The Flash First Reviews: Packed with Nostalgia and a Scene-Stealing Michael Keaton

Critics say the latest DC superhero flick is a satisfying time travel movie and a multiverse smorgasbord of nostalgia and cameos, even if it does lose steam towards the end.

by | June 6, 2023 | Comments

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While it has seemed slow to arrive, The Flash is quick to get audiences going, according to the first reviews of the new DC comic book movie. Starring Ezra Miller as the titular superhero, previously seen as an eager team player in the DCEU movie Justice League, The Flash is also a time-travel movie and a multiverse smorgasbord of nostalgia and cameos, including a well-publicized return from Michael Keaton as Batman. Many of the reviews also point out that the movie does start out really well and is likable enough throughout but becomes too much in the second half, with too much going on and too many characters to follow.

Here’s what critics are saying about The Flash:

Does it live up to expectations?

The Flash may not be the greatest comic book movie ever made, but it comes damn close.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

The Flash doesn’t reinvent the superhero genre by any means, but it’s still one of the most consistently entertaining entries in the genre in years.” – Daniel Howat, Next Best Picture

“It’s certainly an above-average entry.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“The good barely outweighs the bad here, at least enough for me to give The Flash a marginal recommendation.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“One of the most spectacular and frustrating mixed bags of the superhero blockbuster era, The Flash is simultaneously thoughtful and clueless, challenging and pandering.” – Matt Zoller-Seitz,

Ezra Miller in The Flash (2023)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)

How does it rank among DC movies?

“One of the best DC Comics movies out there.” – Travis Hopson, Punch Drunk Critics

“At its core, The Flash is a film that exudes the aura of the past, channeling its predecessors, Superman ’78 and Batman ’89.” – David Gonzalez, The Cinematic Reel

“One of the best DC Extended Universe films.” – Brandon Zachary,

“The Flash is, by far, the best movie to come out of this modern, post-Nolan Warners/DC collaboration.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone

The Flash is the first DC movie to somewhat emulate the early films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something DC has been chasing for a very long time.” – Daniel Howat, Next Best Picture

“I would hesitate to even put this film on the same level as others in the increasingly-tired genre that both Marvel and DC have run into the ground.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

“It does not work as a pseudo-finale to the DCEU, which it seemed to have been pigeonholed into becoming pending the upcoming reboot.” – Sheraz Farooqi, CinemaDebate

How is Ezra Miller’s performance?

“Miller excels in their performance as the dual Barry Allen/The Flash.” – Carla Hay, Culture Mix

“Miller, putting a spin of effrontery on every line, is the perfect actor to play this corkscrew superhero.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Miller does an impressive job making the two Barrys into distinct people; the illusion is so convincing that you sometimes forget that a lot of this movie is just one actor talking to themselves.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“The troubled star turns out to be the film’s chief asset, bringing humor, heart, and a vulnerability not often seen in big-screen superheroes.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“Simply put, better casting you could not imagine. Whatever the well-publicized personal-life troubles the actor has had simply do not matter here; Miller is the real deal and a superhero superstar is born.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

Michael Keaton and Ezra Miller in The Flash (2023)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)

What about Michael Keaton?

“The highlight is Michael Keaton, who fully embraces a tired and almost stir-crazy Dark Knight to deliver a performance that’s impossible to not appreciate.” – Brandon Zachary,

“He very much steals the show at times, proving that he has still got it.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

“It’s a performance to go nuts for.” – David Gonzalez, The Cinematic Reel

“Keaton still has that old Batman joie de vivre; even belatedly, it’s really fun to see him back in another adventure.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“Keaton has never been better in the role. It is a terrific reinvention of the character for the actor, and for Batman himself.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

“Keaton gives the movie’s subtlest performance. He underplays and reacts in a way that adds freshness to a story that’s probably too dependent on recycled situations and makes Miller’s jumpy, abrasive tendencies easier to take. He’s the acting version of a shock absorber, smoothing the ride without slowing it down.” – Matt Zoller-Seitz,

How is Michael Shannon’s return as the villain?

