To say that there is drama surrounding The Flash would be something of an understatement — and this applies both on-screen and off.
There’s plenty of drama within the film itself, as superhero speedster the Flash (a.k.a. Barry Allen figures out how to run fast enough to travel back in time and change the past, and inadvertently ends up breaking the fabric of reality.
However, there’s also plenty of complicated buzz surrounding the release of the film itself. One, it comes at a time of upheaval for the DC cinematic universe, as James Gunn and Peter Safran now take the helm and are launching a hard reset. How much impact will The Flash have on the future of the new DC movies? Only time will tell.
Second, the film’s star Ezra Miller has had a particularly troubled past few years. The actor has attracted some concerning allegations, and that’s put a damper on the film’s release. Whether this is a reason to not buy a ticket, or rather to separate the art from the artist and see the movie in support of the other creatives involved, is a decision fans will have to make individually.
In terms of the film itself and the story being told, I really liked The Flash. It’s not a perfect movie, but it was funny and action-packed and heartfelt. There were few moments of dodgy special effects, and sometimes the double Flashes were a bit much (present and past Barry appear in the film alongside each other, as separate characters).
But just when I worried that the film would derail itself, there would be a great moment or compelling twist that would pull me right back in. I want to go back to the theater to see it again, which is actually something I can’t say about several other recent DC or Marvel films.
There is a lot of fan service in this movie, and even though sometimes the nostalgia veered towards being too indulgent, you know what? I liked it. I loved seeing Michael Keaton return as Batman and thought he was used well. It was great to see some other DC superheroes again, especially since this may well be their last appearance in the DC cinematic universe.
I generally liked Ezra Miller’s performance as Barry Allen/Flash, even though I think my favorite live action Flash is still the CW’s Grant Gustin. Sometimes younger Flash from the past got a little annoying, but let’s be honest, we were probably all a little annoying as teenagers. And since present-day Flash is annoyed with him too, it works in the context of the story.
The special effects for Barry’s speedster time travel seemed cool, portrayed as a sort of kaleidoscope collapsing in on itself. Marvel has already been playing around with the multiverse in their cinematic universe, but The Flash still managed to feel fresh and different.
No matter how impressive the action, a good superhero movie still needs a solid emotional core. Barry’s time-travel meddling is sparked by his grief over the loss of his mother and his desire to try to change the past. One of the most heartbreaking and powerful moments is when he goes into his history one final time to reset the timeline, allowing his mother to die so that the time/space continuum is not broken and the universe can survive. He knows he’s ultimately doing the right thing, but it guts him, and it guts us too.
I was genuinely surprised to hear this movie underperformed at the box office, since the buzz I’ve heard from fans is genuinely positive. It’s a fun popcorn movie with nostalgic ties (particularly the appearance of Keaton), and I’m not sure why it isn’t gaining more traction.
Are people tapping out of the DC films because they’re waiting for Gunn’s reset, or is it superhero fatigue in general? I know people have been crying “superhero fatigue” for years, but this time I think there might actually be something to it. To clarify: I don’t think people are done with superhero films. by any means. I just don’t think superhero movies are the guaranteed slam-dunk hits they were in the glory days of the MCU. People are simply getting “pickier,” for lack of a better word, especially since they don’t have to wait long to catch theatrical releases on streaming.
In any case, I personally feel The Flash is worth a trip to the theaters if you’re a big superhero movie fan, and particularly if you follow the DC cinematic universe and the CW series. I think this film flopped at the box office not because it’s a bad film (as mentioned previously, I personally really enjoyed it), but because there’s too many outside factors working against it.