The Flash

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/29/23;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $108.13 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for partial nudity, action sequences of Violence, some strong language.
Stars Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verduì, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue, Michael Keaton.

Director Andy Muschietti’s The Flash would probably have been better regarded as a fun superhero movie if it weren’t dragged down by the baggage of the so-called DCEU.

On the one hand, it’s a solid portrayal of the character that, while taking some liberties with the source material, doesn’t deviate so much from the comics that he’s unrecognizable to fans. On the other hand, the film’s connection with the larger DC movie continuity serves as a beacon-call for hate-watchers to pick apart all the ways it doesn’t make much sense.

That dichotomy is likely to serve as the defining parameter of the ultimate legacy of The Flash — a film that’s entertaining on the surface and offers some genuine emotional beats, but doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

It’s also a bit unique among the superhero genre in that it’s one of the rare solo-titled adaptations that doesn’t offer a standalone depiction of the character’s origin story. To be honest, it’s actually not much of a solo movie, with all the various Justice League characters that keep popping up.

Instead, the screenplay finds clever ways to present the Flash’s history to the audience by deconstructing his origin story in a way to serve the larger plot.

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Loosely based on the “Flashpoint” storyline from the comics, the film finds Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) feeling helpless in trying to find the key evidence to prove that his dad didn’t murder his mom when he was a kid. When he discovers his super-speed abilities allow him to travel through time, he decides to change history by saving his mom. However, this fractures the timeline to the point where other superheroes no longer exist, leaving the Earth vulnerable to General Zod’s attack (from 2013’s Man of Steel).

Teaming with his younger self, Barry then seeks the aid of this new timeline’s Batman, which turns out to be the Michael Keaton version from the 1989 movie, though now older and retired but seeking a return to action. Hoping to find Superman to fight Zod, they instead uncover Supergirl (Sasha Calle), and set about to restore order.

And that brings us back to the film being anchored to its baggage. With its multiversal time-travel plot, The Flash is essentially a big “what if” scenario for the DC Extended Universe. And since fans already know the DCEU is becoming defunct thanks James Gunn’s new creative direction for a DC-based movie continuity, the Flash’s meddling through time won’t have many consequences going forward.

Having Flash revisit the events of Man of Steel might have served as a poignant capper to the DCEU continuity. But this isn’t quite the end of the DCEU, as there’s still another “Aquaman” movie set for release, which The Flash does pay lip service to setting up. The original intent was supposedly to use Barry’s time meddling in this movie to set up a modified DCEU with Michael Keaton’s Batman, which would then carry over into the Batgirl movie, but when those plans were scuttled the film reshot its ending to rely on nostalgia-based sight gags.

This is not a movie for viewers unfamiliar with what has come before, either in the DCEU or previous DC-based movies and TV shows, as the nostalgia-bait references are laid on fast and thick. There’s even a payoff to what might be one of the biggest Hollywood inside jokes depicted in a movie, stemming from a Kevin Smith anecdote about his work on a Superman movie in the 1990s.

There’s also the matter of the film’s real-world baggage in the form of star Miller’s well-publicized personal and legal troubles, which likely turned off a huge portion of the audience and would make future Miller-based “Flash” movies problematic at best even if this film didn’t lose hundreds of millions of dollars in box office cash. For those able to compartmentalize those issues, Miller actually turns in a good performance as the two Barrys playing off each other. Serving as a superhero mentor to his younger self, in the same way his Justice League cohorts encouraged him, forces Barry to experience some vital self-examination, while his immature counterpart provides the film an opportunity for self-parody.

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Warner’s release pattern for The Flash home video editions represents a departure from the combo packs the studio usually offers, which is disappointing if it represents a policy shift at the studio.

Instead of 4K + Blu-ray or Blu-ray + DVD combo packs, the film’s wide release is standalone 4K, Blu-ray or DVD, each with an add-on digital copy. Fans looking for multidisc combo packs will have to turn to retail exclusives, with Best Buy and Walmart offering 4K+Blu-ray sets, and Target a Blu-ray + DVD pack.

The distribution of the extras is confusing as well, as only the 4K disc offers the full array of bonus materials.

