The Flash Movie Review: A moving tale buried beneath layers of messy execution

The faint heartbeat at the core of the film could be felt through layers of barely functional flab.
The Flash was announced as a grand wrap-up for the DC films so far and was said to reset the DC universe .
The Flash was announced as a grand wrap-up for the DC films so far and was said to reset the DC universe .

One of the most common criticisms against blockbuster cinema is how the spectacle often ends up overriding the emotional core. Interestingly, one of the most hyped, special effects lathered, comic book movies in recent times, happens to have the opposite problem. The Flash fails to incite your excitement through its extravagant spectacles, and opulent fan service, but you cannot deny the fact that the story at the very heart of the film does what good stories have always done: it connects with you and moves you. The faint heartbeat at the core of the film could be felt through layers of barely functional flab.

Also Read: Michael Keaton expected to return as Batman in the Flash movie

Barry Allen/The Flash discovers that if he pushes his super speed hard enough, he can travel back in time. Suppressing every instinct and advice, he then decides to use that power to save his mom from getting killed when he was a child. The action and adventure elements of the film are extracted from Barry dealing with the repercussions of altering the past. The alternate timeline he accidentally ends up creating is loaded with cameos and references to past DC outings. It is important to point out that fan servicing might not be a bad thing but the execution could warrant varying degrees of criticism. For example, someone who did not grow up with Michael Keaton's Batman would be indifferent towards him spouting one-liners from Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). However, owing to Keaton’s involved performance (who is clearly having fun), that fan service could hardly feel like an extraneous addition for the non-Keaton fans. That being said, the unapologetically soulless CGI cameos from legacy DC films, make one feel like they were forced to chew an entire plastic bucket. There was nothing inventive or creative about these pre-climax CGI cameos. The characters just stand and stare blankly.

Over the course of seven years, The Flash went through a number of production hurdles like directors getting swapped left and right, and to top it all off, the leading actor Ezra Miller was shrouded in multiple controversies and misconduct allegations. Ethical questions were understandably raised against the makers’ choice to retain Miller in the film, despite the allegations. An audience member's positioning on the art vs artist argument will determine their response to The Flash considering the emotional heft of the film is predicated upon a wonderful performance by Ezra Miller.  

Also read: The young Barry Allen from CW's The Flash, Logan Williams passes away at 16

The plastic artificiality of the visual effects sadly extends towards the dialogues as well. It ends up affecting the humour, rendering them flat and inert. The dialogues, which move to heart-tugging heights at places —like during the climactic argument between the two Barry’s—fall to contradicting depths in other places. Like when Ben Affleck’s Batman tells Barry Allen to not let the tragedy of his past define him, moments before telling him how “The scars we have, make us who we are.” We understand what they’re going for but the dialogue fails to focus on the intent of the particular moment it was designed for. Such contradictory dialogues are emblematic of the larger issue with the writing.

The Flash was announced as a grand wrap-up for the DC films so far and was said to reset the DC universe before James Gunn’s new plans kick in. While the homages, cameos, and references do manage to do that, the film itself lacks a sense of finality.

Also Read: Ray Fisher Confirms Warner Bros has removed Cyborg from the Flash movie

Beyond the long-delayed production, the messy visual language, the noise around the Ezra Miller controversy, and the weight of expectations to reboot an entire cinematic universe, lies a poignant tale about loss, grief, and acceptance. The film has so much going around it but what ultimately manages to connect with us is Barry Allen’s deeply personal emotional journey. Like the two Barry Allens we find in the film, The Flash itself is two films; one is about a god-like superhero trying to save a multi-billion dollar cinematic universe, drawing upon the powers of the franchise and its earlier films. The other is about a man trying to come to terms with the loss of his mother, struggling to deal with his helplessness against overwhelming grief, and finally learning how to let go. Needless to say, it is the latter that manages to stay with us long after the credits roll.

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