The Flash: A Decent Storyline Unraveled by a Muddled Finale (Blu-ray)
When Zack Snyder's much-maligned "Justice League" came out back in 2017, it introduced us to a new version of Barry Allen/The Flash as played by Ezra Miller, making for a remarkably different portrayal than we had been used to seeing from Grant Gustin in the TV show. In the film, the new characterization is remarkably misguided, to say the least, with the character coming off as rather annoying, as opposed to a superhero you'd want to root for (an issue which was not so much Miller's fault as screenwriter Chris Terrio's).
We all knew that a stand-alone Flash movie had been in the works for quite some time, but when it was officially announced as following "Justice League," with Miller reprising the role, it immediately became a major point of concern, for if this new rendition of the character wasn't retooled, then the film was doomed to be nothing short of disastrous. After many years of delays, the film is finally upon us, so now it's time to see if the DC execs learned anything from past mistakes, or if they proceeded to trudge forward with a not-so-super form of a much-beloved superhero.
At the start of the film, we get a glimpse at a day in the life of Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), which includes helping Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) stop a robbery gone wrong and doing damage control at a hospital. Meanwhile, he also has to deal with work and helping to prove his dad's (Ron Livingston) innocence in the murder of his mother (Maribel Verdu). One night, Barry gets so overwhelmed by his emotions after visiting his childhood home that he accidentally ends up using his powers to travel back in time, which he decides to repeat in order to go back to the day of his mother's murder and prevent it.
However, on the way back, he is knocked out of the speed force earlier than planned, causing him to encounter his parents and his 18-year-old self in a timeline where everything has changed. Barry also realizes that this is the day he got his powers, forcing him to convince his younger self to repeat what happened. His problems continue when this results in a swap, with younger Barry gaining speed and older Barry becoming normal. To make the situation even worse, the time is also coinciding with the arrival of General Zod (Michael Shannon), who had come to Earth in search of Kal-El/Superman and attempted to terraform the planet. With everything going wrong, and no Justice League to fall back on, Barry will have to rely on an old friend (or at least a version of him) to help set things right.
Right off the bat, screenwriter Christina Hodson proves that she has a much better handle on the character than "Justice League" scripter Chris Terrio by giving us a more mature and far less annoying version of Barry, and showing us this in a rather logical way (the aforementioned "day in the life"). This gives us time to get used to the more grounded iteration as the film slowly sets up its intriguing storyline, which, as any comic book fan could tell you, is based on "Flashpoint," perhaps the most famous story in Flash history.
It does hit something of a minor speed bump along the way when Barry comes in contact with his younger self, who is somewhat similar in demeanor to the old cinematic Barry, but once again Hodson does a better job of using this characterization for amusement, as opposed to just having it be an irritating distraction. And that's not to mention that Miller does a fine job with both versions of the character, giving it a good sense of balance between the mature and not-so-mature Barrys.
Indeed, for the first two-thirds or so of the film, we have a decent storyline established and characters that are at least semi-interesting, which, if you've seen most of the DC movies of the last ten years, can be considered quite the major accomplishment. However, this is what makes the final act of the film an even bigger disappointment than if it had just been your standard DC letdown, for this is where it sadly starts to unravel into something of a muddled mess. Here we are inundated with mind-numbing action that doesn't add any excitement to the film ("Man of Steel" was really not the best backdrop that Hodson could've picked), uneccessary elements that feel jammed in (including a completely wasted cameo that would've been better left out), and an ending that you know has to happen from the very start of Barry's little plan.
It would appear that Hodson simply didn't spend enough time thinking it through, or perhaps she was simply stuck as to what a better conclusion would be for this story. However, from all of the problematic aspects of the final act, it should have been very clear that this wasn't it. Still, while "The Flash" didn't work out on the whole, two-thirds of a decent superhero flick easily makes it one of DC's better offerings from the last decade. It's just a shame that they weren't able to stick the landing, which would've made for a rather incredible feat. Ultimately, I suppose the biggest takeaway here is that, given what was expected, and what we finally got, it's a shock to say that it wasn't anywhere near as terrible as anticipated.
"The Flash" comes to Blu-ray in a 1.90:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The image is quite sharp throughout the film's nearly two and a half hour duration, highlighting its extensive visual effects work. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio track is wonderful, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and music in outstanding quality. Overall, this is another Warner Bros. home release that leaves little room for complaint in either area.
Making the Flash: Worlds Collide (37 Minutes)
Let’s Get Nuts: Batman Returns, Again (9 Minutes)
Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton (16 Minutes)
The Flash: Escape the Midnight Circus podcast (94 Minutes)
The Flash in Session: Escape the Midnight Circus (2 Minutes)
This is a surprisingly sparse collection of extras for a big movie like this, but at least you get a decent-sized & intriguing making of featurette, as well as an interesting look at a couple of the supporting characters.
Andy Muschietti's "The Flash" has about two-thirds of a decent storyline, utilizing a much better characterization of the beloved superhero than we saw previously in the DC cinematic universe, but sadly the film is let down by a final act that unravels into a muddled mess of mind-numbing action and other misguided elements, ultimately turning this into a better-than-average, but still disappointing, DC outing.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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