Review – The Flash



Synopsis Barry Allen travels back in time to save his mother, only to realize he has created a new timeline with no superheroes.

Length 2 Hours 24 Minutes

Release Date June 16, 2023


Rating PG-13

Distribution Warner Bros.

Directing Andy Muschietti

Writing Christina Hodson

Composition Benjamin Wallfisch

Starring Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue, Michael Keaton

In October 2014, Warner Bros. laid out its map of the DC Extended Universe to compete against the rival Marvel Cinematic Universe, announcing solo films for Suicide Squad, Aquaman, Shazam, Cyborg, Green Lantern, two Justice League films, and The Flash. Several of these films did not come to pass and the original DC slate was canceled following Zack Snyder’s 2017 departure from Warner Bros. and the negative critical reception and poor box office performance of Batman vs. Superman.

The Flash in particular has gone through one of the longest development cycles in Warner Bros. history. The studio has been trying to produce a movie based on the DC Flash character since the 1980s and has approached directors including Robert Zemeckis, Matthew Vaughn, Sam Raimi, Jordan Peele, James Wan, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Shawn Levy, and David Goyer. The cycle of directors who worked JUST on this iteration, as far back as 2014, include Seth Grahame-Smith, Rick Famuyiwa, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein, before Mama, It and It Chapter 2 director Andy Muschietti finally took over.

With director James Gunn preparing to relaunch the DCEU as the DC Universe, and directing the upcoming Superman: Legacy for July 2025, The Flash represents one of the last times the prior studio regime’s slate of films is set to release to theaters, shy of the upcoming holdovers of Blue Beetle and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: PG-13 action violence with a lot of blood, stabbing, injuries, and deaths depicted on screen.
Language/Crude Humor: Some severe language.
Drug/Alcohol References: Limited to none.  
Sexual Content: A character briefly discusses his virginity. A half-naked woman crawls out of a bed. A male character is depicted mostly naked.
Spiritual Content: Limited to none.
Other Negative Content: Limited to none.
Positive Content: Themes of maturity, healing, and looking to the future.


It is remarkable upon reflection to think how little The Flash is really important as a Flash movie. After ten years of the DCEU and a dozen or so movies, the franchise that was once led by Zack Snyder effectively comes to an unassuming end, led by Ezra Miller’s time-travel action comedy. It’s at once a hubristic act of brand synergy from one of the most aggressively self-promoting studios in Hollywood and a swan song for a series of movies that began a decade ago on June 14, 2013, with Man of Steel

And that’s not even touching upon the fact that one-time Fantastic Beasts star Ezra Miller spent the better part of last year LARPing as an anti-fascist non-binary wannabe messiah on the run from the law over allegations of disorderly conduct, assault, burglary, and child grooming. And yet, Warner Bros. believed in him so much that his Flash solo movie was the only major DCEU film not canceled by the new regime run by James Gunn (who is allegedly already planning to green-light a sequel). 

But I digress. The Flash hardly feels like a movie about the DC Comics character Barry Allen and instead feels like an act of brand management. Nobody is going into this film excited to see a classic comic book character, but instead, they want to see why Warner Bros. took nine punishing years of development to finish this movie, weighed down by studio politics and a politically toxic lead actor. 

And that’s a shame too because, as far as the DCEU goes, The Flash is actually a pretty good film. It’s no masterpiece but it definitely falls into the realm of post-Snyder films like Shazam! and Aquaman that sort of work in spite of themselves, mostly by being fun and weird.

Not surprisingly, the film itself is based on the famous and popular 2011 comic book storyline Flashpoint (one of the only major Flash stories modern comic readers know about…), wherein Barry Allen uses his access to the speed force to travel back in time to save his mother, but unintentionally results in creating another timeline on the brink of an apocalyptic war that only Flash and Batman can fix by teaming up together.  

Structurally, the film is almost identical. The story more-or-less picks up after Justice League, with Barry balancing his time between maintaining his job working in a crime laboratory with his superhero antics. When he accidentally discovers he has the ability to time travel, he travels back in time and saves his mother from being murdered.  

But in doing so, Barry creates a new alternate timeline where the Justice League doesn’t exist and where he doesn’t have his powers. With the events of the original Man of Steel plot slowly unfurling in the background, a powerless Barry now has to find this timeline’s Batman, Superman, and Flash to save this world and return him to his own. 

It really helps that the core narrative actually works pretty well. Barry Allen, despite his bizarre and uncomfortable characterization, has a very clear emotional story arc wherein his desire to save the past comes at the expense of his future. There’s a very simple lesson he must learn through experience; we cannot let the past define us and must learn to move forward from tragedy with acceptance. 

It doesn’t help the film at times that it is filled with awkward Whedon-esque comedy, that seems to be a holdover from the Whedon cut of Justice League. The movie opens with two clumsily handled scenes of comedy that start off on an awkward foot. 

Eventually, though, these strange set pieces become something of a weird motif. The movie tries to come up with as many weird gonzo action scenes as it can using the Flash’s speed powers. At one point, Flash causes an insane series of cause-and-effect slapstick moments that comes dangerously close to breaking out into a full Looney Tunes short.  

And yeah, it is cool seeing Michael Keaton’s Batman flying around the Batwing once again, even if it is weird to see the aesthetics of a Tim Burton movie clashing against those of a Zack Snyder film. I’m willing to admit the shot of nostalgia helped the film go down better than it would otherwise (although it is funny that the movie is terrified of spoilers and leaks when the majority of trailer footage is from the third-act final battle).

I’m tempted to call The Flash a mixed bag but it makes a lot of intelligent decisions that actually do dramatically serve the film in useful ways. It’s trying very hard to be creative and weird while it actually seems to understand the emotional bears of the story it is trying to tell. There are some aggressive synergistic cameos that, executed in CGI, came off as intermittently ghoulish nostalgia bait (but I appreciate the intent). If this movie didn’t have a heart, I’d completely write it off. But it manages to be morbidly interesting despite itself. 


+ Solid performances
+ Fun nostalgic callbacks
+ Solid emotional/dramatic storytelling


- Some awkward comedy and execution
- Strange conclusion to the DCEU

The Bottom Line

The Flash marks a peculiar conclusion to the ten year experiment of Warner Bros. attempting to compete with Disney's Avengers movies. It is likely one of the best solo films of the lot, even if it comes with the political baggage of its lead star and high expectations from Snyder fans.



Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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