A scintilla of respect

Adam West in a DC movie, kind of

By Mark Voger, author
‘Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture’

I call ’em “trailer movies” — movies with moments that look cool or funny in a trailer, but the movie built around those moments ain’t so hot. Andy Muschietti‘s “The Flash” (2023) is a trailer movie.

Michael Keaton suits up 34 years after Tim Burton’s “Batman.”

Seeing Michael Keaton, the 1989 Batman, suit up again in the “Flash” trailer was catnip to a certain strain of bat-nerd. (I identify as a 1966 Batman guy, an Adam West guy, but I do have pangs of nostalgia for the ’89 Batman. He/it brought Batmania back into the mainstream. That was a rockin’ summer.)

And so, much as I abhor current superhero movies, I wanted to see Keaton “be Batman” again on the big screen. (Maybe I’d go to McDonalds first and get cranked up on Diet Coke, like I did in ’89 when I was still impervious to harm.) Then I heard the rumors that the Adam West Batman would be making a cameo in “The Flash” — digitally, in the wake of West’s 2017 death. No one, least of all West himself, ever dreamed he would be in a post-1989 DC Comics superhero movie. I was in.

But — there’s always a but — I learned about “Flash” star Ezra Miller‘s bad behavior. There was talk that the movie would be recast, or pulled outright. Then one day, after the bad buzz had died down, “The Flash” was back on the schedule with casting intact. All was forgiven. Or forgotten.

I boycotted the movie; I didn’t want to give a nickel to that cause. Still, I needed to see what they did with West and other promising cameos. Ya see, “The Flash” ain’t really about the Flash; he’s the conduit, the vessel, the frontman for a Cameo Palooza meant to bolster box office.

Then one recent day, “The Flash” turned up on DVD at my local library. Not a nickel spent. Plus I could fast-forward through the life-wasting parts. Win-win.

Use your noodle

Keaton as a bedraggled Bruce serves up spaghetti and transtemporal theory.

First, let’s listen in as Keaton — playing a scraggly haired, bearded Bruce Wayne in “hermit” mode — explain how it’s possible to see four Batmen, three Supermen and two Barry Allens in one movie. He does this using spaghetti as an analogous prop, and 10-dollar words like “fulcrum” and “retrocausal.” The guys who wrote this scene are clearly cellar dwellers with no significant others.

Explains Bruce (to the two Barrys): “Well, time isn’t linear, right? At some point, you probably saw a movie that told you that if you went back and changed the past, you’d create a kind of ‘branched’ timeline, right? Look …”

Here, Bruce lays down two parallel strands of uncooked spaghetti. He then turns them at slightly opposing angles.

“New present, new future,” he continues. “Well, time doesn’t work like that. When you go back and change the past, you create a fulcrum. You put yourself on a whole ‘nuther strand of spaghetti. New future, new past. It’s retrocausal. What you did was you changed the future and you changed the past. What you eventually end up with is this.”

Bruce ceremoniously dumps cooked spaghetti onto a plate, which lands in a jumble, as cooked spaghetti will do.

Is it Ragu or from-scratch?

“The Multiverse,” he continues. “Some strands run almost parallel; there will be inevitable intersections; and others that are just wildly divergent.”

(In other words, We Can Put Any Version of a Superhero We Want in Any Upcoming Movies.)

Keaton’s capper: “What it is … is a hot mess.”

That’s when he spills the red sauce onto the spaghetti. And scene.

But seeing Keaton, as AC/DC sez, back in black is like 1989 all over again. It’s not that I thought Burton’s ’89 “Batman” was great cinema — I believed Jack Nicholson as the Joker was playing a joke on ticketbuyers — but I’m very nostalgic about it these days. ‘Coz I felt the return of Batmania. I’m a 1966 cat. I felt it.

Sasha Calle made her film debut in “The Flash” as Supergirl, grounding an infernally gimmicky movie (but only when she’s in it). Keaton’s and Calle’s participation in “The Flash” are not cameos; they’re meaty enough roles with billing. As for the unbilled cameos in the superhero-packed movie …


Remember when Ben Affleck was developing a solo Batman movie? He was going to star and direct? And then Warners sh*t-canned him? So it’s kinda cool that Affleck let all of that go, and suited up anyway.

Gal Gadot is still absolutely magical as Wonder Woman.

Above is a digital George Reeves as the 1950s black-and-white Superman. The “camera” doesn’t get close enough to Reeves to see his actual likenesses, but it’s clearly meant to be “his” version of Superman. (Is Warners avoiding paying royalties to the Reeves estate?) In the sequence, the Flash witnesses Multiverse chaos involving numerous superheroes. The truth? It’s just a bunch of digital cameos courting buzz for short-term gain. Get the social media hipsters gabbing. The novelty wears off but quick.

The Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, is in the sequence. I can’t find a consensus on who, if anyone, “plays” him. But why pay a human being when an AI-generated one will do?

West’s “appearance” is above. As with Reeves, we cannot make out West’s face. In the blink-and-you-miss-it scene, we hear a generic Catwoman voice say “Purr-fectly foolproof,” to which a West-like voice replies, “Only the Joker would think of that.” There’s also some cackling in the background, though it’s not identifiable as either the Riddler or the Joker.

Cynical as I feel about this, I must admit: It feels like, at long last, an acknowledgement, a scintilla of respect for West’s Batman in a modern DC Comics superhero movie. I’ll take it.

There’s no subterfuge regarding Christopher Reeve and Helen Slater as Superman and Supergirl. There’s even a Nicolas Cage Superman with scant justification; Cage never made it to the finish line as Supes. We’re seeing these actors’ faces, but we’re also seeing “dead eyes” — the bane of all digital resurrections thus far. (There’s a ton of dead eyes in the Beatles’ new video for “Now and Then,” with its animated archival photos.) Will the digital geniuses ever fix this problem?

Spoiler alert! (Oops, too late to say that.) George Clooney does a movie-capping cameo as Bruce Wayne getting out of a limo, thus bringing the Batman total up to four. (Where’s Val Kilmer the one time you need him?) Short-term gain!

In a “credit cookie” (a post-closing-credits bonus scene), we also see Jason Momoa as an inebriated Aquaman.

Post script

According to Heroic Hollywood: “It’s estimated that marketing nearly doubled the budget of the film, causing Warner Bros. Discovery to lose around $200 million on the film. This $200 million loss puts ‘The Flash’ as the sixth biggest box office bomb in Hollywood history.”

Sleep with dogs, wake with fleas, mother f***ers. Now there’s talk that Miller may not be playing the Flash in future DCU movies.


First, a little Batusi to cleanse the pallette …

Then, how about a 1989 trailer?

Finally, here’s the “Flash” trailer with that cool Keaton footage …