Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Christina Hodson, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Joby Harold
Starring: Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdu, Michael Keaton
Released: June 15, 2023
Grade: B+

The Flash

The Flash is the 13th instalment in the DC Extended Universe and to an extent, it’s offering up the sort of formulaic stuff you’d expect to see in a superhero movie.  It opens with chaos in Gotham City as stereotypical bad guys steal a nasty virus and flee in a long car chase.  It’s got alternate universes where people use terms like “space-time continuum” and “causal loops”.  It’s got elaborate, special-effect heavy action sequences involving collapsed buildings and narrow escapes.

Despite all of the above semi-negatives, The Flash is to be praised for the chances it takes in other areas.  Instead of being centred on mindless action (like the recent Fast X), it’s more of a character-driven piece.  We spend more time watching the heroes think about solutions to their growing list of problems… as opposed to mindless, monotonous fistfights.  The computer-gameish battle scenes which open and close the film are the weakest part.  The large chunk in the middle is very good.

Star Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) originated the role in 2017’s Justice League but this is his first chance at a standalone film.  He’s excellent as the title character and that’s partly because he gets two chances to showcase his talent!  The Flash, realising he can travel back in time, foolishly uses that ability to change a traumatic childhood event.  He fumbles his return to the present and winds up in an alternate timeline alongside the 18-year-old version of himself.  The visual effects team do a stellar job making their interactions appear organic, the make-up artists differentiate the pair through hairstyling, and Miller gives each version of The Flash a distinctive persona.

There’s a villain here but, in trying to avoid spoilers, their role is almost non-existent (another refreshing surprise).  The film is largely about someone getting the bizarre opportunity to interact with their younger, more-immature self, and solving the riddles of The Butterfly Effect.  In the process, our two protagonists interact with an assortment of other heroes, some old and some new, which add nostalgia, fun, and interest.

The mixed tones don’t always blend seamlessly together.  Someone will be cracking a joke in one scene and then moments later, are in a perilous situation aimed at extracting audience suspense.  I’d say I enjoyed the film more for its comedy than drama.  There are great pop culture references and, with a bit of luck, it might revive the career of Eric Stoltz.  As a fan of Italian food, I’ll also applaud any attempt at using spaghetti to explain the intricacies of time travel.

Worth staying until the very end of the closing credits, The Flash is a “thumbs up” entry in the DC Extended Universe.