Metro Weekly

‘The Flash’ Review: Fast Forward

'The Flash' is lighter on its feet than most of DC’s recent superhero movies, serving up a solid encore from Michael Keaton.

Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, and Miller again in The Flash
Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, and Miller again in The Flash

If you long to uncover the surprise cameos in The Flash (★★★☆☆), look no further than IMDb, which has listed every single (uncredited) appearance on the movie’s full cast list. Some cameos are clever, while others are slightly creepy –- yet another example of CGI eerily resurrecting the dead. The moment of surprise and awe, saved for the film’s finale, is couched in an eyesore of messy special effects, as spherical multiverses collide.

Andy Muschietti’s film is among the more enjoyable entries in DC’s ongoing futile attempt to compete with rival Marvel’s superhero juggernaut. But while Marvel acolytes are quick to dump on DC, let us remember that DC actually got the superhero movie ball rolling back in the ’70s and ’80s with two elegant, magnificent Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, and two Tim Burton-helmed Batmans, featuring Michael Keaton in a surprising and commanding portrayal.

In the here and now, however, in the afterbirth of Zack Snyder’s sour, leaden takes on both Superman and the Justice League, The Flash goes down like a sparkling tonic. Most of this is due to the lively, strong performance of nonbinary actor Ezra Miller, who, personal and legal issues aside, is captivating as Barry Allen, the fastest man alive.

The movie leans into Miller’s talents for both gravitas and wackadoodle, off-kilter comedy. They literally get to play against themself — quite magnificently — for much of the film, creating two very distinct versions of Barry.

The film’s narrative is well-known — just watch the trailer — and is based on the DC comic series Flashpoint. Despite the cautions of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, who feels like he’s making a quick stop to pick up a severance check), Barry turns back time to save his mother’s life, and also save his father from her falsely accused murder. It’s the ultimate family fixer-upper.

But Barry creates a butterfly effect, generating a new timeline where a younger Barry emerges as a superpower-free, goofball college freshman. Also, maniacal General Zod (Michael Shannon, sorely underused) is back, ready to terraform Earth into New Krypton — and this time with no meta-humans to stop him.

Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle in The Flash
Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle in The Flash

Well, almost no meta-humans. Turns out there’s Supergirl (Sasha Calle, in one of the most instantly forgettable performances of the year). And, of course, Batman. But not the Ben Affleck Batman, already at the bank cashing his check, but the Keaton version, slightly loopy, keenly alert, and with a mischievous twinkle in his cowled eyes.

Keaton laps up the role like a kitten — no, like a vampire bat draining a puddle of fresh blood. He’s clearly enjoying his last hurrah, and every second he’s on screen, and the iconic Danny Elfman theme soars, it creates, for those of us in the audience old enough to remember, a satisfying rush of nostalgia and joy.

There are things director Muschietti does extremely well. One of those is an early sequence that offers up The Flash’s POV while he’s racing several hundred miles at top speed. It’s a ravishing work of visual splendor that makes us feel fully immersed, a gorgeous high note that is, regrettably, never played again.

Muschetti also concocts a terrific opening action sequence, finding The Flash — “the janitor of the Justice League” — cleaning up after Batman, including a strange but amusing scene featuring him saving a dozen newborns — and a dog — from a nasty fall. The film’s setpieces, by and large, have a playful Rube Goldberg nuttiness to them.

Once Barry is in the past, we get the equivalent of an origin story as the plot gradually inches its way to a multiverse-enriched, “Made-for-IMAX 3D” climax. It’s not a bad ending, but it doesn’t come close to touching the recent closers for Across the Spider-Verse or Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

Indeed, unlike James Gunn’s powerful, emotionally rich Guardians 3, Muschetti’s Flash feels disposable and a little bit pointless. It is, therefore, perhaps an encouraging sign that Gunn is now in charge of the future DC slate. He has the opportunity to wipe the “Snyder-mess” clean and remake things in a way that hopefully will resonate with as much power as his own films have for Marvel.

The Flash is now playing in theaters nationwide. Visit

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