The Flash (2023)

Like it or lump it, after delays, and delays, and restarts, and bad press, and alterations, and production problems “The Flash” is finally here. And–I lumped it. It’s not to say that “The Flash” is the worst movie from the DCEU yet, but it’s definitely not one of the best. It’s a shame as the trailers inspired so much optimism and enthusiasm, but at the end of the day, it’s a terribly mixed bag with occasional redeeming qualities. Beyond the fan service, and Easter eggs scattered throughout, “The Flash” is right at the level of “Shazam: Fury of the Gods”; whether or not that’s a positive perspective is up to you.

Worlds collide when the Flash uses his superpowers to travel back in time to change the events of the past. However, when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, he becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation. With no other superheroes to turn to, the Flash looks to coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian — albeit not the one he’s looking for.

“The Flash” is a pseudo-adaptation of the “Flashpoint Paradox” in where The Flash pretty much resets the DC Universe. Director Andy Muschietti is given the task of offering a movie that pretty much works as a reset button for the DC Movie Universe, leading in to a new direction and new castings. Despite firmly clicking in to the DCEU and giving us a reason to follow Barry Allen, “The Flash” is just a mess. Tonally the movie is all over the place, bouncing from slapstick comedy, to science fiction adventure, to end of the world drama, and never quite figures out what it wants to do through the very end. Much as I loved the Easter eggs (the final two minutes were just great), the movie feels more committed to making those winks and nods, rather than building on the dramatic momentum of Barry Allen’s life.

This is a character that is torn up about the death of his mother, and the wrongful imprisonment of his dad, and yet the movie is played for laughs more than anything. Every event, in spite of being described as universe shattering, feels low stakes, and awkwardly injected. Technically, there’s not even a real villain, here. It’s all just a play on “Back to the Future,” but with multiverses. And the latter is mentioned more than it is depicted. The only coherent sub-plot in the entire film is the return of Batman. It’s no spoiler to indicate which Batman as the trailers gave that away wholesale. But Batman has so much more to do here in terms of character drama, and conflict in his short time on screen than Barry Allen does as the center of the film.

Even the more intimate moments involving his family are fleeting, with not a lot of emotional weight placed on their major significance to the entire film. For all intents and purposes, Sasha Calle is good as Supergirl, while Michael Shannon does a bang up job returning as General Zod. “The Flash” is just serviceable; it’s such a shame that it never decides on a real direction. It wants to be a science fiction drama, a superhero comedy, and fan service all rolled in to what felt like a two hour comic book movie constructed by a committee. Andy Muschietti deserves so much better.