Oh the hilarity: the opening for The Flash’s (not really) solo movie goes hard to the humor, serving as a big heads up that this is not going to be another DC descent into the grimdark. Our socially awkward superhero has to contend with a slow-moving sandwich shop employee who doesn’t understand the depth of his caloric depletion — and also with a collapsing hospital wing that sends not only a bunch of babies, but also a bunch of big baby dangers (scalpels, poison, a microwave, etc.) plummeting toward the pavement. Oh, and also a dog. All in super slo-mo, of course, since that’s how the world looks when you’re the world’s fastest anything. (It helps that at certain speeds, the laws of physics seem to stop applying.) But the real joke is that all this work as “the janitor for the Justice League” makes his alter ego late for work — imagine! No, wait — the real joke, the one that’s pointed enough to make you wince in sympathy, is that the movie about a fast superhero was a couple of weeks too slow to hit theaters. Had it arrived before Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, who knows? It might have felt more original, instead of a nearly beat-for-beat second take on the story. Yeah, you’ve got time travel instead of universe skipping as your tool for “fixing” the tragic death of a parent, but so, so much else is spot-on: the necessity of certain events (“canon events” in Spider-Man, “inevitable intersections” in The Flash), the ideas that “these scars make us who we are” and not every tragedy can be avoided, the fan-service alternate-casting cameos, etc. etc. As it is…well, at least it finishes its story in one installment. And Ezra Miller turns in a weirdly appealing performance as Barry Allen the Younger and Barry Allen the Elder. But also as it is, it’s not particularly pleasant to look at (all that money, and they couldn’t keep The Flash’s physique consistent?), it spends too much time on pop culture references, there are a disquieting number of dick references, and there’s the pesky way the multiverse dulls the dramatic edge of death, even as the film seeks to sharpen the blade. (2023) — Matthew Lickona
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