One of Corner of Film’s most anticipated movies of 2023, The Flash has been a long time coming. In fact, a movie about the titular hero has been planned since back in the ’80s, and has taken four decades to come to fruition. No pressure, then.

Ezra Miller reprises their role as the Scarlet Speedster, having previously appeared in Justice League. The film sees Barry Allen (Miller) travel back in time via the Speed Force to prevent the death of his mother and change his future. Fiddling with time proves to be more than Barry bargained for, though, and he winds up in an alternate timeline in which he teams up with an unlikely group of heroes.

It’s worth noting that The Flash‘s production endured some major franchise issues. The DCU has been reworked and reshaped multiple times during production, which undoubtedly will have affected the finished product. However, whether you consider the film as a standalone story or as part of a wider franchise, there are still issues on both fronts.

The Flash Has Some Story Issues, But Its Cast Keeps The Film Afloat

The Flash's cast: Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle

Despite being an adaptation of the Flashpoint story, The Flash borrows only the general premise from its source material. This is hardly an issue: it affords the film an opportunity to make any necessary changes to the franchise’s timeline in order to better suit James Gunn’s DCU future. The first half of the film seems to build specifically toward this, following Barry as he works to keep his mother alive and ensure his alternate self still becomes the hero he needs to be.

From there, the film goes off the rails. It quickly becomes about saving the alternate timeline from General Zod with the help of Supergirl (Sasha Calle) and an alternate Batman (Michael Keaton). Upon realizing that the alternate timeline is doomed and that trying to save it will turn him into a villain, Barry abandons it, goes back again, and ensures his own mother’s death. Then he just returns to his old timeline as though the other one was completely disposable. No muss, no fuss, apparently.

There’s an almost casual approach to narrative that feels far less significant that the film deserves. Such a major storyline with so much importance to the franchise required far more thought, than it apparently got. However, Ezra Miller acts brilliantly against themselves, creating an oddly magnetic chemistry in the dual role. What’s more, Sasha Calle and Michael Keaton bolster the performances by filling their own roles excellently. The competence of The Flash‘s cast is almost enough to salvage its lopsided story. Almost.

The Flash’s Visuals Are Frustratingly Inconsistent

Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle in The Flash (2023)

There’s no escaping it: modern superhero movies are fast becoming CGI-fests. A premise like that of The Flash requires even more CGI than most, and that presents a potential issue. However, throughout the first act, the film’s visuals are surprisingly solid.

As the film wears on, there are increasingly noticeable moments of poor CGI. It starts with just a few uncanny valley renderings of characters in the Speed Force, then there’s a number of less-than-convincing CGI suits in a CG-heavy final battle handily fought on a desolate desertscape. Though there are key moments in which the visuals look excellent, there are others in which it’s decidedly disappointing. The final act in particular is a CG-eyesore, leaving a bitter aftertaste as the films winds to its anticlimactic conclusion.

The Flash Makes The DCU More Confusing (But Also More Exciting)

Ezra Miller as Barry Allen running in The Flash (2023)

Heading into The Flash, it was clear that it would have to shake up the franchise. Ahead of the film, it was speculcated that Ben Affleck’s Batman would be replaced, or that Michael Keaton would be brought into the fold. There were even rumors that the film could recast Miller’s role after the actor’s legal troubles mid-production.

Even considering all that, there was no way to prepare for just how confusing The Flash makes the state of the DCU. It almost gleefully toys with its audience, creating a twisted guessing game of who exactly is going to fill the role of key DC heroes going forward. There’s even one final shocking cameo likely to induce laughs, groans, or maybe even tears.

The Flash promised to shake up the status quo of the DCU, and it delivered – just not as expected. It’s no longer clear where any particular DC hero stands, except the Flash and perhaps (strangely) Aquaman. As much as this is confusing and a little frustrating, it’s also admittedly exciting. The notion that Barry Allen may have inadvertently mishandled and muddled the whole franchise becomes a weird meta-commentary on the studio’s own handling of its characters. Maybe that’s an indication that things will be better moving forward. We won’t hold our breath or anything, but maybe.

Rating: 65%

Summary: The Flash starts off as a competent and good-humored superhero romp, but its third act takes things off the rails. It’s as disappointing as it is exciting, but for all the mixed feelings it inspires, it’s still decently entertaining.

Highlight: Ezra Miller’s onscreen chemistry with themselves makes for most of the film’s funniest moments. Their ability to draw laughs even out of serious scenes makes them a joy to watch, and keeps the film from collapsing in on itself.