“The Flash” has finally arrived.
After several attempts (this iteration of the character has been brewing since at least 2013) and substantial controversy, the scarlet speedster has arrived in theaters with an accompanying whirlwind of both excitement and hesitation. Borrowing loosely from the event comic series “Flashpoint,” “The Flash” stars Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, a crime lab technician and superhero (or “metahuman” in DC speak) who decides to go back in time and prevent his mother’s murder (and his father’s arrest for said murder) but winds up being knocked out of his timeline and into an alternate reality that is very, very wrong. In this reality he is younger, doesn’t have superpowers and might be helpless to stop an alien invasion led by Zod (Michael Shannon), since this world doesn’t have any metahumans.
Can he find that world’s heroes, save the day, and get back to his own realm? Or will he be hopelessly stuck? Well, read on to find out.
Major spoiler for “The Flash” follow.
What happens with Zod?
Well, the Snyder-verse Barry (Miller), as well as this alternate reality Barry (also Miller), track down that dimension’s version of Batman, who is an old and out-of-the game Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton, reprising his role for the first time since 1992’s “Batman Returns”). Together, they go to find who they believe is Superman but is actually Kara Zol-El aka Supergirl (Sasha Calle). (She has been captured by the Soviets and imprisoned in a nearly impenetrable holding facility.) Together, the four of them go up against Zod and his various evil forces. This happens before he begins to terrorize Metropolis but after he has announced his presence to earth, out in the middle of the desert.
They try their best but eventually lose. They can’t win this fight.
Are there casualties?
Yes. Both Batman and Supergirl die in battle. Supergirl, as it turns out, has the key that Zod is looking for in her bloodstream. He sucks her dry, which kills her (we think). Batman dies trying to save the day. Plus, you know, the rest of the world dies when Zod succeeds, terraforming Earth to something like Krypton. (We don’t see this last part but it’s what would happen next.)
Bummer. Can’t Barry just go back and fix things?
You’d think he could. And the younger Barry tries. But each time three things happen – Supergirl dies, Batman dies and Zod destroys the planet. This wouldn’t be such a bummer, except this is the planet where Barry’s mom is still alive and his dad was never arrested for her murder. And plus we’ve grown attached to younger, more obnoxious Barry too.
Isn’t there anything else the Flash can do?
Well, here’s where things get muddled.
Younger Flash and current Flash attempt to go backwards in time and set things right. That’s when we see these bubbles that represent other timelines/universes start to collide into one another – we see the Christopher Reeve Superman and Adam West as Batman (among many others). The entire multiverse, not just the two realities where we’ve seen Barry, are in jeopardy. And what’s more – there’s a third flash mucking things up in the timeline, somebody known as the Dark Flash, who previously appeared as a gremlinish presence when out Barry first goes back. (It’s the Dark Flash who knocks out Barry into the earlier alternate timeline.) Finally, there’s a fight and it’s revealed that the Dark Flash is actually the younger Barry, who keeps traveling through the multiverse trying to save Batman and Supergirl and, of course, his mom and dad. It never happens and the journey corrupts him until he’s this hideous monster. Young Barry dies fighting the Dark Flash, and the both of them disappear while the other spheres of the DC universe are restored, safe and sound. Still – RIP Batman, Supergirl and that entire reality. Boo Zod!
Does he see another version of The Flash?
Weirdly the only other version of The Flash we see is a version of Jay Gerrick / The Flash played by Teddy Sears, who played a different character on the CW series “The Flash.”
Wait, he doesn’t see Greg Gustin?
Really? Even though he created a new version of the character that brought an entire new audience to the world of the Flash?
Yeah. It’s another extremely odd choice! We were also rooting for John Wesley Shipp, who played the Flash in the underrated 1990 series and co-starred in the CW show as Barry’s dad, to also make an appearance. He does not.
What about our current Flash’s predicament?
You’d think that the lesson Barry would have taken away from all of this was “don’t mess with the past.” But it seems like the lesson was more like “only mess with the past in ways where you won’t destroy the universe.” Our Barry goes back in time and, instead of making sure that his mom has the can of crushed tomatoes that she would send his dad out for later, he does something differently. (She dies when he’s running to the grocery store and the grocery store alibi doesn’t hold water in court, especially with grainy surveillance video.) This time, he changes it so that the tomatoes are on a higher shelf, meaning his father has to look up (and directly into the CCTV camera). In the new version of his trial, a cleaned up version of the footage is presented and he’s freed.
He doesn’t attempt to, you know, solve his mother’s murder?
Nope. This is one of the more baffling elements of the entire movie and the one that you will also probably be puzzled by. Barry’s mom’s killer? Still on the loose!
Anything else change?
After his father’s trial, Barry flirts with Iris West (a criminally underutilized Kiersey Clemons) outside the courthouse and waits for Bruce Wayne to show up. Bruce (the Ben Affleck/Snyder verse Bruce) helped clean up the video footage and is anxious to see Barry. As he waits to be approached by his Bruce, who steps out of the limo but George Clooney, who played Bruce Wayne/Batman in 1997’s “Batman and Robin.” “Who the fuck is this guy?” Barry asks.
Wait really? George Clooney?
Yes. In fact, it’s more “George Clooney” than “Bruce Wayne” because Clooney didn’t shave his beard and it looks like he’s wearing his own clothes. Also, in earlier paparazzi photos, Michael Keaton shot this scene and was meant to take over as the mainline Batman of Warner Bros.’ DC Universe. Keanton had also shot scenes for the upcoming “Aquaman” sequel that were subsequently re-shot with Affleck and had a major role in the since-canceled “Batgirl.” (There were also plans for a “Batman Beyond” movie that would have re-teamed him with Michelle Pfeiffer and Tim Burton.) Now all we have is his brief role in “The Flash.”
So how does this impact the DC movies going forward?
Well, that’s somehow even more confusing than the last, very loud act of “The Flash.” There are new executives in charge of the movies (James Gunn and Peter Safran), who have said that there will be a whole host of new heroes completely separate from the pre-established Snyder-verse. And yet … the “Aquaman” sequel will be out later this year. And there’s a sequel to last year’s “The Batman” in development for 2025, along with “The Penguin” show for MAX. And a “Joker” sequel too. There was some assumption that “The Flash,” with all of its universe-crossing and dimension-redefining, would actually clear this narrative path up and make things more reasonable (and less confounding) going forward. But that didn’t happen.
“The Flash” is now streaming on Max.