“He is a scary and powerful villain. Always has been. Likely always will be.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

“It is fun to see Shannon taking on more weight as Zod.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

“Shannon is wasted in generic snarling supervillain mode.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“The final showdown with Zod does feel a bit redundant.” – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“Michael Shannon returns as General Zod again in the Man Of Steel timeline, but the real conflict is internal as Barry must resolve the cracks in the timeline and learn to let go of his tortured past.” – Daniel Howat, Next Best Picture

Sasha Calle in The Flash (2023)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)

Does anyone else stand out?

“The absolute bright spot for the film is Sasha Calle’s Supergirl.” – Sheraz Farooqi, CinemaDebate

“Sasha Calle is sensational as Kara as she evokes the fierceness of Supergirl and offers an intense persona that gives individuality to her Supergirl while removing comparisons from other iterations.” – David Gonzalez, The Cinematic Reel

How is the action?

“When the action kicks into gear it’s damned impressive.” – Travis Hopson, Punch Drunk Critics

“Director Muschietti handles the action with confidence.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“Muschietti has a great handle on superhero action. Especially considering the film’s creative uses of the Flash’s abilities, the flow of action could have become difficult to follow — but it remains clear and (more importantly) very fun throughout.” – Brandon Zachary,

“Muschietti’s direction is a perfect tonal balancing act that makes the action gripping and appropriately silly when necessary.” – Daniel Howat, Next Best Picture

Ezra Miller in The Flash (2023)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)

What about the special effects?

“The effects when Flash is speeding through the city or into battle are an explosion for the senses, capturing the fun and freedom of moving faster than the speed of thought.” – Travis Hopson, Punch Drunk Critics

“It features some of the best digital FX work I’ve seen and some of the worst.” – Matt Zoller-Seitz,

“The movie’s visual effects fall a little short… It’s a little distracting, but it doesn’t ruin the movie.” – Carla Hay, Culture Mix

“The CGI/VFX is a detriment to the film’s third act.” – David Gonzalez, The Cinematic Reel

“There are a few times where the CGI is downright laughable.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

And the script?

“A lot of the jokes, scripted by Christina Hodson (from a story credited to John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, and Joby Harold) are clever, as are the winking homages to the long history of DC movies and other famous cinematic time travel stories like Back to the Future.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“Even despite being saddled with the baggage of the DCU’s failures, that the story that works in The Flash manages to shine through the noise is no small feat.” – Justin Clark, Slant Magazine

“The fact that the movie can withstand all of [its] diversions and still maintain a strong emotional core is a testament to the power of the script by Christina Hodson, John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein, and Joby Harold.” – Ben Pearson, Slashfilm

Michael Keaton in The Flash (2023)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)

Is the movie too nostalgic for the past?

“While the nostalgia often threatens to marginalize the central plotline, those scenes do yield pathos as the older Barry explains the futility of all that exertion to his teenage self, forcing them both to make the most painful sacrifice in order to set the world right.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“It’s surrounded by so much fat, damaged by all the mistakes of DCU films past, which makes all of its appeals to nostalgia come across stilted and awkward.” – Justin Clark, Slant Magazine

Does the movie have any major issues?

“Like far too many superhero movies, The Flash gradually bogs down, devolving into rote mayhem as the protagonists go up against their mighty enemy in a chaotic clash where busy CG excess takes over from human — or humanoid — engagement.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“It gets bogged down… There are so many twists and turns, and such a large cast, that even with two Barrys onscreen in a lot of scenes, the title character(s) and their motivations occasionally get lost.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“The trouble with The Flash is that as the film moves forward, it exudes less of that Back to the Future playfulness and more of that mythological but arbitrary blockbuster self-importance.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The final battle overpowers you with fan-service nonsense that many casual moviegoers won’t come close to understanding.” – Travis Hopson, Punch Drunk Critics

The Flash opens in theaters everywhere on June 16, 2023.

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