanny valley. Christina Hodson wrote Bumblebee and Birds Of Prey, and while this is a franchise outpost it does share traits with Unforgettable and Shut In in terms of not letting go of the past. Joby Harold is also credited, and the weird time-travel parallels here are a coincidental counterpoint to those in Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts. It doesn't take many degrees of merchandising to get from one to the other.

I have to give credit for The Flash understanding it is derivative, repetitive, even repeating elements of its opening for comic effect. I am in my forties and I can't even count which gritty reboot of Batman I'm on and I wouldn't even try with The Flash. This one definitely increments it, I'm just not sure in which directions. It's very clear that it's in the business of show but it leans into that cynicism just enough to get away with it, a hop, skip, jump, nod, and a wink. A scene after the credits is almost mandatory, but to get to setup for the next DC picture you've got to sit through a list that includes ten vice-presidents and an international coalition of production tax credits.

At two and almost one-half hours it does actually go by pretty quickly. Its story beats are less about respite than regrouping. In a wider context it seems to be doing something Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3 wasn't brave enough to do, which is embrace change. That extends to things offscreen as well, though as a Glaswegian I'm disappointed that this is the only Gotham we're getting from the dear green place. Keep an eye on it though, as Indiana Jones will be going down the same block later, or earlier, or both. The Flash is bright, occasionally intense, will probably be ephemeral, but might end up with lasting echoes. If nothing else there will be spots that you'll rub your eyes at, though whether its disbelief or disappointment is the kind of question a re-watch would answer. Just start with Back To The Future II.

Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2023
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Barry Allen uses his super speed to change the past, but his attempt to save his family creates a world without super heroes, forcing him to race for his life in order to save the future.
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Director: Andy Muschietti

Writer: Christina Hodson, Joby Harold

Starring: Ezra Miller, Ben Affleck, Michael Shannon, Michael Keaton, Temuera Morrison, Sasha Calle, Ron Livingston, Antje Traue

Year: 2023

Runtime: 144 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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