The Flash (aka Baby Shower) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
For a superhero who prides himself on being fast, The Flash arrives far too late to save the DC Cinematic Universe. The hero comes at the end of an era in both the narrative and the franchise. Despite some better superhero cinema moments, this film showcases the limitations of the box setup for DC Comics heroes and why it’s so frustrating that it feels like there are brakes on this speedy vehicle.
The concept has clever playfulness as it rips from the Flashpoint comic event in 2011. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) has been getting used to his role as the speedster superhero within the Justice League. While he seems to be doing okay, he still hasn’t gotten over the loss of his mother as a child and the ongoing trial of his father as an adult for his dad being charged with his mom’s death. Barry wishes he could go back in time and prevent her death so that he has his parents present for his adult years. That wish is granted when Barry discovers his Flash powers can send him back in time.
Despite being given some warning by another superhero, Flash figures saving his mom would be a great thing worth pursuing with the gentlest of altercations. That altercation, however, changes the entire world, especially since Barry stumbles in his time travel, trapping him in a universe where he meets the older-teenage version of himself. Batman has been replaced by the classic Michael Keaton version of Bruce Wayne, and it shouldn’t be as surprising that the nostalgia is laid on thick for fans of the Tim Burton era. Superman is out of the picture and replaced with Supergirl, the distant relative of Kal-El, who makes it her mission to save Earth. They all need to work together to stop a key event from Man of Steel that has arrived earlier than expected.
The film works best when it doesn’t have characters trying to comprehend the time-travel mechanics and get to know each other. As egotistical as it might sound, the scenes between the two Barry Allens are great not just for the comical back-and-forth but for the divulgence of Flash’s powers. A mix-up in origins leads to the older Barry losing his powers and the younger Barry gaining them, bringing about a crash course in using the speedster powers. Without too much explanation, we know precisely how Barry can phase through matter and what happens if he moves too fast in regular clothes (they catch fire). There’s also a solid opening action scene to get used to the dynamic of Flash, as when he saves an entire descending hospital wing while eating food along the way to keep up his energy. As strange as it is, there’s a certain charm to The Flash saving a slew of babies while scarfing vending machine food and heating a burrito in a microwave.
Compared to past DCEU films, this one is not a trainwreck. It’s also not the savior of this franchise, given how many times it trips just as it finds a chance to leap. The special effects range from compelling (the time travel portrayed with rotating spheres was brilliant) to uncanny oddness (the VFX for the babies and dogs was just bizarre). The plotline has exciting elements but fails to pay them off. The big finale has all the ingredients to imply that the grand showdown will proceed in Metropolis. Instead, it takes place in a deserted battlefield with absolutely no people in danger or buildings to destroy. For a scene intended to be dangerous and stress the dark results of Barry’s time meddling, it’s the most boring of locations to fight.
Despite some surprising cameos and solid superhero moments, The Flash only finds its footing to go a few minutes without a stumble. It’s a shame considering that some neat fight scenes and banter between superheroes work in bits and pieces. The sad truth is that this film is more interesting for reflecting the intent of the Flashpoint comics to usher in a reboot on the horizon. There is a fantastic reboot coming to the DC Comics movies from James Gunn, so this film is more interesting for its placement and acting as a herald than anything all that much contained within its timeline-tapping adventure.