The Flash is upon us, and what a stellar collision course of DC cinematic worlds it truly is. Just as the promotional material promised, we not only see Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) headline his own film as the Scarlet Speedster, but we’d also get a glimpse into DC’s own version of the multiverse. This has already occurred on the Marvel side of things on a few occasions including the Disney+ series Loki and films like Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Even the latest animated adventure for the web-slinger takes us on a trek through multiple universes in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. While DC might be late to the game when it comes to a theatrical depiction of its multiverse, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
In The Flash, Barry has his work cut out for him in no small part due to his own self-serving actions. But it’s ultimately a humorous film with a copious amount of heart. While we’re entreated to a return of Michael Keaton’s Batman and a look at a modern take on Supergirl, there’s a growth story at the core of this film that sees Barry ultimately challenge his own desires to change the past with the idea that his own personal tragedies forged the person that he has become. There’s so much to love in The Flash, but let’s break down a few of the best moments within its 2-hour and 24-minute runtime.
It should go without saying, but beware of spoilers ahead for The Flash.
All the best superhero films have the wildest introductions. The Flash stands supreme among them with one of the best glances at “a day in the life” of Barry Allen. While waiting for an obnoxious worker to craft his favored sandwich at the local deli, he gets a call from Batman to save a Gotham City hospital. Where’s the Dark Knight in all of this you might ask? Well, he’s saving the entire city from a group of bad guys who could possibly kill much of the city’s population with some stolen, unsavory goods.
As the Gotham hospital collapses from its foundation, Barry must save several falling infants, a dog, and a nurse who are plummeting to their potential deaths amid the crumbling infrastructure of the building. While saving babies and a silly dog with his tongue flapping in the air in danger might seem stressful, the whole slow-mo affair is rather hysterical as intended. During Barry’s speedy heroic moment, he has to cram food down his gullet from a tumbling vending machine to fuel his ultra-fast metabolism and his rescue attempt. After saving the babies, the dog, and the nurse, he races to aid Batman. But Wonder Woman gets there first. As she entangles the two in her Lasso of Truth to save the day, both Batman and Barry admit to some hilariously insightful details about their personal lives. There are plenty of chuckles to go around in this raucous intro.
When Barry alters one minor detail in a bid to save his mother from certain death, he returns to the future and is elated to learn his mother is still alive. However, he is horrified to see his younger teenage self enter the picture living a seemingly slacker life as a college kid. As Barry attempts to figure out the rules of time travel on the fly, he realizes his younger teenage self had better obtain the Flash powers, or else he’ll lose his and won’t be able to return to his actual present day (which is still further in the future).
After he takes young Barry into the CPD and positions him in the same spot where the lightning struck him in his own timeline, everything goes awry. Barry loses his powers in the lightning strike while teenage Barry gains the powers. After bringing teenage Barry back to his apartment, the excitable kid tests out his powers before Barry can even get a word in. He races across town and then has a freak-out moment when his clothes catch fire due to air friction. He then causes a series of damages while emerging from the moment stark naked in the street.
This one really goes without saying. Let’s face it, Michael Keaton’s return as Batman is likely one of the biggest draws for folks to go see this film. When it finally happens, it’s wholly satisfying and has many of us ’80s kids reveling in the nostalgia trip. Having seemingly retired, Keaton’s Bruce Wayne eventually decides to saddle up once again as the Dark Knight to aid the two Barrys in retrieving Superman from a Russian black site. Of course, they learn that it’s actually Kara Zor-El (aka Supergirl) who is being kept there instead.
Still, witnessing Keaton’s Batman in action taking out the guards and paramilitary element is a spectacle to behold. What’s even better is later seeing Bruce smile after it all in a clear indication that he’s missed this. He’s missed being Batman. It’s a facial expression that communicates far more than any words could and caps off an incredible action sequence.
While we could discuss the incredible glimpse across the multiverse where we get to see CGI recreations of Christopher Reeves as Superman as well as the legendary Tim Burton incarnation of the Man of Steel (animated with Nic Cage’s likeness) that never saw the light of day, there is one moment that is far more impactful than any amount of fan service. Barry’s entire journey in the film begins with his unrelenting love for his mother who was killed by a home intruder when he was a young boy. He ultimately learns that as much as he’d like to change the past, it will forever alter reality and unravel who he’s become as a person.
Barry decides to head back into the past to “undo” what he had done to save his mother. In doing so, he encounters her in the grocery store and can hardly hold back the tears. She sees him as a stranger in need of comfort, encouragement, and a hug. But to Barry, the embrace is everything. Anyone who’s ever lost a loved one will be empathetic to Barry’s pain and simultaneously moved by the prospect of receiving just one more hug. It may not be our reality, but it’s a heartfelt idea that ultimately gives Barry a sense of closure and the strength to move forward.
We know that the DCEU is about to experience a change of great magnitude under the leadership of James Gunn and Peter Safran. There’s still a lot of speculation as to whether some actors will remain in their respective roles as DC heroes and who will be entering the picture amid the shake-up. While we know that both Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck are exiting their roles as Superman and Batman respectively, there was always potential for The Flash to be a means of answering a few questions regarding the future of the DCU. But it actually leaves more questions than answers concerning the future DCU. Even though, Barry set things right (mostly), like the Flashpoint comic book storyline the film is based on, there are still minor butterfly-effect ripples that change key details going forward.
When Barry exits the courthouse from his father’s successful appeal for innocence, the rejuvenated hero looks to the streets as Bruce Wayne’s car approaches. Amid the paparazzi flurry, the incarnation of Bruce Wayne that emerges from the vehicle is none other than George Clooney. Barry even emphatically states, “Who the f*** is that?” giving the film its one and only F-bomb. It’s a fun twist, that fans will enjoy through the simple understanding that George Clooney’s incarnation of the Dark Knight is recognized as the worst in the character’s on-screen legacy. Clooney obviously has a great sense of humor and jumped aboard for the cameo.
The Flash is playing in theaters nationwide.
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