Warner Bros. held the first-ever public screening of “The Flash” on Monday night in Las Vegas during CinemaCon 2023, and 24 hours later, the social media embargo has expired. So you know what that means: The first reactions are in.
And, surprise: They’re mostly rapturous. People who saw it loved it, mostly. There were some criticisms too, harsh ones even. But even the nay-sayers had at least some nice things to say about it, too.
Now, the reactions of journalists at a highly curated industry event like CinemaCon don’t necessarily guarantee critical acclaim and box office gold to follow. But it has to feel like a good sign for Warner Bros. Discovery, which has had what can politely be described as a very tough year in part thanks to this movie.
“The Flash” has been saddled with far more controversy than hype thanks in part to the public meltdown of star Ezra Miller that made headlines throughout 2022. Not helping matters were the divisive decisions by Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav who, upon taking the reins of the company following the merger that created it — coincidentally around the same time Miller’s meltdown started — abruptly canceled several projects, including the HBO Max “Batgirl” movie, which was reportedly already finished.
In the case of “Batgirl,” the official explanation was, essentially, that it was too horrible to ever see the light of day and WBD was better off taking the financial hit than releasing it. Whether or not that’s true, WBD subsequently faced accusations that it was singling out projects featuring women or people of color for cancellation, while protecting “The Flash” despite the multiple legal problems Miller created for themselves.
The uproar died down somewhat as 2022 wound down. WBD earned itself some enormous goodwill by appointing “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn as the new co-head of DC Films, while Miller resolved their legal problems, entered treatment for mental health issues, and more importantly stayed out of the spotlight. Still, a giant question mark hung over “The Flash.”
But, as far as the people who watched “The Flash” in Vegas Monday night are concerned, the decision not to cancel it was justified.
Writer Jenna Busch said, “It makes sense to me now why DC didn’t shelve this one.”
TheWrap’s Umberto Gonzalez, meanwhile, said the film “belongs in the same conversation as SUPERMAN 78 and BATMAN 89,” and calls it “the greatest DC movie of the last 30 years.”
Gizmodo’s Germain Lussier says “The Flash” is “Back to the Future meets Spider-Man: No Way Home with all the humor & heart of the former and action and surprises of the latter.” Though he also suggests it might be “a tad too ambitious.”
And continuing in the criticism side, The Ankler’s Jeff Sneider called the film “a mixed bag,” noting that while the first hour was “pretty fantastic” and that Miller “is great. Heroic. Funny. Emotional,” the film’s latter half “is MOSTLY terrible” and “an utter mess.”
But, you won’t be surprised to hear, anyone who cared to mention Michael Keaton, who plays Batman for the first time since 1992, had nothing but huge praise for him.
Starring Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash, the film follows Barry after travels back in time to prevent his mother’s murder and in the process ends up breaking the multiverse. Encountering other versions of himself as well as a version of Supergirl from an alternate timeline, he teams up with a very different, much older Batman — Keaton’s version — to set everything right.
Directed by Andy Muschietti from a script by Christina Hodson, “The Flash” also stars Sasha Calle as Supergirl, Michael Shannon as General Zod (reprising his role from “Man of Steel”), Ron Livingston as Barry’s father, Maribel Verdú as Barry’s mother, along with Kiersey Clemons and Antje Traue.
Read on for a sample of reactions.