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michael-keaton-batman.jpg

Spoilers: 'The Flash' Is Not Only Bad, It Fails Batman

By Dustin Rowles | Film | June 19, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | June 19, 2023 |


michael-keaton-batman.jpg

Superhero fatigue has not only taken hold across America but also within the offices of Pajiba. Thank God for TK, because no one else is enthusiastic about reviewing them. Before Across the Spider-Verse, the last superhero film I recall watching in theaters was Birds of Prey. The last superhero film I truly adored, aside again from Across the Spider-Verse, was Spider-Man: No Way Home. Much of my love for it stemmed from the return of Gen X Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire, and the touching, heartfelt performance of Millennial Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield.

I had hoped that The Flash could do for Batman what Spider-Man did for the previous Spider-Men. I adored Christopher Nolan’s Batman, liked Robert Pattinson’s Batman, and even enjoyed Ben Affleck’s Batman, but none can surpass Michael Keaton’s Batman. That original Tim Burton Batman is probably the only film I’ve seen in theaters four times, back during the height of Bat-Fever, when Letterman discussed the movie almost nightly for months. It had the iconic Nicholson Joker, Kim Basinger at the peak of her career, and that unforgettable Prince soundtrack. It was a delightful, cheesy spectacle, and in 1990, it was the best superhero movie ever made.

In The Flash, Michael Keaton plays a significant role alongside two Barry Allens portrayed by Ezra Miller, and a Kara Zor-El portrayed by Sasha Calle. Together, they must take down Zod (Michael Shannon) and a horde of poorly executed CGI. Setting aside the Ezra Miller controversy, the movie falls woefully short. Although there were a few memorable moments, overall, it was a failure. As a Justice League member, the Flash, as portrayed by Ezra Miller, was an entertaining character who excelled in scene-stealing moments and provided comic relief. However, as the main character — or worse, as the two main characters — his obnoxiousness is overwhelming.

The plot is fairly straightforward(ish): Barry Allen discovers the ability to run so fast that he can travel back in time. He uses this power to save his murdered mother’s life, but this action disrupts his timeline. Furthermore, Barry returns to his timeline a few years in the past and encounters his college-era self before he’d gained superpowers. He must ensure that Young Barry is in the right place when lightning strikes, granting him his powers. Unfortunately, this endeavor causes Old Barry to lose his own powers.

In this altered timeline, almost none of the Justice League superheroes exist, except for a washed-up Bruce Wayne played by Michael Keaton. Without Superman, there is no one to stop General Zod. Thus, the two Barrys seek out Bruce Wayne’s help, and together with Supergirl, they confront Zod.

Spoiler Alert:

They fail. Two Flashes, a Supergirl, and a Batman are no match for Zod, no matter how many times Barry attempts to alter the timeline (It’s hard not to read something into the fact that Supergirl failed where Superman succeeded, but I’ll try and let that go (Deadline reported on Friday that The Flash audience was 74 percent male. I wonder why). Eventually, Barry realizes that the only way to save the planet is to undo the change he made to save his mother’s life. He must let his mother go. After going back in time to do so, he returns to the present timeline, where his father — wrongly convicted of killing Barry’s mother — wins his appeal, thanks to another change Barry made in the past, which he didn’t expect to affect the future. However, it does, and in the film’s final scene, when Barry reunites with his old friend Bruce Wayne, Batman is played by George Clooney.

Ha? Honestly, if someone had told me that the entire movie was written with that one joke in mind, I would have believed them (Clooney shot his cameo earlier this year after the original ending was scrapped because of changes at Warner Brothers). The cameo barely lands because nothing in the movie preceding it truly lands either, and that includes Michael Keaton’s Batman, sadly. It is not a successful reprisal, and the callbacks to “I’m Batman” and “Let’s get nuts” are cringe-worthy. These moments should have elicited cheers from theater audiences, but they all felt strangely off, as if Schwarzenegger were delivering his iconic lines as the Governor of California.

I would have preferred a Michael Keaton Batman movie where Barry Allen played a supporting character, rather than the other way around. I have no idea what James Gunn was smoking — perhaps $100 bills? — when he suggested that The Flash was one of the best superhero films he’d ever seen because it’s not. The CGI in the third act is embarrassing. It is laughable. There is a brief appearance of Nic Cage as Superman amidst all the CGI, and it’s difficult to discern if it is truly Cage or an AI likeness of him. I enjoyed Sasha Calle’s Supergirl, except during the action scenes when her character transformed into a CGI cartoon. It was terrible; the special effects in Michael Keaton’s 1990 film were markedly superior.

It’s a shame because as bad as the movie is and as unnecessary as it was to release it after Ezra Miller’s controversies, it also does an injustice to Michael Keaton’s Batman and even George Clooney’s Batman, acknowledged as the worst Batman ever. The film leaves a bad taste because while Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s return evoked nostalgia in a heartfelt and enjoyable manner, Michael Keaton’s return felt like not just a soulless cash grab, but a necessary ploy to generate interest in The Flash. It worked. I couldn’t care less about The Flash. I only watched it for Keaton. But director Andy Muschietti let him — and his audience — down.

There will not be a sequel to The Flash. Furthermore, I suspect that James Gunn’s previous statements suggesting that The Flash is the first installment in his DCEU will never be mentioned again. It’s a messy film that should swiftly fade into oblivion.