dir: Andy Muschietti
On the long list of things that exist that perhaps shouldn’t, maybe we’re safe to add this flick without delay. I mean, I could definitely be wrong. In the fullness of time, its worth might spontaneously appear out of nowhere, perhaps creating a context and appeal where currently those things are so profoundly absent.
I am not a betting man, being a shameless addict of many inclinations and permutations, but all the same I would not bet on it.
The sheer, staggering pointlessness of it all…
I watched it asking myself aloud “who the fuck is this for?” at several junctures.
People trained like performing seals by the Marvel Industrial Complex aren’t going to be interested in it, as it lacks colour, decent action set pieces, competent CGI, but in truth many of the most recent Marvel flicks lack that also, especially the ones tackling multiverses or quantum realms and such. Fans of the comic or the TV show with Grant Gustin as Barry aren’t going to like it, because this is a terrible approximation of the character in comparison. I can’t imagine, if there are Snyder-Bros so adamant that Batman V Superman or Justice League were great, ackshually, that they’d be willing or able to defend this, since Snyder didn’t direct it.
Ezra Miller fans? Do they have fans anymore? If people liked them previously for their cinematic performances in such flicks as We Need to Talk About Kevin, or the Fantastic Beasts movies, they may have second thoughts now considering Miller’s extensive legal troubles.
If you’re wondering why I’m playing the pronoun game, well, Miller identifies as non-binary, and as such I am using the plural pronouns not with respect for Miller, but more so for the non-binary community. Call people what they ask. It’s common courtesy, even if they’re crims, and it costs nothing.
The Flash didn’t have to be terrible. I have to imagine a reality where it isn’t a terrible and pointless flick. Somewhere in the multiverse there is a good version of this flick.
Sadly, we don’t have access to that one – we’re stuck with this one.
The central premise of Barry Allen’s life, as the superhero The Flash, is that his mum was murdered, his father was convicted of the crime, and Barry has been trying to make up for it ever since. It’s not a million miles away from Batman’s origin story, but he wasn’t meant to be a grim-dark type of guy. And he’s not, here, but he is pretty annoying, in which ever form he takes.
The Batman / Bruce Wayne at the beginning of this is the Ben Affleck one. There are other Batmans in this flick. You, perhaps, will wonder why.
You will be disappointed by the answers, I assure you.
Unlike most heroes, Barry really misses his mum. When he realises / remembers that sometimes he can run so fast that time runs backwards, he figures out that he can go back and change things such that his mother doesn’t get murdered.
Classic Barry. It happened in the comics, and it happened in the TV series as well. As always, the story becomes a cautionary tale, in that, in case we didn’t realise, going back and changing the past changes the future.
So much so, that when Barry goes back and “saves” his mum, he changes everything so profoundly that the Back to the Future movies no longer star Michael J. Fox, but instead have Eric Stoltz as the lead.
Eric Stoltz, you know? The drug dealer in Pulp Fiction? The lead nerd in Some Kind of Wonderful. And, some other stuff? Barry saving his sainted mum changed all that.
And a lot more, too. Up to this point, Barry has been a pretty irritating and exasperating character. To help with some of the heavy lifting, the Barry we first met is supplemented with another, younger Barry, who is somehow dumber and more annoying. Ezra Miller plays both characters, which makes it easier to remember to refer to them as they and them, because…
Damn, they’ll really get on your nerves. There is a slapstick, comedic intent in many of these scenes, wherever they’re happening, with Miller trying to quip his way into and out of situations, and, it’s not great. It’s way less than great.
There are writers or directors with genuine comedic sensibilities. None were present in the making of this flick. If you’re anything like me, and by the gods I certainly hope not, you could be watching entire scenes thinking “who thought it was a good idea to leave that in?”
Actual funny lines would have helped immensely. The ones that are here, though, yeesh. Clanger after fucking clanger. I think Miller, in something else, directed by someone else, could have been really good as a hyperverbal, nerdy, nebbishy, younger Woody Allen kind of guy (ugh). None of that works here. I don’t think any of it could have worked, even with a different director.
There’s a feeling of wasted opportunity here, as well, of elements picked up, picked out and then used poorly, with little thought as to how it coheres with whatever else is going on.
To the average punter, if I was to rhetorically ask as to what Brit comedy and drama legend Sanjeev Bhaskar or the stupendous Saoirse Monica-Jackson (best known for playing the lead character Erin in Derry Girls are doing in this fucking film, they’d say “no fucking idea, who are they anyway?” But I know who they are, and I know what a waste their roles are.
And, if you were going to find a role for the magnificent woman who played a crucial role in Pan’s Labyrinth and one of the saucy leads in Y Tu Mama Tambien all those years ago, why, of course you’d just make Maribel Verdú play the murdered mum, wouldn’t you? I mean, what else could you possibly have her do in your film that cost 200 million dollars to make?
