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THE FLASH: TOO MANY COOKS

Blame the ancient Greeks for inventing the general idea of the multiverse. Blame DC for propagating the concept in one of its Flash comics in 1961. And blame anyone you like for this hot mess of a film, directed by Andy Muschietti from a screenplay credited to Christina Hodson and Joby Harold. I found it especially frustrating because The Flash is an intriguing character and the film has some solid ideas. It also has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot, repeatedly.

Ezra Miller is a compelling actor whose range has yet to be tested on screen. He’s well cast as Barry, the ultra-nerdy college grad whose super-powers came to him by accident: a chemical spill hypercharged by a bolt of lightning. This entire film is predicated on his desire to travel back in time to prevent his mother’s unexplainable murder and his father’s incarceration for the heinous crime. Motivation is not at issue here; methodology is.

Why bother to establish characters and setting when you can open your film with a sensational show of special effects? Thus, we meet the Flash in action—literally—protecting Gotham City from a cataclysmic attack with a little help from his Justice League compatriot Batman (played by Ben Affleck). In a few short minutes we experience the comedic tone most of the film will take. But just when you think it’s all going to be jokey, it gets serious… and then vice versa. 144 minutes of running time means there’s plenty of time for everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink. 

Everything that follows is dialed up to “frantic,” as Barry of the present day encounters Barry of the past. Or is it Barry of the future? The movie demands a lot of Miller and he is fully up to the challenge of playing two distinct variations of the same character. A purported relationship is briefly and unbelievably established between Barry and an attractive young woman he hasn’t seen since their college days.

But I must admit that it’s fun to see Michael Keaton as an older, wiser Bruce Wayne/Batman, who shows up during one of Barry’s more eventful time-warp journeys. And some of the effects are truly dazzling. Still, The Flash seems like a stew that had too many cooks adding ingredients without consulting one another. For all its manic energy, it winds up as another DC disappointment.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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