There’s one huge caveat when digesting those “first reactions” from critics and bloggers attending an early showing of a superhero movie. These screenings are engineered to be uncritical, stacked with a highly curated audience and limited by various review embargoes. Studios seek to maximize hype and minimize bad vibes, hence the largely breathless first reactions to the eventually maligned Justice League or the “game-changer” Black Adam.
So take the initial reactions to The Flash with a grain of salt. Warner Bros. and DC Comics on Tuesday night screened an unfinished print of the would-be blockbuster to a CinemaCon audience of mostly movie exhibitors and a handful of journalists and critics at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Following the show, attendees raced to social media to share overwhelmingly effusive praise for the film, which spells a certain level of relief for Warner and DC.
How viewers would react to The Flash has been a major, ahem, flashpoint for the studio in recent months, following an unsettling pattern of disturbing behavior involving its star, Ezra Miller, who has faced multiple arrests for disorderly conduct and assault charges, and has been accused of grooming and harassing children. Last fall, Miller, who uses they/them pronounts, released a statement saying, “I want to apologize to everyone that I have alarmed and upset with my past behavior. I am committed to doing the necessary work to get back to a healthy, safe and productive stage in my life.”
Some pundits wondered if The Flash could even still be released with Miller playing a double starring role (Miller’s title character races through time, resulting in a buddy action comedy with dual versions of the hero) and Warner focused on trimming costs and rebooting the underperforming DC division. After all, executives didn’t flinch in cancelling the $90 million Batgirl, which sent shockwaves through the industry. But as Miller’s off-screen issues piled up, Warner Bros. and DC declined to cut ties; instead, insiders remained bullish on The Flash after early test screenings reinforced the idea that the film was really, really good. Its $200 million price tag certainly didn’t make it as disposable as Batgirl, and the film’s multiverse-hopping plot set up a reset of the DC Universe, introducing new heroes like Supergirl (Sasha Calle), while also providing the requisite fan service by bringing back beloved Batguy Michael Keaton along with several high-profile cameos. Andy Muschietti, the magnetic filmmaker who shot to fame with his hugely successful adaptation of Stephen King’s It, served as ringmaster, taking the reins of a project that had churned through at least four prior directors.
While Miller, Keaton and Calle were missing from the studio’s CinemaCon presentation earlier Tuesday, Muschietti and executives danced around their star problem. Without mentioning Miller’s myriad scandals, the director praised their work ethic, calling Miller “an incredible actor.” For now, at least, Warner Bros. apparently feels its best course of action is ignoring Miller’s off-screen issues and banking on fans loving the movie regardless.
If the critics and bloggers who posted instant reactions to The Flash Tuesday night are any indication, that strategy has a good chance of working. Someone reading through these tweets wouldn’t even know Miller had serious problems.
The Flash is hands down one of the best superhero films of all time. No joke, The Flash is the ultimate movie going experience as it has a little bit of everything! Action, emotion, heart, humor and plenty of nostalgia. Ezra Miller is phenomenal as dual Barry Allens. Michael… pic.twitter.com/F7SHA30vZM
— Scott Menzel (@ScottDMenzel) April 26, 2023
“The Flash is hands down one of the best superhero films of all time,” gushes We Live Entertainment’s Scott Menzel.
“BELIEVE THE HYPE! Christopher Nolan movies aside, #TheFlash is the GREATEST DC movie of the last 30 years that belongs in the same conversation as SUPERMAN 78 and BATMAN 89,” boldly states The Wrap’s Umberto Gonzalez.
“The movie is an absolute blast from end to end,” writes Cinema Blend’s Eric Eisenberg. “It's hilarious, thrilling, emotional, and surprising.”
The film’s star likewise received raves.
“Ezra Miller is phenomenal as dual Barry Allens,” says Menzel, adding: “Miller is the heart and soul of the film. Ezra’s performance carries the entire weight of the story. It is a dual performance and really showcases Ezra’s incredible talent as a performer. They bring such rich emotion and depth to the role.”
THE FLASH is awesome! One of the very best DC movies, a perfect blend of action, heart & humor! So many WOW & chill-inducing moments that longtime DC fans will love! EZRA MILLER is superb (twice, actually!) & MICHAEL KEATON’s still got it! #TheFLASH #BATMAN #CinemaCon pic.twitter.com/mYJrz7YUZG
— Scott Mantz 🖖 (@MovieMantz) April 26, 2023
“Ezra Miller is superb,” opines critic Scott Mantz.
The film has “two outstanding performances by Ezra Miller,” adds Cinema Blend’s Sean O’Connell.
However, to their credit, a few acknowledged the controversy.
“I know Ezra Miller has made a lot of mistakes but they are soooooo good in this movie,” writes Collider’s Steven Weintraub.
Believe the hype: #TheFlash is better than being choke-slammed to the ground outside a bar in Iceland. By the end of the movie, you'll feel like you got away with multiple crimes in Hawaiʻi and are anchoring a massive tentpole superhero film with virtually no consequences.
— Alex Zalben (@azalben) April 26, 2023
Decider’s Alex Zalben took especially pointed aim at Miller, the actor’s globe-spanning crime spree, and the breathless praise of their new star vehicle.
“Believe the hype,” Zalben writes, tongue-in-cheek. “#TheFlash is better than being choke-slammed to the ground outside a bar in Iceland. By the end of the movie, you'll feel like you got away with multiple crimes in Hawaiʻi and are anchoring a massive tentpole superhero film with virtually no consequences.”
Watch the trailer:
The Flash opens June 16.