The players on the field aren’t the fastest things at the Super Bowl this year, as the new trailer for The Flash debuted. The long-gestating DC superhero movie – one of the last gasps of the DCEU, or the Snyderverse, or whatever you want to call it – The Flash finds Barry Allen caught in a dimension-fracturing nightmare he created by traveling through time to change the past. Ezra Miller once again (for the last time?) plays Barry Allen/the Flash, with Ben Affleck also returning as Bruce Wayne; they’re joined by Sasha Calle, Ron Livingston (who replaces Billy Crudup as Barry’s father), Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, and a couple of surprise returning players revealed in the trailer: Michael Shannon and Antje Traue. There’s someone else, too, not that much ballyhoo has been made of him: Michael Keaton makes his triumphant return as Batman. Directed by Andy Muschietti, The Flash will speed into theaters on June 16, 2023, and you can see the trailer that just aired during the Super Bowl below:
That’s one hell of a trailer. It’s been pretty well known that The Flash would be using “Flashpoint” as its inspiration since it was being talked about circa 2018, so much so that it was originally going to be called Flashpoint. As such, the trailer shows the familiar figures and plot points, like Barry’s mother, Nora, the desire to change the past, and the hellish future that results. The biggest problem with the trailer, as I suspect it will be with the film, is Ezra Miller. Even discounting the past year or so of horrific headlines, he wasn’t good in this role in Justice League, and he still doesn’t seem quite right. And there are two of him now, so get your Excedrin ready for opening night. But he’s overshadowed in the early moments of the trailer by the concept and the sense of wonder it generates, and if the movie follows suit, that’s a smart move. Get people invested in the time travel and the notion of righting past wrongs, make it feel like Back to the Future, then pull the rug out from the audience and show them that the fallout is 1984 with Kryptonians.
That’s right – General Zod is back. It looks like Barry changing the past results in Zod winning in Man of Steel and taking over the world, with no superheroes left to fight him. That could be interesting; I wasn’t big on Shannon’s version of Zod until the last ten minutes or so of his screen time, but he’s a great actor, and I’m perfectly willing to see what he does with the character in another movie and under a different director. But the Flash is going to need some muscle to fight a villain as powerful as Zod, and while it doesn’t look like Superman will be involved (I have a theory that movie studio security guards have orders to physically remove Henry Cavill if he comes within twenty yards of the parking lot), Supergirl is taking his place, the result of Barry’s time tampering. The trailer doesn’t give much of a sense of what Sasha Calle’s performance will be like, but it shows off some of the action in which she’ll take part, and if this is just the warmup, big Kryptoninan-on-Kryptonian fights are on the way.
But let’s drop the pretense; the real star here is Michael Keaton, and seeing his Batman return is a heart-stopper, at least for me. The swell of Danny Elfman’s iconic Batman theme (which is better than every piece of superhero music out there aside from John Williams’ Superman theme – even my beloved Avengers theme) makes every hair on your body stand at attention, waiting for an icon to step out of the shadows. Batman rules the second half of the trailer, which is pretty much in line with what I figured the marketing for The Flash would be, given Miller’s… allegations. And he looks great; I like the Batsuit, which looks like it could have been in a Burton film, albeit just a little lighter. Keaton is a smidge lighter in the trailer, too, likely because the tone of this movie won’t be as dark as Burton’s. That’s okay, but I hope they have him in some dark moments; I don’t think a happy-go-lucky Keaton Batman will feel right. It looks like he’s going to wipe the floor with some bad guys, though, and the kid in me completely believes that Barry evened the odds against the Kryptonians when he teamed up with this Batman. This movie is probably going to be the last time Michael Keaton gets to play Batman, so I hope they really go for the gold.
I’m also really impressed with the special effects so far, especially the smaller instances of them. At one point, Barry looks at his wristwatch – or whatever sci-fi doodad he’s wearing like a wristwatch – and it moves like a piece of Stark tech, doing whatever techy stuff it’s supposed to be doing. It looks great, totally believable in the moment rather than cartoony, like a lot of effects do lately. Marvel’s recent output has created diminished expectations for special effects, fairly or unfairly, so I’m more pleased than usual when I see some good examples of them. This is a trailer for a movie that’s four months out, and it’s refreshing not to have to put up with excuses like “Maybe they’re not finished yet” for some stuff that looks much worse than it should. This story will rely heavily on sci-fi elements, and it’s reassuring to know that the effects will help us buy into it rather than make it seem goofy. I don’t want to get my hopes too high, but I’m looking forward to Batm… I mean, The Flash.