Review: Problematic Miller infuses ‘The Flash’ with heart, heroics

Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle in The Flash (DC Comics)

The death rattle of the DC Extended Universe of films actually comes with a bang rather than a whimper.

“The Flash,” a film announced nearly a decade ago on the heels of the moderate success of “Man of Steel,” Zack Snyder’s 2013 dark reworking of Superman’s origin, is a surprisingly strong action-adventure movie that deftly deals with the mind-bending multiverse that is all the rage among super-hero fare today.

“The Flash” isn’t the masterpiece that Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is, but it is a ton of fun, replete with a twitchy, funny, and touching performance by controversial actor Ezra Miller as Barry/Flash.

Miller was arrested for and faces a number of charges for actions he allegedly committed after the completion of filming the movie in 2021.

Miller, who has reportedly sought psychiatric treatment for the behavior that led to his arrests, may act like a super-villain in real life, but he pulls off the double role as college-age Barry and super-hero Barry in the film with aplomb.

Miller gives two distinct performances in the movie that are nearly seamless as the characters who appear together on screen through much of the movie. It’s a testament to Miller’s skills that the viewer never questions or gets confused by the performances.

Much credit must also go to director Andy Muschietti (“Mama,” “It,” and “It Chapter Two”) as well as screenwriter Christina Hobson for adapting the 2011 comic-book story “Flash Point” so deftly and convincingly.

Certainly the movie is rife with pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo, but Muschietti crafts this aspect of the film so well that it is easily understandable, and the movie is paced so quickly that there’s not enough time to worry about any logical cracks.

Michael Keaton and Ezra Miller in The Flash (DC Comics)

The crux of the movie is Barry’s attempt to use his super speed to travel back in time to make a subtle change that will result in his mother Nora (Meribel Verdu) not being murdered while also saving his innocent father Henry (Ron Livingston) from facing a murder rap.

By tinkering with time, Barry creates an alternate time line very different from his own. The problems here delve into spoiler information, but the changes create a doomsday scenario for the Earth.

All of this material works, and works well including Micheal Keaton returning to the role of the Batman of this altered timeline.

Keaton knocks his limited role out of the park. The repetition of a couple of lines from 1989’s “Batman” may be a bit on the nose, but each one garnered a loving response from the audience.

A version of Supergirl (Sasha Calle) is introduced in the movie, and while the character’s time on screen is limited, she makes an impressive impact.

However, the plot of this movie requires the viewer to have seen “Man of Steel” to understand the intricacies of what is going on.

Also, the movie deals in material very similar to the storylines of the first couple of seasons of the “The Flash” TV show, which wrapped up a nine-season run on the WB just a few weeks ago.

It’s not necessary to have watched that TV show to follow this film, but if you have, you’ll easily recognize the general direction of where the story is going.

The movie has also faced criticisms of the CGI effects in the third act of the movie for looking “fake, unpolished, or plastic-like” when the Flash is battling a couple of adversaries in a dimension called the speed force, in which Flash can run back and forth through time.

Muschietti has explained the plastic-nature of the CGI effects here were an artistic choice to denote that the instances were taking place outside the speed force in alternate realities.

Michael Shannon in The Flash (DC Comics)

That makes sense because it is only in the speed-force scenes where the figures look so unfinished. But the difference is jarring and is not explained within the context of the film.

However, those effects do not alter or inhibit the emotional rising action taking place in the movie, and the characters viewed within those scenes are incredibly fun cameos for fans of cinematic and TV super heroics.

I appreciated the film’s homage to the classic 1935 Universal horror “The Bride of Frankenstein,” and with any film that deals with time travel, it’s hard not to think of the 1985 classic comedy/adventure “Back to the Future.”

Miller is the heart and soul of the film, and Verdu is excellent as well as him mom. There are several touching scenes between them.

Ben Affleck is solid as Bruce Wayne in a scene, mentoring Barry before he decides to turn back time.

The final scene of the movie featured a cameo that was truly unexpected, and I’d suggest staying away from social media if you don’t want it to be spoiled.

There is a post-credit scene.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 24 min.
Grade: B

DCU Movie Gossip

With the multiversal shenanigans of “The Flash,” the slate is clean for the newly christened DC Universe to move forward any way DC studio heads James Gunn and Peter Safran want.

The new DCU films can be explained as being a part of one of the parallel universes created by the Flash’s attempt to save his mom, or Gunn and Safran can just start afresh and not ever mention the Snyder-Verse again.

The duo announced that “Superman: Legacy” will be the first film of the DCU. Gunn said on Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast “Inside of You” that casting for Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane is well underway. The movie is scheduled to debut in July of 2025.

However, the Max animated series “Creature Commandos” and the Max live-action series “Waller,” a spinoff of “The Suicide Squad,” are scheduled to debut in 2024 on the streamer and would be a part of the DCU.

“The Blue Beetle” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” films are scheduled to debut in August and December respectively.

Gunn reportedly said the character of Blue Beetle would be a part of the DCU’s storytelling going forward. No definitive word about whether the Aquaman character will continue in the DCU.

Rumors have linked Aquaman star Jason Mamoa to the role of DC’s interstellar bounty hunter Lobo, who has also been rumored to appear in “Superman Legacy.”

New in Local Theaters – June 16, 2023

The Flash (PG-13) 2 hr. 24 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
Elemental (PG) 1 hr. 50 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
The Blackening (R) 1 hr. 37 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Skylight)
It Ain’t Over (PG) 1 hr. 30 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square)

Classic Corner – To Catch a Thief

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (Paramount Pictures)

“To Catch a Thief” might not be director Alfred Hitchcock’s most thrilling or shocking film, but it might be his most romantic.

Without it, we never would have seen Cary Grant and Grace Kelly on the screen together, and that would have been a shame.

In the real world, it seems icky for a 50-year-old man to chase after a woman in her mid 20s, but on the silver screen, it works, particularly with stars like Grant and Kelly.

Grant named Kelly his favorite leading lady, and that’s something considering he acted opposite a virtual who’s who of Hollywood starlets.

Grant remained friends with her until her untimely death from a stroke at 52, and he reportedly told dirty jokes to her teenage children as a sort of uncle figure. But, I digress.

Hitchcock must have believed that it would take a thief to catch a thief because that’s the exact plot.

In the lush 1955 film, Grant plays John Robie, a retired cat burglar, who is accused of returning to his plundering ways and is tasked with finding the actual thief to clear his name.

Kelly plays Frances, the daughter of a rich widow Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis). They are visiting the French Riviera and are No. 1 on the list of prospective victims of the latest cat burglar.

Robie hopes to use Frances to get close enough to expose the true cat burglar, but the two fall in love in an excellent scene featuring fireworks exploding over the Riviera while they kiss.

Of course, while the two were necking, the cat burglar robbed Frances’ mom.

The film takes several twists and turns before culminating, and of course the identity of the cat burglar is a surprise.

It’s one of four films — “Suspicion,” “Notorious, and “North By Northwest” — Grant starred in for Hitchcock and the final of three — “Dial M for Murder” and “Rear Window: — for Kelly, but “To Catch a Thief” is the only one with Kelly and Grant. The film is special for that fact alone.

The movie is available for streaming on Prime Video, Paramount Plus, MGM +, the Roku Channel among others.