Friday, June 23, 2023

Review: Miller, Keaton Speed "THE FLASH" Forward

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 of 2023 (No. 1915) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Flash (2023)
Running time:  144 minutes (2 hours, 24 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some strong language and partial nudity
DIRECTOR:  Andy Muschietti
WRITERS:  Christina Hodson; from a screen story by John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Joby Harold (based on the DC Comics characters)
PRODUCERS:  Barbara Muschietti and Michael Disco
EDITORS:  Jason Ballantine and Paul Machliss
COMPOSER:  Benjamin Wallfisch


Starring:  Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdu, Kiesey Clemons, Antje Traue Temuera Morrison, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Jason Momoa, and Jeremy Irons

The Flash is a 2023 superhero and action-fantasy film directed by Andy Muschietti.  The film is based on the DC Comics character, The Flash, with the two most famous versions being created by the teams of writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert and writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino.  The film is the 13th entry in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).  In The Flash, the superhero known as “the fastest man alive” uses his super-speed to change his family's tragic past, but also creates a world without superheroes.

The Flash opens at a very important time in the life of Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller).  His father, Henry Allen (Ron Livingston), has been imprisoned, wrongfully convicted for murdering his wife and Ezra's mother, Nora Allen (Maribel Verdu).  As a police forensic investigator for the Central City Police Department, Barry has been using his knowledge and connections in a bid to free his father, whose next appeal of his conviction is a day away.

However, Barry's superhero life intrudes, so he races to Gotham City where he helps Batman (Ben Affleck) stop a terrorist group.  After that, the Flash visits his childhood home.  Overcome by his emotions, Barry starts running so fast that he does not realize that his power, super-speed, has tapped into the “Speed Force” to such an extent that he has traveled back in time.  Although Batman's alter-ego, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), warns him against doing so, the Flash travels back in time, again.

He returns to the day his mother was murdered and changes events in order to save her life, and the thing about which Bruce warned Barry occurs, the unintended consequences of time travel.  Soon, Barry comes face to face with his younger self, college-age Barry (Ezra Miller).  Not long afterwards, Barry learns that his big change to the past has also created an Earth without superheroes.  As an alien threat looms, the two Barrys seek out the one superhero everyone knows exists – or at least once existed, Batman.  However, this Earth's Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) does not want to be Batman again, even if it dooms the world.

When I first heard of the premise of The Flash, I knew that Warner Bros. Pictures wanted to make its on version of Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios' multiverse adventure, Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).  Unlike this very sharp Spider-Man flick, The Flash is not as crisp and as efficient.  The Flash's action scenes are always at least a minute too long and too overdone.  The drama is a bit too melodramatic, sometimes in danger of being corny.  Still, director Andy Muschietti and his editors offer a film that is often quite engaging, thrilling, and entertaining.

I believe that the persons that really carry The Flash are first, Ezra Miller as The Flash/Barry Allen and as younger Barry Allen and second, Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne.  This time around Ezra offers a superhero and alter-ego that are both far less annoying and forced than they were in Joss Whedon's 2016 superhero film, Justice League.  Miller is so good at portraying two versions of Barry that they seem like distinctly different people and personalities.  Here, Miller's Flash is more like a quirky character than in Justice League, where he seemed like bad character writing and a resulting confused and awkward performance.  Sadly, Miller's legal problems may keep them from portraying the Flash again, which is a shame.  They have finally got a bead on how to play that kind of character in a way that makes him endearing.

To a slightly lesser extent, Michael Keaton also carries this film.  His Batman/Bruce Wayne is one of the most famous iterations of the character, having appeared in director Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).  Keaton revives the beats of the way he played the character over three decades ago, while adding a lot of new flavors to his character and new engagement in his performance.  After this appearance, I would really like to see more of Keaton's Batman.

Ben Affleck also makes a really nice turn as the “DCEU Batman/Bruce Wayne.”  Sasha Calle as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl gives a performance that makes the character seem shoe-horned into this film.  And there are some delightful cameos from other actors and characters that have appeared in DC Comics-related film and television series.  Plus, there is a surprise appearance from another cinematic Batman.  As I have said, however, Ezra Miller and Michael Keaton put a light-speed jolt into The Flash.  I found The Flash entertaining, but I'm giving it the grade I am because of Miller and Keaton.

[The Flash has one scene at the end of the credits.]

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, June 23, 2023

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