The Flash (2023)

Director: Andy Muschietti

Running Time: 144 Minutes

Certification: 12a

Starring: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Michael Shannon, Antje Traue, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Rudy Mancuso

Ever since it was announced back in October 2014 (one week after The CW's The Flash TV series premiered), there was an uphill battle to this solo-film reaching screens. From the multiple directors attached, to Warner Bros' changing plans for the DC Cinematic Universe, and especially everything involving lead-star Ezra Miller, there have been many trials along this road. Now, one month after The Flash ended it's nine-season televisual run, the feature film has been released.

Ever since his father's wrongful arrest for his mother's death, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) has fought to prove his father's innocence while saving the day as the titular superfast hero. After discovering he can travel back in time through the Speed Force, Barry chooses to write a wrong by changing his past tragedy, although this has unintended consequences which alters the future. Within this world without superheroes, Barry recruits his younger self (also Miller) and an alternate Batman (Michael Keaton) to stop the onslaught of General Zod (Michael Shannon).

As the openings credits race through the changing studio logos, director Andy Muschietti promises a fun ride where the lightning fast heroics are balanced with a determination to do right by the people the justice system should help. While there's entertainment in a hospital sequence which bizarrely sees a baby saved by being put inside a microwave, grounding the story is Barry's determination to clear his father's name amidst his overwhelming grief, and it's in these moments Miller's portrayal shines. It's unfortunate such moments feel secondary to a sibling-style relationship between Barry and his irritating younger self.

What could have been solid ground for a feature film is then hijacked to deliver a farewell to what Zack Snyder started with Man of Steel, while also bringing back Michael Keaton's Batman for his third outing to teeter between having fun and appearing bored while delivering his most well-known lines. There's also the third-act appearance of Sasha Calle's Kara Zor-El, who unfortunately feels let-down by the final edit of this material.

Despite the lengthy runtime, there's too much packed into this tale which leaves the emotional resonance to feel forgotten about. As the forced and icky cameos are piled on, there's a notable irony in this film not following it's own message about letting go of the past. Not helping matters are the visual effects, looking truly baffling when they're used on people's faces. The ugly CG renderings leaves the figures looking more like characters in a PS2 tie-in game than their real-life actors.

Considering the thorny behind-the-scenes history, it's astounding this managed to be worked into a releasable feature-film. However, it feels less like a Flash film and more like a to-do list to transition audiences from one iteration of a cinematic universe to another. There's also an unfortunate timing issue as this was released mere weeks after Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, and now isn't even the best multiversal superhero film released this month. Perhaps this is an accurate way to close off this corner of DC films as, despite any good intentions, this is an utter mess.

The Flash is available in cinemas now