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Ezra Miller’s The Flash does the time warp, again: Movie Review

Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s astounding! Time is fleeting! Madness takes its toll! I’m not, of course, talking about the opening lyrics to a certain famous pop/rock song. I’m talking about Warner Bros. superhero mayhem that is the new movie The Flash.

Barry Allen ("The Flash", played here by tabloid superstar Ezra Miller) is one of the last headliner superheroes to have never had his own big-budget Hollywood movie. The fact any famous comic book hero hasn’t yet seems crazy, but it’s true. The final result is a silly, bloated and surprisingly heartfelt film.

If you don’t know, Flash is best known for his classic super speed. This big-screen story for Barry seems him learning to race so fast he can run - are ready for this? Back in time. When he goes back to change an event to save his parents, he (surprise!) changes the future, and now has to try and fix it.

The big twist is that Warner Bros. and director Andy Muschietti (the It horror movies) have plugged into the celebrity cameo multiverse zeitgeist, and Barry has to team up with alternate versions of superheroes and villains from past movies through the years, most notably the return of Michael Keaton as Batman.

Focusing so intently on fan service for only the most dedicated comic book fans is one of The Flash’s greatest shortcomings: it’s so full of cameos, Easter eggs and winks to specific audiences that it’s alienating to the majority. 

One the other hand, the basic concept of Barry coming to terms with himself is a fundamentally strong story. Learning how to let go of what you can’t control through time travel isn’t a new idea, but it’s performed so earnestly it’s easy to root for Barry to save the day.

Miller has been playing this character for nearly a decade, and despite his well-reported (though unproven) off-screen antics, he does a great job in double duty in two roles as present and past Barry Allen. He plays multiple version of Flash with great distinction.

The rest of the cast seems relaxed and leaning into the goofy tone of the film. The screenwriting, dialogue and film editing is cringey and stilted. Even though most of it is unfunny, the cast is dedicated enough to play it honestly so gags occasionally land. I’ll admit one gimmick about Barry racing to clean his apartment was memorably hilarious.

Yet for all the slick execution, there are some glaring faults in the technical filmmaking of The Flash. Some of the CGI effects are poorly rendered and cheap; with the technology available today, there’s no excuse to not factor this into the budget.

I also had two problems with Muschietti’s complete vision. The run time is too long for such an intimate story with so few main characters, and despite the PG rating in Ontario, the violence, coarse language and humour topics are strong enough this should really be 14A.

Despite these shortcomings, superhero fans and especially fans of the DC heroes universe will adore The Flash. Compared to some other thin DC films, there’s definitely more good than bad running for it, despite the tired time travel schtick.

Like the hit song goes: it’ll drive you insane. But it’s still fun to do the Time Warp again.

The Flash

6 out of 10

PG, 2hrs 24mins. Sci-Fi Comedy Superhero Action.

Directed by Andy Muschietti.

Starring Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ben Affleck and Kiersey Clemons.

Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, 5 Drive-In, Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX.