The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE FLASH | The Movie Waffler


Travelling back in time to save his family, Barry Allen unwittingly disturbs the present.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Starring: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Michael Shannon, Sasha Calle, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdu, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue

The Flash poster

In the summer of 1989 the world succumbed to bat-fever. Tim Burton's Batman was a sensation in a way few movies have been since. Sure, other blockbusters have sold more tickets in the years since, but I can't think of any that have dominated pop culture for an entire summer the way Burton's film did. Everywhere you looked in '89 people were sporting black t-shirts bearing the iconic bat logo. Prince's hit singles 'Batdance' and 'Partyman' seemed to be on an endless loop on radio and MTV. The buzz around screen legend Jack Nicholson playing the Joker was electric. Strange as it seems now, nobody was excited about the actor cast as the caped crusader, Michael Keaton. At the time superheroes were synonymous with chiselled jaws and bulging biceps. Why was this comedy actor with a terrible mullet cast as Bruce Wayne? As they so often are, comic book fans were incensed at the casting choice (thankfully they didn't have internet access back then). But the fans were proved wrong as Keaton won them over, convincing as both the charming Wayne and the brooding Batman. Today, most fans consider him the definitive screen Batman.

When it was announced that Keaton would return to the role for The Flash, it seemed like a purely cynical piece of fan service. Let's face it, it is a cynical piece of fan service. But this is a rare case of fan-pandering that actually works. Keaton is a couple of years older than Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and a couple of decades older than Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again, yet he brings a vitality to the part that was sorely lacking in those famous returns to signature roles. In 1989 many people didn't view Keaton as traditionally good looking enough to play Batman, but now he's the most handsome 70-year-old you could imagine. When he dons the famous mask, his jaw is as square as any actor who pulled on the batsuit. Whenever he's on screen in The Flash, any doubts dissipate instantly. We've doubted Keaton twice, but he's convinced us yet again. He's Batman!

The Flash review

Of course, this movie isn't called Batman (much to the annoyance of Hollywood bean counters, no doubt), it's called The Flash. It's the first standalone movie for Ezra Miller's Barry Allen aka The Flash, and most likely the last, given Miller's well documented string of real life crimes. It does however open with a fun sequence that sees The Flash team up with his Justice League buddies Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, charismatic in a way she never quite was in her character's own movies) for a very old school adventure involving a maternity hospital collapsing into a sinkhole. As director Andy Muschietti plays around with classic superhero imagery of falling babies being saved midair and Batman and Wonder Woman flirting awkwardly like adolescents, we're left to wish we had gotten a light-hearted Justice League movie rather than the moody bore Zack Snyder delivered.

Wait, if Affleck is Batman, how does Keaton fit into all this? Well, it's because like the recent Spider-Man and Doctor Strange movies, The Flash harks back to that 1972 Doctor Who special The Three Doctors and introduces the concept of a multiverse to offer various incarnations of the same character. Allen sets this in motion by using his ability to movie faster than the speed of light to travel back in time in the hopes of averting his mother's murder, which has been pinned on his dad. Visiting his childhood home and finding mom alive and kicking, Allen is chuffed until he runs into an alternate version of himself who hasn't yet acquired his powers. When it turns out that General Zod (Michael Shannon, sadly no return for Terence Stamp) has just arrived on Earth looking for Superman, the two Allens seek out Batman, only to find it's the Keaton rather than Affleck incarnation.

The Flash review

As I mentioned, once Keaton pops up the movie draws you in. Taking its cues more from the Marvel Cinematic Universe than its DC counterpart, the script has an annoying propensity to punctuate too many moments of pathos with quips, but Keaton manages to make it work. There's a loveable quality to his Bruce Wayne, whose late life is boosted by being relevant again, and you can see Keaton is experiencing something similar himself. The joy he feels in returning to this role is palpable. Remarkably, his 70-year-old form never looks ridiculous when strutting about in the iconic suit. He made me nostalgic for 1989's Batman, and I haven't even seen that movie!

To get to Keaton you have to wade through a whole lot of Miller however. I'm not one of those people who like to pretend someone is a bad actor because they're a bad person, but as the original Allen Miller lacks the required vulnerable likeability (perhaps because I'll always associate him with the creepy sociopaths they played at the start of their career in Afterschool and We Need to Talk About Kevin) while as the alternate Allen they're as annoying as '90s Pauly Shore. The portion of the movie in which Allen 1 takes Allen 2 under his wing seems to go on forever and gets bogged down in a stream of exposition and plotsplaining. It's nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is, with a gag about famous movie roles being occupied by alternate actors dragged out through pages of dialogue when it would have been infinitely more effective if we had just been shown a wall of movie posters.

The Flash review

Once Keaton arrives, the two Millers are pushed aside, and we're also introduced to Supergirl (a very good Sasha Calle), with the quartet forming a sort of makeshift alternate Justice League. As is always the case with these movies, it all leads up to a poorly staged action climax that's 15 minutes longer than it needs to be. This climactic sequence is a mess, with a jarring tone (what should be an emotionally affecting moment is ruined by a sequence of both Flashes dashing around to upbeat power pop) and shoddy CG effects that make the characters look like Gerry Anderson puppets. The goodwill generated by Keaton's committed turn is soured by a late swathe of fan service that includes yet another ethically dubious digital resurrection of a deceased star.

Ironically, The Flash moves along nicely when it's being anchored by a 70-year-old actor, but when we're left in the company of the titular speedster it halts to a snail's pace.

The Flash
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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