Cool runnings with the Flash

The Flash
Director Andrés Muschietti
Reviewer Ray Chan

THE butterfly effect is literally a tale as old as time. Even the smallest change in history will lead to much larger and different consequences in the future.

And in this movie, that’s where the troubles start for Barry Allen, who, as the Flash and a newly-minted member of the Justice League, has recently discovered he can travel back in time by moving faster than the speed of light.

Barry epiphanises that he can use this new skill to help acquit his father of wrongful murder charges against his wife. The incident can be traced back to one can of tomatoes – if his mother hadn’t forgotten to buy them earlier that fateful day, his father would never have gone out to the grocery store, an intruder wouldn’t have thought the house was empty, and his mother would never have been killed.

Barry duly voyages to the past, planting the tomatoes in his mother’s shopping cart so that different circumstances would prevail, thereby saving her life.

The result is chaos, as the whole universe then starts to unravel.

Barry ends up in a reality where he loses his powers, meets up with a doppelganger who he has to train to take up the Flash mantle, and finds out that there are no other metahumans around.

There is a Batman though, although different to one that Barry knows. This version is the 1989 movie hero portrayed by Michael Keaton, who, now retired, is enticed to team up with the two Allens to help battle the arrival of the Kryptonian tyrant General Zod.

Indeed, Keaton’s much-publicised return is an admirable and well-conceived callback for the fanboys and baby boomers who flocked to the film when it premiered more than three decades ago … a joyful resurrection embellished by the sight of the sleek Batmobile and the iconic Batwing silhouetted against the moon, all to the original Danny Elfman theme.

With no Superman around in this world, a new hero emerges in the form of Kara Zor-El, the civilian name of Supergirl (although she is not referred to as such here). As she is also Kryptonian, she soaks in the super powers imbued by the Earth’s sun, and together with the Flashes, attempt to contain Zod and his armies.

The interaction between the two Allens as they team up gives the picture a human, relatable edge missing from so many super-hero offerings in recent times, in particular Marvel misses like The Eternals and Ant-Man: Quantumania, where watchers are dragged through interminable inter-galactic or outworldly sequences.

Miller gives his characters the perfect jittery, hyper-energetic quality expected from someone who views people in his surroundings moving at a snail’s space. And he’s not let down by the cast members, all of whom pull their weight with distinction.

The flashpoint of the movie (pun intended) occurs when the heroes fail to bring down Zod despite a valiant effort, resulting in the sacrifice of one of them. Barry surmises he can once again go back in time again and again to try and reach a nexus where the villain is defeated.

It’s at this juncture that viewers of a certain age, this reviewer included, will discover the production’s most riveting moment: trapped inside a multiverse, Barry witnesses variant versions of Earth created due to his meddling with time, some with heroes, some without. In a stroke of genius, to represent these divergent individuals, director Andrés Muschietti calls in a string of the different versions of various DC characters from throughout the years, from across stage, screen and television.

Identifying the cameos is just half the fun: discovering some unexpected appearances is another source of joy, which will guarantee a return screening for many.