The dominance of the comic book movie over the last twenty-something odd years has admittedly brought me plenty of joy and moments of pure cinematic euphoria, but as we reach what is at least our sixth multiverse film in the last five years (and the second in the last three weeks) I think I've reached the acceptance phase of letting go. Letting go not necessarily because I want to, but because it has become more and more apparent that it is time. While it would feel easy to be angry, depressed, or even regretful about the direction of the genre and what super hero films have collectively become over the past few years it would seem simpler (and easier) to just accept that The Flash is a prime example of why these types of films have begun to feel like they're eating themselves and thus, as much as I hate to say it, why it's time to take a break. 

Letting go, not just of the possibilities that have both been fulfilled and lost, but of the individuals who pioneered these characters as flesh and blood. Listen, I get it, letting go is hard because it means freeing one's self from aspects of their past, things that have become such a big part of a person's life they may even define part of their personality and it's understandable why, rather than moving forward, one might want to remain in this state of familiarity - there's a comfortability in it - but director Andy Muschietti's The Flash is a watershed moment in the super hero genre not because it breaks new ground or re-energizes the kind of escapism these movies can provide, but because it brought upon the realization there is a difference in being comfortable and being resistant and that one can only resist change for so long before what was once a source of comfort becomes discomfort as the seeds of doubt and truth that what once was no longer is begin to grow and further, that a person can only tolerate discomfort for so long before admitting that change is necessary. 

This may all feel a little obvious to some and minor to others and I understand how it might even seem downright dramatic to those regularly unengaged with the discourse around the genre or film in general, but aside from some standard complaints to be made about the film (it's more ugly than awe-inducing, it's a narrative mess that likely won't hold up under scrutiny, and aside from the titular character there is little empathy or investment to be made toward anything or anyone) the fact that as I was sitting there, trying to be excited about what I was watching and instead began to contemplate where the edge of the cliff was and how much Michael Keaton's version of Bruce Wayne/Batman didn't deserve or need this I couldn't help but to then wonder why my brain was going down that route. 

From left: Ezra Miller, Ezra Miller, and Sasha Calle see their worlds collide in director Andy Muschietti's version of The Flash.
 © 2023 - Warner Bros

The truth is, and context is important, that despite all the hype James Gunn and everyone who saw the movie several months ago heaped on the film that's not why I was excited to see The Flash. I was excited to see The Flash because I thought Ezra Miller was an inspired choice, I enjoyed his contributions in Justice League and also because I enjoyed the CW show for some time before it too ran itself off a cliff. The point being, the idea of this character getting a solo feature and seeing the best of what that recent series had to offer told on a bigger scale with a more finite structure sounded really appealing and an opportunity for someone with genuine vision to do something interesting. While I might have preferred Rick Famuyiwa's (Dope) or John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein's (Game Night, Dungeons and Dragons) takes on the character more I was enough of a fan of Muschietti's IT films to feel confident he could deliver. And I don't want to take away from what he does accomplish here as there are moments among this multiversal mess that felt inspired and a novel take on the given premise, but when the finale of your film is set in the middle of nowhere (and worse, is visually dull because of it) not because the story dictates as much, but because it's more a direct response to the backlash Man of Steel received then we're making movies based on how they might be judged rather than what our gut tells us they should be and that's neither art nor entertainment - that's just pandering. 

Where The Flash goes in its final minutes may be the most desperate and unnecessary attempt at catering to a fanbase making the taste it leaves with its audience even more offensive. Admittedly, the genre itself is very much a double-edged sword depending on a given project's ambition and narrative priorities and while Across the Spider-Verse mixed innovative visual stylings and allowed its themes to lead its plot while melding the two to create a singular tone The Flash feels the opposite in every category. It's a basic truth in life that you take the bad with the good, but that doesn't have to be true at the movies. Maybe we don't have to let go of the whole genre to move on or move forward, but we definitely need to be more selective on what we let into our lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment