Thursday, October 16, 2014

“Fastest Man Alive” Comes At A Price

The Good: Most of the acting is good, Special effects, Moments of character
The Bad: Some seriously cliché character moments, Very predictable plot arc
The Basics: The inconsistent abilities of Barry Allen as The Flash are explored more in “Fastest Man Alive,” which is more satisfying than it is actually good.

Today DC Entertainment made an announcement that nailed home the crux of my issue with the DC Cinematic Universe. DC Comics is in bed with Warner Brothers Studios and DC Entertainment has been slow to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe when it comes to producing franchises. DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers have a critical flaw with their approach: they segregate the television and film enterprises. So, while the pilot episode of The Flash (reviewed here!) featured a brief trip to Ferris Aircraft in a clear allusion to Green Lantern (reviewed here!), Ryan Reynolds will not be making any appearances as Hal Jordan to the television series. The segregation of projects almost immediately undermines Grant Gustin as he establishes himself as Barry Allen in The Flash as DC Entertainment announced today that Ezra Miller will play the Flash in a movie. Given how white Miller is, he can’t play Wally West to maintain a sense of continuity with the television incarnation of The Flash.

The reason the news of Miller being cast as The Flash for the movies so preoccupies me as I consider the second episode of The Flash, “Fastest Man Alive,” is that it lessens some of the emotional impact for the concept of the character and the impending film franchise. No matter how much time and emotional energy we invest in the development of Barry Allen as he grows and develops in The Flash, when we go to the theaters, there will be some cheap, truncated version of his arc to try to lure newbies in. This is ironic because in “Fastest Man Alive” there comes another concept added into the story of Barry Allen that seems rushed. In “City Of Heroes,” Barry Allen very quickly adapted to having sudden spurts of super-speed. In “Fastest Man Alive,” Allen’s super-speed comes with a price; the speed leaves him drained of energy. The thing is, just as by the end of the first episode Barry Allen was able to regulate his super-speed at will (wouldn’t it have been cooler if his body was like a capacitor and when the Speed Force within him reached a certain level, accelerating to super-speed was an involuntary reaction?!), almost as soon as his new limitation is introduced, the problem is solved in “Fastest Man Alive.”

All that said, despite some cliché moments, “Fastest Man Alive” is actually a good episode of television and it stands well on its own. As “City Of Heroes” insinuated, Barry Allen is not the only one who was affected by the breakdown of the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator and the surviving team from S.T.A.R. Labs and Barry Allen begin to hunt down the other metahumans born from that accident.

Barry Allen’s work with Harrison Wells and S.T.A.R. Labs is keeping him running all around Central City. Devoting time to things like rescuing people trapped in a burning building, the legend of the red blur begins to grow. For Barry Allen, that comes with two almost immediate prices: his relationship with his lifelong friend and might-as-well-be sister Iris West needs his help with a writing project for the Central City newspaper (and he keeps missing appointments) and he runs out of energy. While accompanying Iris to an award ceremony for noted biologist Simon Stagg, a group of armed robbers come in and hold the guests at gunpoint. Rescuing the security guard and knocking out a number of the armed assailants, Barry Allen suddenly finds himself crashing.

Dr. Snow lets Barry know that his glucose levels are crashing; his super-speed and heightened metabolism require him to consume massive amounts of calories. Hitting the wall robs Barry Allen of more than just energy; he loses his confidence. Investigating the attempt on Stagg’s life, Detective West learns that Barry Allen’s alter-ego has been busy around Central City. In trying to protect Barry Allen, West inadvertently opens old wounds between the two. But soon, West must depend upon Barry because the metahuman who is after Simon Stagg has the ability to spontaneously replicate himself and control his replicants. Unwilling to put the Central City Police Force in jeopardy against Danton Black and his legion of selves, Joe Allen asks his adoptive son to step-up and protect Simon Stagg and the city.

Diehard fans of the comic book The Flash will recognize Danton Black as, essentially, a permutation of Mob Rule, the first Flash villain when DC rebooted with its New-52 concept. Presented like Agent Smith in The Matrix Reloaded (reviewed here!) or that on mutant from X-Men III: The Last Stand (reviewed here!) who did essentially the same thing, Danton Black is not given as much depth as Clyde Mardon in “City Of Heroes.” Professionally screwed over by Simon Stagg, Danton Black is given a simplistic revenge story that does not pop.

Fortunately, the real focus of “Fastest Man Alive” is Barry Allen. Grant Gustin continues to feel very much like Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man (reviewed here!) with less attitude. In “Fastest Man Alive,” Gustin gives a very generic emotional outburst as Barry confronts Joe. Fortunately, Gustin manages to recover the emotional resonance of the episode with an uncommon scene late in the episode where he apologizes and notes all of the ways that Joe West has been a father to Barry. Gustin plays off the seasoned Jesse L. Martin and Martin is impossible to upstage. Perhaps the best performance of the episode comes from Martin emoting with his eyes alone in reaction to Gustin’s well-delivered monologue.

“Fastest Man Alive” expands the supplemental characters as best the episode can while managing to stay focused and tight. Harrison Wells is given the end of the episode again, in more of an activist role than he had in “City Of Heroes.” Both Dr. Snow and Cisco have moments, but the bulk of the episode (when it is not a generic “freak of the week” pursuit) is focused on the relationship between Barry Allen and Joe West.

The Flash is entertaining and engaging enough through “Fastest Man Alive,” but it seems like the most original ideas being presented in the series are quickly established and then undermined. If The Flash was expected to have a short half-life, the recasting for the movies would make sense; as it is the television series seems like it is using movie pacing for a medium where aspects could be better developed.

For other works with William Sadler, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Iron Man 3
Man On A Ledge
“Extreme Measures” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Inquisition” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


For other television and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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