NEW YORK (OSV News) – Ah, time travel. It’s long been a favorite device for screenwriters who like to pile up the possibilities — and paradoxes — that might flow from an ability to flout the calendar.
Yet, while such speculations are sometimes amusing, they also run the risk of leaving viewers earnestly intent on following the plot befuddled. Where does the era-jumping, DC Comics-based adventure “The Flash” (Warner Bros.) lie on that continuum? Somewhere in the middle.
As for the film’s thematic material, it’s a mixed bag as well. A fundamental message about accepting both the good and bad that befall us is mixed up with ingredients that make this a doubtful proposition for the teens at whom, along with grown-ups, the movie is presumably aimed.
As he did in 2017’s “Justice League,” Ezra Miller plays the titular super-speedy “metahuman” (as the folks at DC like to call their superheroes). The Flash’s everyday alter ego is nervous forensics investigator Barry Allen.
Socially awkward Barry has been traumatized by a double tragedy: during his childhood, his mother, Nora (Maribel Verdú), was mysteriously murdered and his father, Henry (Ron Livingston), has since been unjustly convicted of the crime. Henry has an appeal pending but the case doesn’t seem hopeful.
After more or less accidentally discovering that he can outrun time, it occurs to Barry to journey into the past and undo his twin misfortunes. Predictably, however, doing so only creates innumerable fresh problems.
To retrieve the situation, Barry teams with a carefree youthful version of himself (also Miller) from the timeline in which mom went unscathed as well as with a previously unknown variant (Michael Keaton) of his pal Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck). Eventually, Krypton-born Supergirl (Sasha Calle) also joins the fray.
Action abounds in director Andy Muschietti’s sprawling saga. But the chronological convolutions he charts hover between interesting and confusing.
As for Christina Hodson’s script, it puts forward a view of suffering that comports with Christian values. Thus original Barry is equal to the tasks he undertakes as the Flash precisely because of the trials he’s undergone. Having evaded such calamities, frivolous, callow kid Barry, by contrast, is considerably less than heroic – at least initially.
While younger moviegoers would obviously benefit from the elder Barry’s example, it comes intertwined with elements that make this seem an unusually hard-edged project compared to similar adaptations. These include consistent vulgar vocabulary and an embarrassing lesson for Barry 2.0 about why the Flash requires a specially designed low-friction suit.
Sound at heart but somewhat gritty on the surface, “The Flash” will divert parents. But they should probably leave their adolescents at home.
The film contains much stylized violence with occasional gore, rear male nudity in a nonsexual context, at least one use each of profanity and rough language, several milder oaths and frequent crass talk. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.