Updated: Jul 14
The much-troubled film delivers a safe and enjoyable take on the multiverse
The sad demise of the DC Extended Universe has so far delivered duds in its wake, from the incredibly generic Black Adam (2022) to the extremely forgettable Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023). However, glimpses of the potential that this superhero franchise had are gleamed in one of the last entries of this condemned franchise, the much-troubled production of The Flash (2023).
The Flash is surprisingly the first live-action film adaptation of this beloved superhero character after endless iterations in animation and on TV. This film follows the superpowered and speedy Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), also known as The Flash. He was previously seen in Justice League (2017) and it’s superior re-edit Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). In The Flash, Barry gets into a spot of trouble when he learns how to run faster than the speed of light, and thus go back in time. This prompts him to go back to prevent the murder of his mother (Maribel Verdu) and the false imprisonment of his father (Ron Livingston). However, messing with time leads to some serious unexpected consequences.
The Flash is directed by Andy Muschetti, who cut his teeth in horror with the likes of Mama (2013) and the It double feature. Just like horror master James Wan did with Aquaman (2018), Muschetti delivers a superhero film that perfectly fits with the current trends of the genre. For Aquaman this trend was a slight derision of the genre and increasingly elevated stakes, for The Flash and today’s superhero films, it is the obsession with the multiverse. The Flash employs this alternate timelines gimmick with competent effectiveness. The screenplay from Christina Hodson and Joby Harold remembers to stay focused on character and to restrain jokes and ambitions with the multiverse. In this sense, The Flash falls somewhere between the perfectly executed use of this concept in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) and the mess of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). Muschetti and his screenwriters are ambitious where it needs to be, but largely plays it safe in terms of scope.
The production of The Flash seemed cursed at one point, between endless delays before shooting ever began, to the untimely shuttering during the COVID-19 pandemic, and later the public scandals and criminal troubles of star Ezra Miller. Miller was one of the most exciting elements in the DCEU when first introduced in Justice League, within The Flash much is demanded from the performer, and they rise to the task. Miller is so at home within Barry’s skin, being in complete control of every scene they’re in and pulling double duty, having to play multiple versions and variants of their character. The sad information about their off-set actions leaves viewers sadly considering the potential that further films and use of this character could have had.
In the end, The Flash is one of the stronger and more ambitious films within the moribund DCEU, albeit one whose gimmick is being done to death with films in its genre. We get our typical superhero beats, and while there are some loose emotional moments here and there, generic elements are inescapable for a film of this type. There were also some rather unfinished-looking CGI shots that felt out of an early 2010s video game rather than a 2020s’ tentpole film. The focus on character along with the strong performances from Miller and a surprise veteran casting (which I won’t spoil despite the ruthless use of him in promotional materials) do enough to elevate The Flash into one of the more enjoyable superhero flicks to come out in this current slog within the genre.