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MOVIES: The Flash - Spoiler Review

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The Flash is the death knell for an entire genre. Soulless, an entirely corporate affair: not one person save maybe Sasha Calle has any kind of heart or passion involved in this thing and Calle is wasted on too little room to breath other than making an instant case for almost saving the movie on her own back. It’s the textbook example of everything that’s wrong with comic book movies at the moment, and Hollywood as a whole.

There’s no spark. There’s no sense of joy. Director Andy Muschietti offers up a heartless affair that rips off Man of Steel as a starting point yet forgets that Zack Snyder’s flawed but likeable movie had its own distinctive style, try to replicate that without the energy that Snyder had and you’d be left in the dark: a CGI-spectacle fest without any of the scale of the film’s final act. There’s so many things wrong with this movie it’s hard not to go into without talking spoilers and given that enough time has passed since the film’s release, I think it’s fair game. It’s so shit I think it’s fair game anyway, and for the record: cameos aren’t spoilers, and when they’re used as shamelessly as this they should be protested against at any and all kind of form. No film is worth the hassle of CGI-resurrecting dead actors for two second, inconsequential cameos.

No film is worth going full multiverse purely for the sake of cameos. The entire gimmick of the multiverse has quickly delved into “oh, we can bring this popular character we love back for a cameo”; but that isn’t even the most offensive part of The Flash – the fact is that they’re resurrecting dead actors – Christopher Reeve – for the audience to point and clap and that in no way should be acceptable even with the family’s approval. When you’re CGI-ing in actors who are still currently alive it’s understandable with their approval; if a bit baffling (why not just cast them anyway), but there’s just a whole mess of a film and an issue for the future of cinema as a whole here. Reeve’s resurrection feels corporate – banking on the nostalgia that wants the cheer-worthy moments of No Way Home without, for better or worse, the build-up that led to No Way Home. This is the DC Universe releasing a film a few weeks after Across the Spider-Verse and getting cooked by a film that’s merely fine. When there are 6 films worse than Joker in your cinematic universe, you’re starting to see why James Gunn made the call to jettison everything.

The film’s plot is as archaic and as repetitive as a time travel plot as you’d expect: what if you saved your mother from death and went back to the present to find out everything had changed? Only it’s not exactly the present: but the multiverse – we later find out, Barry Allen – the fastest man alive, has been taken out of his timestream and introduced to a younger version of himself. The film tries to make the argument that Barry can only be who he is because his mother died and his dad went to jail; positioning a happier Barry would’ve turned evil when faced with any kind of loss, through only their own good intentions but evil all the same – if it sounds like an interesting idea you’d be right but the film barely does anything with this at all and it’s over and done with in such a short space of time you’re wondering why they even bothered – and ignores the fact that we’ve just had a much compelling argument in Across the Spider-Verse that heroes don’t need to be tied to their tragedies. Audiences are tired of heroes being tied to their tragedies. We don’t need to see Batman’s parents die again. We don’t need to see Uncle Ben get shot. And we certainly don’t need an origin story for The Flash that involves his mum dying, and Zack Snyder seemed to realise that by moving forward from the start of his character’s introduction. The Flash spends so much time looking back it forgets to look forward.

And that’s before you get to Ezra Miller and their circumstances. Are they a good enough of an actor to justify DC’s stance on them after their numerous problematic very-public persona? Only Miller could perform the role; we’re told from the DC execs, nobody else, but the fact of the matter is that Grant Gustin did it better than them for 7 seasons and barely gets a touch of recognition for his services here. Gustin; who presented a fresh new take on the character when his show was good, even got involved in The Flashpoint Paradox on the CW, and whilst it was a butchered, low-budget version, it was still better and more coherent than any of this mess that we got here: a barely serviceable adaption where both Michael Keaton and Michael Shannon tune it in, looking like they’d rather be anywhere else.

Every arc is superhero 101: when they explained the multiverse to the characters I lost interest because we’ve seen it explained so many times before they shouldn’t have to break it down for us again. Any nostalgia with Keaton’s Batman rings false: they just brought him back for the audience to clap, his emotional moments are utterly hollow and the nostalgia just feels entirely half-baked. Not even in a movie that has Keaton’s Batman can I say he was the best character here. He’s barely a character. Same with Shannon. Same with poor Iris West, dragged into this as a holdover casting from the early phases of development with Kiersey Clemons in the role. A better movie would’ve taken time to develop these characters, made Iris and Barry the centre of it all, but it feels tacked on like it has to be there. Any attempt of dramatic weight or depth feels hackneyed by the fact that I just don’t care about the stakes of the multiverse. It doesn’t think about broader concepts (is Gotham free of all crime now? What does Keaton’s Batman know of the multiverse?) and just falls completely on its head.

There are some sparks, mainly when Supergirl is involved and the first act, but The Flash just proves it’s a massive hack of a film with nostalgic marketing-bait first and filmmaking as art second. Maybe the worst American blockbuster movie ever made? Certainly up there; just by how uninspiring it is. When the best you can come up with as a defence is that “It’s not bad” – you may have lost me. Not even remotely watchable.

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