by Rob DiCristino
As difficult as it’s been to get excited about the newest phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Remember when Wakanda Forever was supposed to fix everything?), it’s been harder still to feel any real enthusiasm for the DC Extended Universe, an endeavor hobbled since infancy by myriad cancellations, executive reshufflings, personnel management crises, and — perhaps most crucially — a catastrophic lack of creative consistency. No property has exemplified this more than The Flash, which began in earnest as a Phil Lord/Chris Miller joint back in 2015 before being kicked around by the likes of Seth Grahame-Smith, John Francis Daley/Jonathan Goldstein, and Rick Famuyiwa, with screenwriting and rewriting efforts from an entire stable of hired hands that included comics legend Grant Morrison and star Ezra Miller. For years, The Flash has been a punchline, a millstone of corporate incompetence that exemplified just how outpaced and outmatched DC has been by its sprightlier and more colorful rivals at Marvel.
Barry’s inability to prevent the death of Nora Allen (Maribel Verdú) has long been the center of his superheroic journey, coloring everything from his comic adventures to the CW’s TV series, which just ended its nine-season run this past spring. Muschetti wisely sticks to this familiar territory, which helps keep a firm thematic foothold on what eventually spirals into an outlandish romp through various multiversal concerns. While this approach has been a death sentence for similar blockbusters that leaned on spectacle over character (see Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), The Flash balances its pathos with far more precision and grace. This is due in no small part to a pair of brilliant performances from Ezra Miller, each of which shades its particular Barry with a distinct set of ticks, morals, and childlike fascinations. Helpful, too, is a clearer-than-usual explanation of time paradoxes and causal loops — which Keaton illuminates through tangled spaghetti — that keep any unnecessary plot from interfering with the story.
The Flash hits theaters on Friday.