Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Flash and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
It’s easy to take the greatness of the Spider-Verse movies for granted, because they’ve delivered beauty and perfection at every turn, but The Flash’s misguided handling of more or less the same story shows how badly the Spider-Verse movies could’ve turned out. The Flash’s cheap fan service and lackluster emotional storytelling serve to highlight what makes Across the Spider-Verse so great. It manages to plunge audiences into various alternate realities, with plenty of mind-bending action and hilarious sight gags, without ever taking the spotlight away from its resonant characters.
After being hyped up as one of the greatest comic book movies ever made by Tom Cruise and Stephen King, The Flash is a huge let-down. It’s not the worst superhero movie out there – there are some really fun sequences and it provides a perfect ending for Michael Keaton’s Batman – but it’s nowhere near the masterpiece that it was sold as. The Flash might not be the deeply moving, beautifully rendered superhero multiverse adventure that it was marketed as, but Across the Spider-Verse is.
The Flash & Across The Spider-Verse Have Basically The Same Premise
Both The Flash and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse are fun-filled comic book adventures that take audiences into the multiverse with alternate versions of iconic superheroes and supervillains, but the similarities go even deeper than that. They both revolve around a young superhero – Barry Allen in The Flash and Miles Morales in Across the Spider-Verse – who disrupts the space-time continuum in a desperate bid to prevent the inevitable canonical death of a beloved parent. Barry wants to save his mother, who died in a horrific accident when he was a little boy, while Miles wants to save his dad, who’s destined to be killed in the line of duty like every other police captain who gets close to a Spider-Man. Both Barry and Miles defy a superhero authority to alter the timeline, and they both end up stranded in the wrong universe when their quest goes awry.
The fact that the stories of these two movies are so similar makes it easy to compare the two. Both The Flash and Across the Spider-Verse are all over the place, as is the nature of multiversal movies, but Across the Spider-Verse manages to maintain its focus on Miles’ journey every step of the way, whereas The Flash quickly devolves into an incoherent mess. The finale of Across the Spider-Verse is a jaw-dropping cliffhanger ending setting up the thrilling conclusion of the trilogy, while the finale of The Flash is a bleary whirlwind of ugly CGI full of distasteful computer-generated resurrections of deceased actors. Across the Spider-Verse was already being praised as a masterpiece, but The Flash makes it look even better.
Why Across The Spider-Verse Is So Much Better Than The Flash
As far as interdimensional superhero movies go, Across the Spider-Verse is everything The Flash isn’t. Unlike The Flash, Across the Spider-Verse never loses sight of the emotional core of its story. Before bringing the multiverse collapsing in on itself, The Flash does set up a compelling hook with personal stakes: Barry is willing to risk the fabric of reality to save his mother. But the movie promptly puts that storyline in the backseat as Barry enlists the help of Supergirl, Keaton’s Batman, and his own alternate self to fend off the invading forces of General Zod. Even when the Spider-Society introduces a T. rex Spidey, a VR Spidey, and Donald Glover as the Prowler, Across the Spider-Verse remains focused on Miles and Gwen’s friendship and Miles’ futile bid to live up to his parents’ expectations.
Both The Flash and Across the Spider-Verse have cameos by familiar faces and self-aware nods to the franchise history. But the difference is that Across the Spider-Verse uses these cameos and meta references as the gravy on top of a substantial story, whereas the cameos and meta references in The Flash are supposed to be the substance. Across the Spider-Verse never lets the appearance of other Spider-Men distract from Miles’ character development; instead, characters like Hobie Brown and Pavitr Prabhakar complement Miles’ journey. Hobie inspires Miles to go his own way while Pavitr hilariously acts as a Greek chorus commenting on Miles and Gwen’s “palpable” romantic tension.
The Flash was supposed to be one of the biggest movie events of the year – a glorious return for Keaton’s Batman and a promising first chapter for the new DCU – but it just ended up being a victory lap for a much better superhero movie. Its dull visuals make the Spider-Verse animation look even more vibrant, its disjointed arcs make Spider-Verse’s character development seem even sharper, and its pandering exploration of alternate realities makes Spider-Verse’s emotionally engaging interdimensional exploits feel even more impressive. It’s more rewarding to watch Across the Spider-Verse a second time than to watch The Flash once.
MORE: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Review
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