When Barry changes the present, he also somehow changes the past. Because time isn’t linear, we keep being told, any change can change everything. Hence, when Barry tracks down Batman in his new reality, Batman is now Michael Keaton from the Tim Burton Batman movies.
Plus, there are no superheroes in the world anymore, or at least none of the Justice-y ones. There’s just Barry, other Barry, old Batman and someone kept imprisoned by the Soviets.
Yep, the Soviets are still in control, Cold War not having ended. What a Brave New Cowardly World we now live in.
Barry realises that he has to also give younger Barry superpowers, otherwise he won’t have powers with which to do stuff. What this involves is staging the accident that made him super.
I wish I was making this up: it involves putting younger Barry in a chair, across from a shelf full of chemicals, so that a bolt of lightning comes through a window and hits him upside the head.
There are duller, lamer origin stories, but fucking hell. That’s terrible! And not only that, but we’re subjected to multiple other scenes of older Barry trying to regain his own powers with more lightning, more electrocutions, more lame-arse stuff. If it were that simple we’d all be running around faster than the speed of light.
Oh, yeah, and there’s stuff about Iris West, (Kiersey Clemons), love of Barry’s life in the comics / TV show. She’s here. She exists.
Does she add anything? No.
Even though everything else is different, the thing that happens that’s the same (in the continuity of the previous DC movies?) is that creeps from Krypton still invade Earth and try to destroy everything and everyone. And even though everything else can change, Zodd (Michael Shannon, who I am sure was happy to collect a paycheck during the covid lockdowns for this) destroying Earth if Superman isn’t here becomes one of those events that Barry can’t change or undo no matter how many times he tries to change things, it just seems to make things worse.
Older Barry gets this. Younger Barry, being dumber, doesn’t get this, until he gets this better than Older Barry.
But there’s another Barry, and he’s covered in metal, for some reason, and he keeps trying to change time, which destroys, I dunno, these giant bubbles, which contain Superman as played by George Reeves, and Batman from the tv show in 1966, and the Christopher Reeves Superman from the 70s, along with Helen Slatter as Supergirl?
And a CGI Superman with Nicolas Cage’s face fighting a giant robot spider?
See, the things is, I get the references. I know which characters and shows they’re all from, or what anecdotes they relate to. I just don’t care. I am the nerd par excellence, the monstrous Comic-Book Guy they imagine will waddle into the cinema and get all the references, and possibly announce them all out loud in a nasally voice much to the disgust of the other patrons.
But, no, there’s no way anyone could care about this.
It’s nostalgia without purpose or absent any emotional connection. And it’s poorly realised, in a manner that’s just short of ludicrous, with characters ill-adapted to their purpose.
And the big “sacrifice” that’s made in order to set things right, after one character stabs another, well, am I wrong, but shouldn’t everyone had died? If a younger version of you is killed by an older version of someone dependent on your existence, don’t you all die? I’m not saying it’s a plot hole, because I don’t care about plot holes anymore (I have transcended the pedants’ need to get angry about them, but not the pedants’ need to identify them), but, honestly?
Let everyone die. Excise it all from existence. Wipe the slate clean. Start with better screenplays, and better directors than these ones.
I’m struggling to think of the positives. It was nice seeing Michael Keaton again, always nice to see him. As silly as that 1989 Batman costume looks now, with that immovable neck, I didn’t feel that he phoned his performance at all. It’s not hard for him to play an older Batman now, considering, uh, his age, but he’s okay, especially in comparison to everyone else.
I liked Sasha Calle well enough, but they don’t really give her enough to do, as the one superhero who still potentially exists. They don’t let her be very good at her job, though.
I have no idea why Gal Gadot is here, briefly reprising her Wonder Woman character for 30 seconds of screen time. If anything it only serves to remind us of the few times DC Films was able to make an okay flick (being Patty Jenkins 1st Wonder Woman movie, and the second Suicide Squad movie), before they decided to reboot it all yet again.
I think they’re done. I don’t think any of these DC characters, any of this IP, any of these strategic branding opportunities need to be continued. They don’t make money anyway, and that is the only point that matters to the accountants that run those studios who calculate exactly how high their bonuses will be even when the flicks make catastrophic losses. They made an entire Batgirl movie and decided never to release it, in order to benefit from the tax right-off, somehow.
These studio people aren’t motivated by creativity or the joys of storytelling. I don’t know what motivates them. I don’t even think it’s money. I think there is some grim satisfaction that they get out of taking something interesting, and then bleeding the life out of it, to make us feel worse for having been interested in the first place.
And the last gag of the flick, which isn’t a fart joke, but had about the emotional heft of a fart joke, convinced me even more about how badly my time had been wasted.
2 ways the only emotions watching this flick elicited were irritation and deep sadness out of 10
“Not every problem has a solution, Barry” - The Flash