"...a great hour and a half ride that ends in a car crash with a cameo that no one wants to see."

After a Great Start the Flash's Tank Runs Dry

(070623) The Flash is a very polarizing film that is likely to pull audiences in many different directions. Although there are genuinely fine performances and moments through out, and it comes very close to being a good movie. Unfortunately, the script goes terribly wrong in the second half and finally imploded before my eyes. All of which presents a problem for critics: what do you do when you really love half a film and loathes the other half of it? On the DCEU movie scale Flash falls somewhere in the middle ground between the aesthetically successful DC films like Matt Reeves' the Batman, or the first Gal Gadot Wonder Woman film and total bombs like the first Suicide Squad or Black Adam. But saying this effort is better than most of the other recent DC films is kind of like saying Spam is more nutritional and tasty than horse manure.

First letís get to the good parts. The initial premise of the Flash going back in time to prevent his momís death is inspired by the Flashpoint comic, although it plays out much differently here. The premise is initially fascinating creating the multiple variant cameo's, but comes with the unfortunate side effect of reducing the Barry Allen to being a supporting character in his own film (a problem shared with this years Ant Man Quantumania). I suspect the producers didnít have enough faith in the lead Ezra Miller after his recent bad publicity or in The Flash character who has rarely been as popular as Superman or Batman. While most of the early cameos with Snyder-verse alums work well and are integral to the story, the later reality-bending variant cameo's do not. While these arguably might be why most of the audience see the film in the first place, unfortunately all of this this sidetracks the principle's story. And loading up the Movie Trailer Previews with all of these guest-stars sabotage's what could have been some of the filmís biggest surprises.

All of the Snyder-verse celebrity superhero cameos (even the alternate versions) in the first half are delightful. I even liked the Ben Affleck Batman here who usually annoyed me in other films. Also the brief cameo by Gal Gadot, who in my opinion has been the best possible version of the Amazon princess, sparkles and the camera clearly loves her. On the other hand, a certain Sea Kingís brief appearance is an unnecessary travesty that does not advance the plot at all and comes off as a transparent attempt to publicize his upcoming film. Here it only serves to degrade the character.

Unfortunately, the alternate version cameos are a mixed bag. I was one of the few people who thought Michael Keaton was miscast in the Tim Burton Batman flicks (he was an ok Batman but he was too demure to be Bruce Wayne) although I liked the two Burton Batman films enough. But this broken alternate version of the caped crusader as a grizzled, anti-social senior citizen hermit (he has no purpose because Gotham is now crime free) is terrific and perhaps the main reason to see the film. Encountering this character feels as good as randomly running into an old friend you have not seen for years.

Newcomer Sasha Calle's alternate version of Supergirl is also fascinating. She is (and this gets confusing) physically based on an alternate Supergirl from the comics who is the daughter of Clark Kent in an alternate reality. She seems to suffer from PSD because of an extended period of imprisonment. This less girly, tougher personality is like the opposite of the more traditionally feminine TV Supergirl (well-played by Melisa Benoist). This alternate version is more like a raven haired version of the comics Power Girl, who is yet another another alternate version of Supergirl-and unlike the Marvel Uís Captain Marvel there is a valid reason for her difficult attitude. Allegedly the actress is in talks to appear in this role again-something I look forward to.

Thanks to the original story, we know right away that once the Flash uses the Speed Force to change the timeline things will go bad almost immediately. For the uninitiated, the two versions of Batman even warn him about it. Somehow, the Flashís actions in changing the past create a new reality that has no Earth born super powered heroes inhabiting it. In this way itís kind of like the Watchmen reality, a timeline I canít recommend enough-either the comic series or the TV show. The events of
Man of Steel follow sans Superman as the evil Kryptonian-General Zod arrives on earth looking to turn it into a New Krypton. Underrated character actor Michael Shannon returns to the role and unless the now two versions of the Flash and Supergirl stop him the world with be terra-formed and humans will be either second class citizens or dead. Shannon is fine but the film does not allow him to show his full acting capabilities.

But what makes the situation truly compelling is that once Flash changes time he loses his powers and must mentor a younger version of himself who has yet to get powers. This makes our Flash the mature one and must in effect play father to his younger, terribly immature, bratty doppelganger. Here Ezra Miller does a great job portraying the two versions of himself as separate individual people and the situation allows for fine character development of both characters.

This is reputedly the most expensive film ever made, and you might be wondering if the money was used well-I would have to say no. There are parts of the film where the effects look shockingly amateurish. The CGI effects and some of the superhero cameos toward the end look like they could have been pasted into the film by a ten-year-old. Most of the last half an hour after the true villain appears degenerates into an ugly, dark, repulsive mess and it will leave viewers with a sour taste in their mouths. The ending, which I won't reveal negates the whole point of the rest of the film, and not in a good way like we saw in the Twin Peaks TV series. On one hand the movie wants the hero to learn his lesson and on the other it wants to make him happy. The film canít do both and it is diminished when it tries to. I suspect that what must have happened here is that too many cooks over three Administrations at Warner's must have spoiled the soup. There were rumors of extensive studio meddling and subsequent rewrites and boy does it show. I guess the studio did not learn their lesson after the theatrical release of Justice League. There is no way that the person who wrote the solidly effective first half (Christina Hobson) could have believed this film followed through with her vision in the end. The film is like a great hour and a half ride that ends in a car crash with a cameo that no one wants to see.

For some superhero flick fans, it is probably worth seeing in the theatre, but for me it was definitely not worth a full admission even on discount day. It was a close call, but the film didnít work in the end for me. Itís all the more disappointing because the film showed so much promise in the beginning. The best alternate reality film by far is
Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Directed by:    Andres Muschietti
Written by:    Screenplay by Christina Hobson, from a story by
 John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, and Joby
 Herold. Adapted from the comic series Flashpoint
Starring:    Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Keaton
Released:    06/16/23 (USA-wide)
Length:    144 minutes
Rating:    PG 13 for sequences of action and violence, some
 strong language and partial nudity
Available On:    At press time the film was playing at local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Come to the next session of the Monthly Poetry Show on the first Saturday on July 8 at Tangible Books in Bridgeport from 7-9 at 3324 South Halsted hosted by Vittorio Carli.
Special features will include Bob Lawrence, Clair ďFluffĒ Llewellyn, Peter Pero, Ivan Ramos and Nicholas Michael Ravnikar

THE FLASH© 2023 Warner Bros Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.




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