Ezra Miller’s scandal-hit DC movie The Flash has arrived – and the verdicts are in
The critics have mixed feeling about controversial Ezra Miller’s DC film ahead of its cinema release.
The excitement for the long-awaited film was wholly overshadowed by Miller’s behaviour last year, as the non-binary actor, who uses they/them pronouns, battled accusations of physical assault, harassment, trespassing and grooming.
Although the 30-year-old star announced they were seeking help for their “complex mental-health issues” in August and having kept a low profile since, even steering clear of press promotion for the new release, DC bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran have been forced to justify keeping them on for any potential sequels.
The Flash follows Barry Allen, who, as a child, sees his father (wrongly) jailed for the murder of his mother.
Now a traumatised adult, Barry discovers he can move fast enough to travel through time, leading to the decision to go back and prevent his mother’s death.
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Thrown into a parallel universe with a younger Barry (also played by Miller), not plagued by grief and trauma, the film also features Michael Keaton, who reprises his role as Batman – as does Ben Affleck in an alternate universe – after 30 years, and offers us our first glimpse of Sasha Calle as Supergirl.
Described by Gunn as “probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made”, and with an 89 per cent Rotten Tomatoes score, we round up the first reviews of The Flash – and Miller’s performance.
Miller’s smirking, gurning, mugging doppelganger performance is a trial and in any case gets lost in the inevitable third-act CGI battle apocalypse, which is weightlessly free of jeopardy and, like the rest of the film, does not exactly go by in a flash.
This is not a movie with any new ideas or dramatic rethinking.
The troubled star turns out to be the film’s chief asset, bringing humour, heart and a vulnerability not often seen in big-screen superheroes.
The story’s core, of a young man struggling to reconcile with the loss of his mother, carries it through. Miller effectively layers that vein of melancholy beneath both the smart-aleck brashness of 18-year-old Barry and the rueful introspection of his older self.
The early word on The Flash, calling it one of the greatest superhero movies ever made, was pure hyperbole, but in the bumpy recent history of the DC extended universe, it’s certainly an above-average entry.
Ezra Miller excels in this double role, offering two dramatically different looks at the same character. One of the most affecting scenes of the film is Barry having a passionate argument with his younger self.
Miller proves they have the comedic chops to deliver it, taking all-too-familiar superhero story ideas and upending them into laugh-out-loud moments or creative action scenes.
Yet the superhero theatrics are all in service of an intimate story about the pain of grief and the strength it takes to find acceptance, and, in those moments of vulnerability, Miller shines just as bright.
Purely on a performance level, Miller is excellent here. [They] benefit from the decision to have not one, but two Barry Allens, which allows the role of jester to go to the younger, more care-free Barry, while Alpha-Barry gets to learn and grow and glare contemptuously at his idiotic younger self. We spend much of the movie with this dynamic duo, and they’re a joy together.
Ezra Miller has never gone full Ezra Miller the way they do in The Flash. With sculpted dark brows, almond eyes and insinuating lips, the actor is a mesmerising camera subject, like the young Jimmy Fallon crossed with the young Bob Dylan. But it’s the voice that gets you. Miller is insouciant, irritated, irascible and irresistible, like Andy Cohen on a bender of high anxiety.
With the possible exception of Deadpool, no straight-as-an-arrow DC or Marvel superhero has exhibited this level of psycho flippancy, this antic dissociation from his own heroism.
Bringing The Flash (née Barry Allen) vividly alive in a rich and dazzling dual performance, in which they brilliantly plays opposite themself, is Ezra Miller. Simply put, better casting you could not imagine. Whatever the well-publicised personal-life troubles the actor has had simply do not matter here, Miller is the real deal and a superhero superstar is born.
The hype is real. DC’s The Flash might not be the greatest comic-book movie ever made, but it comes damn close.
It was impossible to forget the accusations of child endangerment as Miller’s Barry Allen saves a group of babies on screen, or the reports of their violent outbursts when Barry has his own angry outburst. These parallels were no doubt an accident, but they colour any viewing of The Flash. It was impossible not to think of Miller’s victims while watching the film. [It’s] a passable multiverse superhero movie, but no amount of DC cameos can make audiences forget Miller’s off-screen actions.
It’s, at best, a middling superhero movie and, at worst, another reminder of how rare real consequences are in Hollywood.
There were layers to this superhero, however, and, given the spotlight, Miller peels back every single one of them. The parallel performances they’ve crafted here don’t just suggest two separate people and timelines, they suggest a one-actor double act with impeccable timing, dual psychological profiles and the complete range of the joy-to-sorrow, juvenile-to-sensible scales.
This beleaguered cinematic universe has finally hit upon a winning film, and one that will be for ever tainted.
The Flash opens in cinemas on 16 June.
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