By: Adam Freed
In 1989 Warner Bros. Studios rocked the film landscape with its release of Batman. Thirty four years ago the Tim Burton directed gothic masterpiece was a phenomenon, earning north of $400 million global box office dollars. That iteration of the Dark Knight was the triumphant product of the work of three genius level artists representing multiple realms of the filmmaking process aligned in perfect harmony. Tim Burton’s vision of a dark and sinister Gotham City fast tracked the global obsession with superheroes as well as sparking a resurgence in gothic art. Danny Elfman’s original score is to this day considered one of the single greatest achievements of its kind in film history. And finally, Jack Nicholson, the world's most decorated living actor, gave what many argue is the most entertaining performance of his illustrious career. This begs the inevitable question, what does all of this have to do with Warner Bros. and DC’s newest release The Flash? The answer, sadly, is that looking back with fondness on this masterclass of superhero filmmaking is as close as The Flash gets to being entertaining.
The most memorable moments in Andy Muschietti’s The Flash are, as mentioned, the callbacks to superheroes of long ago, in particular Batman. Nearly all of the nostalgic nods lack punch though, as they are almost universally betrayed by their appearances in the film’s marketing campaign, a result of the studio attempting to market the film on the “Batman” of it all, rather than selling this product as the first Flash film. DC shamelessly poaches its former glory with the inclusion of Michael Keaton, who is a joy to see again in the cape and cowl, but is left out to dry by a film that lacks the elite talents of Burton and Elfman that made his previous work beloved. In search of a perceived audience desire for yet another multiverse picture, The Flash spins in circles with a cyclone of plot contrivances. Along these lines, if audiences cling to the impossibly high bar set earlier this month by Sony Pictures’, Across the Spider-Verse, then The Flash amounts to multiversal malpractice. In April of this year Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav called his studio's upcoming film, “The greatest superhero film I’ve ever seen,” which, as self reverential as this movie is, shouldn’t be surprising.
Glimmers of hope that spark in act one, quickly give way to overused tropes and some embarrassingly underwhelming CGI in act three. Even Michael Shannon, as gifted an actor as appears in this film, is given no character at all, other than to recreate a static General Zod, that most audiences loathed in 2013’s The Man of Steel. There comes an all too predictable moment within multi-universe time travel stories where one character cautions the protagonist of the inherent dangers of universal timeline manipulation. It is time for audiences to issue a similar warning to Warner Bros. and DC. The Flash is best when it throws roses at the feet of its predecessors, but while nostalgia can certainly add to the joy found within a story, it simply cannot act as replacement for the story itself. Early ticket sales indicate that the moviegoing public wants this film to be great. Perhaps in another universe and in another time, it is.