This weeks Your Nerd Side Show:
Yes this is the DC Film we wanted!
The hype is real. DC’s The Flash might not be the greatest comic book movie ever made, but it comes damn close. Easily the best in the genre since Spider-Man: No Way Home, this fresh, invigorating and hugely entertaining summer treat is as good as it gets when it comes to cinematic takes on superheroes.
Let’s give credit to director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Christina Hodson for giving what was becoming a worn-out movie genre brand-new life with a smart, funny, thrilling, emotional and altogether swell take on a character that has been around 80-plus years but never got the showcase he deserves — until now. Bringing The Flash (née Barry Allen) vividly alive in a rich and dazzling dual performance, in which they brilliantly plays opposite themself, is Ezra Miller. Simply put, better casting you could not imagine. Whatever the well-publicized personal-life troubles the actor has had simply do not matter here, Miller is the real deal and a superhero superstar is born.
In fact, I would hesitate to even put this film on the same level as others in the increasingly tired genre that both Marvel and DC have run into the ground. This is a comic book movie for everyone, even if you aren’t inclined to like this kind of flick. If anything, it probably has more in common with the spirit of movies like Back to the Future – the 1985 hit that it hilariously references more than once – and in ways hard-core BTTF fans are going to go batsh*t crazy over.
And speaking of winged creatures of the night (or one of them), Batman is back all the way from Tim Burton’s 1989 movie in the form of Michael Keaton, lured one more time into his Batsuit and not only killing it but making the character more poignant that he has ever been.
Starting off with a bang, Allen stops in a coffee shop and while waiting for his order to come up gets an urgent call from Alfred (a cameo from Jeremy Irons) alerting him to a life-saving job he is needed for urgently. In no time he is in his red suit, transformed as The Flash and saving people from a collapsing hospital building, one where the entire the maternity ward flies out the windows with a babies raining over the street below until he manages to freeze the event in time, save all the babies and slip back into the coffee shop as Barry just in time to be handed his order. “I hope it didn’t take too long for you,” the clerk says to him.
The action continues on a bridge, where he and his friend Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, reprising his own Batman role) must team up to cut off certain disaster (here they get the help from another superstar superhero in a brief but amusing cameo). In their down time, Barry tells Bruce that he has figured out a way to go back in time and he’s excited at the prospect of taking it farther back to the period where his beloved mother Nora (a fine Maribel Verdú) was found stabbed to death and the crime pinned on his father Henry (Ron Livingston). His goal is to go back and change the circumstances in such a way as to not only would give his incarcerated dad the alibi that would prove he didn’t do it but also prevent the death from happening in the first place. Bruce, also someone whose parents died tragically, tries to tell him it might not be wise to twist fate, but Barry doesn’t listen. And all hell breaks loose.
Barry finds himself back in his childhood home and having dinner with his parents, who notice he is a bit more mature now that he is back from his first semester in college. Barry discovers he has landed back when he was 18, an awkward kid, and the date happens to be the same as when a lab accident gave him his “powers” after he was struck by lightning. From here on, this becomes a weird buddy movie in which the awkward Barry gets those powers while the time-traveling Barry loses his.
It’s a riotously funny relationship with himself, one that gets serious when General Zod (Michael Shannon) enters the picture with evil designs of his own. The two Barrys find themselves in a race to save the planet – or this alternate planet in the multiverse – and for that a visit to Wayne Manor is in order. However when an older, grizzled Bruce Wayne (Keaton) appears in the run-down mansion, Barry gets a sense of just how different alternate timelines can be.
This whole sequence leading to the discovery of the locked-up Batcave and the unveiling of the long-dormant (Burton-era) Batmobile is fantastic stuff, as is watching Keaton’s Bruce Wayne find his way back into the saddle, so to speak. The stage is set for a battle royal in which the entire history of not just Batman but Superman come back to life thanks to some truly remarkable work from the visual effects wizards. Unfortunately, the section is overlong and the only part of the film that really succumbs to the tropes of the genre, but it has a hell of a redemptive wrap-up.
Along the way, the heroes head to Siberia where they hope to free an imprisoned Clark Kent (aka Superman) but instead find a beaten and locked-up Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl (Sasha Calle) ready to be rescued and returned to the front lines. There are so many surprises in store along the way – and still to come – including stunning sequences that elicited applause on my second viewing of the film (the first was an an unfinished cut at CinemaCon). It is undeniably a crowd-pleaser and a comic book movie that makes all the right choices.
Miller, previously essaying the role as a supporting castmember (in Justice League, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad), is just sensational taking on the whole enchilada this time, especially considering the tough task of playing two different versions of Barry and making both credible and believable. With this essentially also being the story of a son trying to bring back his mother, Miller really gets the emotional aspect just right and gives Allen real poignancy and gravitas.
Keaton does the same thing in his return as Bruce Wayne/Batman and, quite frankly, never has been better in the role. It is a terrific reinvention of the character for the actor, and for Batman himself.
Calle is excellent as Supergirl, and it is fun to see Shannon taking on more weight as Zod. Kiersey Clemons is sweet as a reporter who takes a romantic interest in Barry while trying to get his real story. The cameos are equally satisfying and, no spoiler, one toward the end will have audiences reeling with delight.
Production values across the board are first-rate in the film produced by Barbara Muschietti and Michael Disco. Warner Bros. will release it June 16. If this isn’t a smash hit, I can’t imagine what is.
Title: The Flash Distributor: Warner Bros Release date: June 16, 2023 Director: Andy Muschietti Screenwriters: Christina Hodson. Story by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein and Joby Harold Cast: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Michael Shannon, Sasha Calle, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Trive, Ben Affleck Running time: 2 hr 24 min Rating: PG-13