Some quick observations about ‘The Flash’

I mentioned in a previous post that I might go see “Oppenheimer” or “The Flash.” I ended up taking my younger son and my grandson to “The Flash.” I’ll see Oppenheimer soon. Bryan says he saw “Oppenheimer” today, and maybe he’ll post here about it. I hope he does. If not, I will when I see it.

But now, some quick observations about “The Flash.”

It was fun. We enjoyed it. One would hope so, when that much money and that many people are involved. More about the many people in a moment. Here are some bullets:

  • Since seeing it, I’ve answered each person who’s asked me about it that it was “weird, but we enjoyed it.” To elaborate on the weird… As much as I enjoy watching a movie, that, among its other attractions, features pretty much everybody who has ever played Batman on the big screen, the overly bizarre twists — such as multiverse realities colliding with all sorts of dazzling visual effects, and similar people in those other universes having very different lives and relationships — gets a bit wearying. You eventually wonder what your eye should be following, and whether there’s really ONE version of a character seen multiple times that you should care about. Why so much baffling complexity? Isn’t normal life complicated enough? I think the answer is fairly simple: When you keep investing your huge production budgets in the SAME stories about the SAME characters over and over — including multiple renditions of the “origin story” — you have to go to extremes to keep pulling people in.
  • I mentioned Batman. You think, Batman? I thought this was The Flash. Well, another way Marvel has found to deal with the repetition of telling the same story over and over about one guy — say, Spider-Man — is to mix superheroes together, say through such devices as the Avengers. This makes the simple stories about single characters more complicated by having them interact with each other. It also brings, say, Thor fans in to see a movie about Iron Man. And sure, it’s fun to see these familiar characters interact. (My favorite example? Watching the Avengers sit around exhausted eating shawarma after the credits of the first “Avengers” movie.) Anyway, it’s worked for Marvel, so DC has adopted this practice with a vengeance. Their vehicle for this is the Justice League. There’s not just Batman, there are multiple Batmen, and Supermen. And the treat of the stunning Gal Gadot appearing in a cameo — there are lots of cameos — as Wonder Woman. She makes Flash tongue-tied, quite understandably.
  • I mentioned a lot of people being involved. I also mentioned the nice bits that occur AFTER the credits, in Marvel movies at least — meaning that even people who are not habitual credits-readers stay until they’re over. Last night, as with other such CGI spectaculars, I watched as oceans of names of people washed across the screen, most of them working on effects. And something occurred to me last night as I watched… One of the great advantages of CGI, I’ve heard, is that you don’t have to hire hundreds of extras to be an army or a crowd at a football game or whatever — you can just fake them. But here I was watching all these names of people hired to work on the movie, and it occurred to me that with this many people on the payroll, you could stage just about any kind of crowd scene you wanted. And then, you wouldn’t need CGI — for that purpose, anyway. Which is ironic. And doesn’t it cost more to hire people who can write code than to hire extras to stand around? So tell me again how the studios are saving money by not hiring extras…
  • A lot of those tech people — a surprising number of them, it occurred to me — had Indian names. I don’t mean like Geronimo. I mean like Rajesh “Raj” Koothrappali, the character on “The Big Bang Theory.” This small trigger made me think of something totally irrelevant — that if you DID put all these guys in the credits in a crowd scene, they’d look kind of homogenous. Not that they’d all look Indian, but that they’d all little like all the main characters — Indian, caucasian, Jewish, and occasionally (but not often) a woman, such as Amy Farrah Fowler. (Or like the Geek Squad at Best Buy.) But not Penny. The Pennys are all in the acting credits, and wear spandex.
  • A side note about aging. Flash is played by a young actor I’ve never seen before. Which is probably why he was surrounded by stars who have played Batman, etc. The studios can’t take chances on people staying away because there are no stars! Among the supporting characters were his parents. And you know who played his Dad? Ron Livingston. You know — the jaded young hero of “Office Space!” And a leading figure among the legion of young actors featured in “Band of Brothers!” But those guys worked at Initek 24 years ago. And “Band of Brothers” first appeared on HBO in 2001. So now he’s the Dad of the hero. This is disconcerting. It was almost as big a shock as when Marisa Tomei appeared as Aunt May in one of the Spider-Man movies. I mean, come on! This is Marisa Tomei. And this is Aunt May. How can this be? (Of course, they worked it out by having Aunt May look like this, which I suppose was a very Hollywood thing to do.) Anyway, I want all these people to stop getting old, right now.
  • Of all the name actors who appear, the biggest is Michael Keaton, who appears of course as one of the Batmen — the best one, the one you paid to see. This was a tremendous gimmick that the makers came up with, and it delivered. It does not disappoint. I’d tell you why, but I’m holding myself back from spoilers.
  • Oh, I mentioned the young actor who plays the Flash. Looking up details about the movie today, I ran across a rather appalling recent record, which apparently caused great concern among the makers of the movie, although they proceeded anyway. Look at the list of incidents and allegations on Wikipedia, which you find when you click on “controversies surrounding Miller” in the main story about the movie. Wow. I don’t see how one person could have been involved in this many kinds of alleged misdeeds. I don’t think Keith Moon could have kept up with such a record, even when he was at his most destructively energetic. And it’s a shame. I mentioned recently that with AI, we may face a future in which no new, young actor makes it big, because all the movies can star Harrison Ford and Clark Gable and Ingrid Bergman. But this kid gets a break like this, and yet seems to be self-destructing. Assuming any significant percentage of the allegations are true.

