By Bob Garver
It’s been a whole two weeks since “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” opened, so it’s about time we had another superhero multiverse movie. This one takes place in the DC Extended Universe, which means we’re sure to get some fun takes on Batman and Superman. It’s enough to make one forget that “The Flash” is even in this movie, even though his name is the movie’s entire title. It’s no surprise that the main character is being de-emphasized, given that actor Ezra Miller has spent the last three years embroiled in one scandal after another. That said, if you can look past Miller’s offscreen behavior (and I don’t blame you if you can’t), you’ll find a movie that does justice to Batman, Superman, and especially The Flash.
Chemically-altered forensic scientist Barry Allen (Miller) is the titular speedy superhero, always good for saving many lives at once, but his true passion is finding a way to prove that his father (Ron Livingston) is not the one that murdered his mother (Maribel Verdu) when he was a child, a crime for which his father has spent the last twenty years in prison. One night, while running particularly fast, Barry discovers that he can go against the Earth’s rotation and go back in time. If he can use this newfound ability the right way, he can save not only his father from prison, but his mother’s life. Fellow Justice League member Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) warns him not to mess with things that have to happen, but what harm can a single lifesaving can of tomato sauce do? As it turns out, it doesn’t do any harm twenty years ago, but it does a lot of harm ten years ago.
It turns out that Barry’s trip back in time altered not only the past that he wanted, but the past after that, and even the past even before that. There’s a whole convoluted explanation with spaghetti noodles and a mystery attacker, but the short version is that Barry is now stuck ten years in the past with his younger self (and his parents, who he’s desperate to not lose again), no Superman, and General Zod (Michael Shannon) invading Earth and ready to destroy humanity. Only one member of the Justice League exists in this universe, and it’s an aging version of Batman (Michael “99% of this movie’s business” Keaton), who might just be up for one last adventure. Barry assumes the mission to save the planet will eventually involve Superman, but he has to settle for his cousin Kara (Sasha Calle).
We get a very exciting, very funny action scene with a maternity ward early in the movie, and then the action is bland after that. It’s a thrill to see Keaton back, but his arc descends into blandness too. Shannon and Calle are bland the entire time. Only two things kept me awake for over two hours: Barry’s journey and multiverse goodies. I’m serious about that first one – Miller is funny, sympathetic, and has seamless chemistry with… himself. I hope that he can pay his debt to society in such a way that he can return to the big screen soon.
As for the multiverse surprises that make the fans go crazy, you’ll get them, don’t worry. There are some doozies to be sure, but do yourself a favor and don’t make your viewing experience all about them. For one thing, you’ll be waiting a long time, as the best ones don’t show up until well into the third act. More importantly, you shouldn’t let tunnel vision for cameos get in the way of a pretty good movie about “The Flash.”
“The Flash” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some strong language and partial nudity. Its running time is 146 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at email@example.com.