Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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The Flash Review – Ezra Miller’s Doppelganger-Superhero Is A Gurning, Smirking Mess

Some entertaining moments can’t hide the fact that this latest product of the DC Comics universe doesn’t exactly fly past.

Consensus on the cancellation-threshold is as far away as ever: Phillip Schofield languishes in disgrace while Ezra Miller stars in a $190m movie despite a record of toxic and erratic behaviour involving the police and the courts. It has been a bizarre string of events, in the course of which reports suggested at one stage Miller’s arresting officer contritely explained to the suspect why he had not used their correct non-binary pronouns.

It might conceivably have been interesting to report that Miller brought this dark chaos to the new superhero film from the DC Extended Universe, playing the Flash, otherwise Barry Allen, endowed with superspeed and part of the Justice League, and in his human persona battling to get his father off the wrongful charge of murdering his mother. But despite some diverting touches, Miller’s smirking, gurning, mugging doppelganger performance is a trial and in any case gets lost in the inevitable third-act CGI battle apocalypse, which is weightlessly free of jeopardy and, like the rest of the film, does not exactly go by in a flash.

Allen is working hard at a forensic lab in the city (nice cameo here from Derry Girls’ Saoirse-Monica Jackson as a sarky co-worker) as part of his civilian vocation to get justice for his dad Henry (Ron Livingston). Allen Sr was wrongly arrested for murdering Nora (Maribel Verdú), whose body was discovered in their kitchen while Henry was out at the supermarket buying a can of tomatoes for the evening meal; the store’s CCTV is unclear, and will not provide an alibi. Barry figures that he can use hypervelocity to whiz back in time, buy this fateful can of tomatoes in advance, and thus obviate the need for Henry to get it and so keep his mum alive.

But when the Flash crash-lands back a moment before the tragedy, it seems the butterfly wing has flapped harder than expected and something has gone terribly wrong. The Flash is now in a universe in which there are apparently no metahumans and, moreover, he is stranded alongside a goofy alt-reality version of his own self, with whom the Flash has to do an exhausting Dumb and Dumber routine for the rest of the film. And not just that: Krypton’s odious General Zod (Michael Shannon) now threatens Earth, so the two Flashes have to round up the older, more reclusive Batman (Michael Keaton) to protect humankind, along with other surprising heroes.

It’s not that there aren’t entertaining moments here: it is amusingly bizarre when the Flash realises that in this universe, the film Back to the Future has not been recast and still stars Eric Stoltz – and Stoltz will be gratified to learn that it is nonetheless a classic. (I wondered if the film was going to go for a reverse gag about Michael J Fox playing Selden the lawyer in Terence Davies’s The House of Mirth.) There are some spectacular and surreal visions of the various iterations of DC superheroes and the final appearance from an almost forgotten version of Bruce Wayne gets a laugh.

But this is not a movie with any new ideas or dramatic rethinking, and – at the risk of re-opening the DC/Marvel sectarian wound – nothing to compare with the much-lauded animation experiment in the recent Spider-Man films. The intellect in this intellectual property is draining away.

 The Flash is released on 14 June in the UK, 15 June in Australia and 16 June in the US.

Originally sourced from The Guardian.

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