I guess that’s enough. Back when I reviewed movies, I never wrote on this long.

Again, I enjoyed it. (The best part? Michael Keaton, of course.) When something else like it comes out, I’ll probably see that too, if the young guys let me come along. But there is a good bit of weirdness…

Of course, the reason to go is to see Michael Keaton. He does not disappoint.

7 thoughts on “Some quick observations about ‘The Flash’

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, one more bullet I had meant to include, but forgot:

    — Following up on the point about all those gazillions of techies in the credits. They remind me of just how desperate the situation is for the striking actors and writers. First, thanks to all these code jockeys, the need for actors is greatly diminished — especially if they’re going to act like that insane kid who plays The Flash. I mentioned all those past Batmen and Supermen making cameos. Well, I’m not just talking about living ones. The late Christopher Reeve appeared a couple of times through digital sorcery, and for one brief second or two, we actually saw the original TV Superman, George (no relation) Reeves — who, if you’ll recall, was shot and killed in 1959. As for the writers, whaddaya need them for when the real money is in recycling comic book content?

    Sure, someone wrote the specific dialogue for this movie. And it increasingly takes talent to make it sound interesting, with the repetitive content. But the heavy lifting of creating new stories and new characters people want to see? Who needs it, right?

  2. james Edward Cross

    But you didn’t talk about the most important thing … what you thought of Sasha Calle as Supergirl. 🙂

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, I don’t know who Sasha Calle is, but if that’s the name of the actress who appeared as that sort of alternative-universe Kara Zor-El, I found her very interesting.

      Of course, it threw me that she wasn’t a blonde.

      I am of the Silver Age of Comics, and therefore have a VERY simplistic concept of these characters: Supergirl is blonde. Lana Lang is a redhead. Lois Lane’s hair is black, with highlights of blue in it. And every woman Superman knows well has the initials “L.L.”

      There were no multiverses. If the writers wanted to get creative with the story — posing such questions as “What if Lois and Clark were married?” — they wrote it, but labeled it an “imaginary story” (I think that’s what they called it), and when that short tale was over, it was gone, like waking up from a dream, and we all went back into the one-and-only simple, predictable universe.

      Consequently, when the movies started coming out and taking liberties with that reality, I found it disorienting. The first Superman movie in 1978 made Jimmy Olsen a photographer! That blew my mind. I thought, “Do these people not know what ‘cub reporter’ means?” That was always almost a part of his name! Of course, that set a new precedent, and now Wikipedia says he “is most often portrayed as a young photojournalist working for the Daily Planet.” He probably is — NOW.

      Of course, that wasn’t as bad as the original Superman TV series in the 50s. There was no newsroom. Clark and Lois had PRIVATE OFFICES — as reporters! Of course, that’s excusable. I assume the show didn’t have the budget to build a newsroom set, or to fill it with extras. But it was really ridiculous…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Not that I ever worked at a newspaper that had anybody who bore the title “cub reporter.” But it was still an understandable title.

        He started out as an “office boy” — which is another thing that indicates that Jerry Siegel, though a writer, never worked at a newspaper. I think he meant Jimmy was a copy boy. That was how journalists traditionally started out in the business, and I suppose it had a lot of duties in common with those of an “office boy” in some other kind of office.

        And of course, that provides me with another chance to mention that I am probably the youngest person you’ll ever meet who actually started his career in that traditional fashion. Yeah, I’m proud of it — no pampered, privileged “internships” for me. I did it the old working-class way.

        Of course, that connection to tradition was slightly watered down by the fact when I had the job, we were at the peak of the second wave of feminism, so the title had been changed to “copy clerk.” We were all boys when I started, but at some point during my tenure, one girl joined the rotation….

        Over the next decade or so, at the papers where I worked, that job title sort of morphed into “clerk.” That happened as moving physical copy around faded away. After that, they answered phones and generated content that didn’t really require writing skills, such as the community events calendar. At The State, they called those folks “the Reader’s Desk.”

        All of that is gone now, to the best of my knowledge…

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