By Jason Delgado
The Flash is a Warner Bros. Pictures, Double Dream, Disco Factory, and DC Studio superhero take on one of the greatest movies in cinematic history, Back to the Future. Of course, there is a familiar refrain when thinking about remaking a masterpiece: it should never happen because it is hard to replicate perfection. The Flash offers some fun and enjoyment, but it is not Back to the Future good; the hype it was getting as “one of the greatest superhero movies of all-time” from a few big-name celebrities is sadly exaggerated, in my opinion.
The film, directed by Andy Muschietti, follows Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), aka the Flash, as he is ironically always late to his day job, despite being the “Scarlet Speedster.” The Flash is too busy cleaning up messes left by the Justice League, and Barry says that he can’t help but notice it’s always Batman in particular leaving carnage in his wake. An early scene features the Flash saving a bunch of infants who fell out of a skyscraper while it was collapsing, yet it features some of the worst special effects I have seen in the modern area of film-going (Director Andy Muschietti stated that the bad effects are intentional in order to show the Flash’s POV. Does that make it better or worse that it’s on purpose?). Yet Miller does a fantastic job balancing his comedic and dramatic elements perfectly, thanks to superb acting.
If you’ve ever been to an advanced movie screening, then you have probably seen a movie with “unfinished” special effects that look quite rudimentary. That is almost how I would describe much of the CGI of this film, which is unacceptable for a big-budget blockbuster (and such a contrast to the better-looking effects of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, which was released a week prior).
I grew up reading both Marvel and DC, and the Flash was always my favorite character from DC besides Batman. The Barry Allen of the comics (The movie is loosely based on the popular Flashpoint comic event) was a serious character with a tragic past, but here they’ve turned him into a jokester like the Wally West version. It’s just something that always throws me off a bit as a comic fan, and I feel like it gives the movie a Thor: Love and Thunder tone, because so many of the jokes were simply delivered awkwardly like in that Marvel film.
Later in the film, Barry discovers that he has the power to travel through time with the speed force, so he decides to fix the personal tragedy of his mother’s death while his father was wrongfully imprisoned for it. Yet changes have ripple effects, and thus we get Michael Keaton’s iconic version of Batman back on the silver screen. The last time we fans saw Keaton as Batman was in the early 90s film Batman Returns. Of course, the other surprise cameos were a real treat for us longtime DC fans.
We end up with two versions of Barry (who play off each other nicely), a Supergirl (Sasha Calle, another standout of this movie), and old man Batman versus General Zod (a CGI Michael Shannon, a menacing presence who doesn’t get the opportunity here to showcase his amazing acting ability) from the events of Man of Steel. There are fun moments (mostly involving Batman), and it has a dramatic heart to it with Barry’s intense desire to save his family, but the mix of odd comedy lessened the impact of the drama for me.
There’s a funny running joke about Eric Stoltz being the star of Back to the Future in this alternate universe, but, unfortunately, like the Back to the Future premise of the movie itself, I’ve seen the joke done better before by standup comedian Gary Gulman.
Michael Keaton back as Batman is worth the price of admission alone but add in the fun cameos and the performances of Miller and Calle, and this is a movie that should be seen by superhero fans. Temper your expectations due to the flaws that I mentioned, as well as yet another over-long movie with a runtime of two and a half hours. It’s not Back to the Future, but that’s okay.
I give The Flash three and a half hot sauce packets out of five. It’s spicy enough to get a little sizzle during the Summer.