The Flash: a film of rumored cinematic brilliance. The much publicized event, delayed constantly due to the pandemic and a litany of creative fallouts, finally descended upon fans and critics alike. Warner Bros. capitalized on the publicity of the 2023 CinemaCon to screen the film for intended guests, meaning we now have a wide array of accounts for the movie that Warner Discovery head David Zaslav believes is the greatest superhero movie ever made. The reactions to the screening are overwhelmingly positive, which (to be fair) is a common result of any major screening for a hotly anticipated blockbuster. The exuberance centered around the performance of Ezra Miller, the return of Michael Keaton’s Batman, the debut of Sasha Calle’s Supergirl, and a purportedly excellent display of storytelling and visual splendor from IT (2017) director Andy Muschietti.
All that, and I haven’t even mentioned Ben Affleck’s Batman, who will likely steal a couple of scenes and a potential cornucopia of DC-related surprises. To which, I hope these testimonials are all pointing to a truly excellent movie experience. For following the journey of The Flash to the big screen has been an exhaustive experience. This very site has held off on even doing a preview because the movie has been delayed so many times. Exacerbating issues, Ezra Miller morphed into a real-life Ricky Spanish, terrorizing citizens, assaulting a woman on camera, kidnapping children, and evading law enforcement… eh, allegedly… mostly. The actor released a statement last year, accepting blame for their transgressions and promising to enter recovery for reported mental health concerns. Miller has been absent from the film’s press tour, which is for the best.
Yet, if that wasn’t enough baggage that the movie has to carry, it will arrive during a crucial period for both Warner Discovery and the landscape of streaming and theatrical filmmaking. We’re just on the verge of Max, the completely unnecessary re-branding of HBO Max. Seriously, no one cares that Discovery has joined the Warner family, do we need to throw a block party for the arrival of 90 Day Fiancé and My 600-Ib Life? Add another hub to the on-screen menu, throw that shit on there, and call it a day.
But, I digress; the merger of Warner Bros and Discovery is just another layer to what was always an inevitability – the reboot of the DC Cinematic Universe. Zaslav wants future DC films to be released exclusively in theaters… which I guess is supposed to be some groundbreaking idea, or something. Meanwhile, fan favorite film director James Gunn has been tasked to guide this new initiative, acting as the effective “show-runner” of the new continuity for both films and streaming series, including a 2025 Superman reboot to be written and directed by Gunn. Which is how we segue this convoluted mess back to The Flash – Andy Muschietti’s universe-hopping adventure is the bridge from the decaying old continuity, to the new rebooted universe that will house all of the hopes and dreams of tortured DC fans, many of whom have seen several of these brand overhauls in the past.
Will the new strategy, masterminded by Zaslav and Gunn, end up sticking? Well, The Flash is a crucial first step to ensure that happens. The film centers around Barry Allen (Miller) and his quest to go back in time and save his deceased family. However, complications arise, opening the door for unintended consequences that threaten to destroy Barry’s world as well as the next. The newest trailer, maybe the final trailer, is an encapsulation of the stakes and intense spectacle that Muschietti will hope to enact upon audiences on June 16th:
I like it, and it looks really fun. Does it look perfect? No, there’s the potential for CGI overload, and the references and Easter eggs could get annoying if not moderated properly. But it just looks like a living, breathing, walking comic book splash page come to vivid life. The cinematography, the scope of the landscapes, and the movement of The Flash, it all just feels like an event that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Michael Shannon’s appearance as Zod is the return of the most intimidating and successfully rendered DCEU villain (hell, he’s probably the only well-done baddie this continuity has had). Affleck finally gets a chance to get the stench of Batman V Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017) off of him. Keaton, arguably still the best Batman, looks like he’s going to dominate with this performance, while the stakes of the movie at least appear focused on one singular goal and idea.
Seeing multiple Batmen lament the effects of time and loss to Barry is going to create an underbelly of an emotional current, and the movie just needs to stick the landing on that outpouring of emotion. But so far, so good. It looks great, and the story is trying to employ genuine pathos. What may make or break the film is that Andy Muschietti and his crew are tasked with trying to humanize the on-screen presence of Ezra Miller, despite the fact that the actor has been vilified online for his criminal behavior. That won’t be an easy task, especially considering this is a story that will definitely require you to root for Barry Allen in order for the narrative to be successful.
But maybe they can get there. The Flash himself embodies many of the greatest ideals of the superhero archetype. He’s a simplistic character on the surface – a guy that can run fast. Sure, he possesses other strengths, such as various telepathic abilities, the ability to traverse the multiverse, and the power to manipulate sounds and universal elements. But people know him and love him because he can run fast. Yet, his very human dilemmas mean this God-like being still struggles to achieve the goals he truly wants. That’s Superhero 101. People want to believe in heroes, and it would be apropos that the one silver lining in this mess of a cinematic universe is that its potential curtain call may remind us why we love these silly-looking characters in the first place.
races takes its sweet time to escape development hell, finally arriving in theaters everywhere on June 16th, 2023.