5 Min Read

A Time-Bending Journey: The Flash

The Flash is the latest superhero origin story, specifically that of members of the Justice League. Following on from Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman we now get to Barry Allen played by Ezra Miller who becomes the Flash – a being able to move faster than even the speed of light.

By now we are all familiar with the format of the superhero blockbuster: lots of violence, monumental property damage, unbelievable last-minute rescues, incredible escapes and above all fantastic special effects. Even the plot lines are fairly predictable: the unsuspecting individual discovers, inherits or achieves superpowers and then has to do battle with malevolent being with equal powers, defeats them and saves the world, at least until the next sequel.

Ever present is the hero’s colourful and distinctive costume. The Flash’s outfit is bright red and it must be the tightest of all the superhero outfits thus far. (Even its wearer complains about its clinging-ness on his nether regions!).

Given the proliferation of superhero flicks, there needs to be something a tad more different to distinguish this latest one from its predecessors.

The Flash, 2023. Directed by Andres Muschietti.

On the one hand, this film conforms to previous superhero flicks in the dazzling special effects, elaborative battle scenes and heroic rescues. On the other hand, it provides something a little new in terms of its scenario and plot development.

Instead of the usual ‘goodies vs baddies’ scenario, the story has a slightly different emphasis. There are ‘baddies’ but they are not the whole story. In fact, at times, they became a secondary focus. The crux of the film centres around a tragic event in Barry Allen’s past and his struggles to rectify what occurred in his childhood. The plot centres on whether one should interfere with their own fate; specifically if one can travel back in time, to alter a negative event what are the likely, unintended and unforeseen consequences?

Apparently tampering with past has unpredictable ramifications for the future. This is where students of cosmology and sci-fi nerds will find the plot appealing. The film explores different timelines, alternate realities and the dangers in interering with the past. Those up to date with the theory of relativity will likely understand this principle more fully than the average layperson. But even a novice can still follow these elaborate twists and turns. Overall, the plot does not follow a standard timeline but jumps back and forth, especially at crucial points. Unsurprisingly, strict chronology goes by the wayside.

The Flash, 2023. Directed by Andres Muschietti.

At nearly two and half hours in length, the movie coasts along with numerous action scenes interspersed with more personal scenes exploring the emotional turmoil of the central character. Barry Allen is conflicted over the untimely death of his mother and attempts to deal with it by using his superpowers which in turn trigger the events of this unconventional plot. In addition, there are comic moments and other ‘revealing’ scenes: more than once the Flash loses all his clothes – living up to his superhero name!

The special effects are impressive not only in mega action scenes but also at a more intimate level. Since he travels back in time, the Flash meets his slightly younger and more nerdy self. As a result, Ezra Miller has many scenes opposite himself which explore his trauma and personal conflict. These interactions bring more depth to the character revealing levels of insight and conflict as he grapples with the paradox of trying to change his own fate. The Flash seems more vulnerable and emotionally insecure than previous superheroes. He is a socially awkward, often clumsy, nerdy youth and these aspects of the character don’t vanish when he dons his superhero garb. The role shows he’s more than just a pretty face and a bit more than an athletic body in a tight rubber suit.

The Flash, 2023. Directed by Andres Muschietti.

According to past movies, everything should be resolved amicably by the last scene. But the ending here is not that simple: not all the loose ends are neatly tied up. In fact, very few are keeping with the mantra of the movie: ‘not every problem has a solution’. Barry Allen arrives at some sort of resolution but not everything goes according to plan. And this is on top of the tease at the end with a cameo by a Hollywood heart throb and the end-of-credit sequence. In this sense, the plot is more original than the standard superhero fare.

Sci-fi fans and devotees of escapist fantasy will appreciate this film. Even non-fans are unlikely to be bored with all the twists and turns in this tale of alternate reality. In going a bit beyond the usual melodramatics, it gives you something to think about apart from the dazzling visuals.