It’s a shallow, sour, bizarrely mean cape flick that prioritizes tacky, hollow nostalgia-baiting over fine work from its co-stars.
I do not like hating movies. I make a point to try and find something good even in otherwise crummy pictures—Adam Driver’s fine leading turn in the otherwise dull 65, for example.
I hate The Flash.
If you’ll pardon the cattiness and happen to be short on time, here is the short version of how I feel about The Flash, with thanks to YouTuber Zephyr Omega:
Ok, as for my actual review, to reiterate, I hate The Flash. I hate the circumstances surrounding its release; Warner Brothers doing everything in its power to shield lead actor Ezra Miller from the consequences of their no-I’m-not-exaggerating-International-Criminal-Rampage. I hate its shabby, ugly effects work—effects work that the last act uses for a series of cameos from deceased actors that are, at best, slimy and ill-conceived.
I hate The Flash‘s frequently dire attempts at comedy, including a few jokes that I’m genuinely shocked were not cut, given Miller’s abovementioned International Criminal Rampage. If Miller was not a possible sex creep and definitely a violent goon, jokes about Barry drugging his irritating parallel universe counterpart and accidentally terrifying a woman by falling into her apartment while nude would be cringe-worthy groaners. As is, they’re genuine “what the hell were you thinking” moments.
I hate that, like the boondoggle that was the theatrical version of Justice League, The Flash is trying to act as a counter to the Zack Snyder-led version of the DC Extended Universe without really understanding what those films were trying for narratively and aesthetically for good and ill. There’s something bitterly funny about the fact that a movie that ostensibly wants to refute the often gloomy dramatics (speaking as someone who likes Snyder’s work) of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman is in practice meaner and more brutal than they ever were.
I hate that, even in a world where Miller was not a horrible person who seems determined to avoid doing any of the work restitution demands, their turn as Barry Allen is frequently flat, shticky, and often obnoxious—to say nothing of the even more immature parallel world Barry who becomes Barry-Prime’s sidekick/co-lead. Miller works poorly with themself, whether Barry-Prime is trying to put up with Parallel Barry or acting on his own. They overplay both the comic and the dramatic, an acting decision that reduces The Flash‘s primarily solo-performed climax to a monotone roar. Their most successful work is done in concert with the ensemble, particularly Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton‘s Bruce Waynes/Batmans, and even there, their scene partners do the majority of the lifting. Put simply, Miller’s work is not a good enough performance to build a movie on, and doubling up does neither them nor The Flash as a whole any favors.
And, setting aside The Flash‘s external issues, that may be the thing I hate most of all. Keaton and Sasha Calle do very fine work as Bruce “Batman” Wayne and Zara “Supergirl” Zor-El. The Flash wastes them both. Keaton’s Batman here is distinct from the version he, Tim Burton, and company crafted together. In a world where Gotham’s in a good place and presumably free of murderous clowns, Batman’s retired. He lives alone, Alfred having died some time ago. Given the zeal he displays when he dons the cowl once again, he’s missed caped crusading, but he’s at peace with living out his days as a cheerfully eccentric hermit. It’s Batman-as-Zen-Oddball, very fun work on Keaton’s part—and it suffers when he has to face the camera and deliver famous lines from the Burton films for the sake of WB executives.
Likewise, Calle’s work as Supergirl recalls the Snyder-led Superman films at their best—she’s hurting, uncertain, and has every reason to turn her back on the world. And she chooses to make a stand anyway, for the people who have done right by her and for the memory of Krypton. Unlike Keaton, Calle’s work doesn’t get directly dragged down by having to pander to nostalgia, but it does suffer from The Flash‘s focus on the Flash (despite her arguably being more important to the early climax’s narrative than either Barry) and the picture’s poor attempt to deconstruct Man of Steel (Michael Shannon, returning as that film’s General Zod, seems bored. I hope he got a nice boat or something out of this.).
When director Andy Muschietti focuses on Keaton and Calle, The Flash sparks to life. I would happily watch a buddy cape film where their Cheerful Zen Batman and Embittered Honorable Supergirl team up. Unfortunately, The Flash is not Batman and Supergirl: World’s Finest. It’s a draggy, ugly, dull film built on a pair of performances from Ezra Miller that never rise above fine at best. Its attempts to wallow in nostalgia range from groan-worthy (poor Keaton’s “Let’s get nuts”) to baffling (hey kids, hope you miss the unmade Nicholas Cage Superman film!) to, as mentioned above, callous and sour (there is plenty of existing footage of Christopher Reeve and George Reeves, and given both of their lives, CGI Zombie versions of their Supermen are in poor taste on a good day). It wastes Keaton and Calle’s good work.
If you want to see the coming-into-his-own adventures of a young superhero who wears red, all of Kamen Rider Kuuga is streaming online.
This is the worst film I have seen in 2023. I genuinely despise it. Don’t waste your time or your money. If you’d like to see Keaton and Calle’s good work amidst the dreck, wait until it comes to the library.
The Flash is now playing in theaters.