Available with the 4K disc, Blu-ray and digital versions of the film are a handful of pretty good behind-the-scenes featurettes, including the 37-minute “Making the Flash: Worlds Collide,” the eight-and-a-half-minute “Let’s Get Nuts: Batman Returns, Again,” and the six-and-a-half-minute “Flashpoint: Introducing the Multiverse.”

Also included is the 16-minute “Supergirl: Last Daughter of Krypton” mini-documentary about the character’s history and legacy.

However, the most intriguing extra is the entire six-episode “The Flash: Escape the Midnight Circus” podcast, which is basically a radio drama of another Flash time travel adventure, running about 93 minutes in total, with Max Greenfield as The Flash. There’s also a two-minute “Midnight Circus” behind-the-scenes featurette.

Exclusive to the 4K disc and digital versions are four featurettes (“Saving Supergirl,” “The Bat Chase,” Battling Zod” and “Fighting Dark Flash,” about six to seven minutes each) and 10 deleted scenes running about 14 minutes total. Many of the deleted scenes expand on character interactions in the film and fill in some minor plot gaps, but are also interesting because the visual effects aren’t finished, so we get to see Ed Wade as the second Barry before being digitally replaced by Miller.

The 4K disc also includes the 38-minute “The Flash: The Saga of the Scarlett Speedster,” a must-see documentary for any fan of The Flash as it delves into the publication history of the character and his pop culture legacy. The digital version of this extra is available exclusively at Amazon Prime Video.

 

CEO Zaslav: Warner Bros. Accelerating the DC Superhero Movie Bandwagon

Superheroes to the rescue!

Following a hectic week that saw media reports suggest HBO Max was downsizing original content production to save money, and Warner Bros. Pictures canceling any release of the DC Extended Universe’s Batgirl movie slated for Max (in addition to Max’s Wonder Twins and Scoob! — Holiday Haunt), Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav found himself defending the studio’s move while reiterating support for the DCEU brand — which is largely based on superhero IP published by DC Comics.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav

In fact, Zaslav is upping the ante for DC superhero-themed movies going forward, looking to replicate the longtime theatrical success of Disney-owned Marvel Studios, and Sony Pictures’ enduringly lucrative “Spider-Man” franchise. But the executive also wants his studio executives (including new Warner bosses Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy) greater control on what movies get the green light.

Speaking on WBD’s Aug. 4 fiscal call, Zaslav said that owning the content that “really resonates” with people is much more important than just having lots of content. And the DCEU apparently lies at the heart of content that resonates.

Specifically, Zaslav is looking for closer collaboration between DC, Warner Bros. Animation and the Warner movie library to create theatrical releases with superheroes consumers already identify with.

“We have done a reset,” Zaslav said. “When you look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, these are brands that are known everywhere in the world, the ability to drive those all over the world with a great story is a big opportunity for us.”

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Indeed, Zaslav has tasked Warner Bros. Pictures management with a 10-year plan that focuses just on DC intellectual property in same way Disney focuses on Marvel superheroes. At the same time, a rush to create superhero movies must involve undefined qualities — a quality apparently lacking in the planned Batgirl release.

“We’re not going to release any film before it’s ready,” Zaslav said. “We think that we could build a long-term, much stronger sustainable growth business out of DC [by doing that],” he said.

While The Batman remains Warner’s top-grossing theatrical release in 2022, and animated release DC League of Super-Pets topped the North American box office in its debut, Zaslav has high hopes for the upcoming movies Black Adam, Shazam and The Flash releasing later this year.

“We’re very excited about them. We’ve seen them. We think they are terrific, and we think we can make them even better,” he said. “And that’s what Mike and Pam and the team are doing and focusing on that.”

At the same time, Zaslav questioned producing movies specifically for streaming, contending the legacy theatrical window remains the best way to market a feature film.

Despite Discovery+ and HBO Max ending the recent fiscal quarter with 92.1 million combined subscribers, Zaslav believes that releasing direct-to-streaming studio movies, regardless how often consumers frequent the platform, buy it or rent it is no comparison to the theatrical window.

“So, this idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it,” Zaslav said. “We can’t find an economic value for it.”