HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewThe Flash - Film Review

The Flash – Film Review

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the flash film review
the flash film review

It’s hard to review The Flash without referring to everything else in its tailwind. It is, quite notoriously now, one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. It’s $250m or thereabouts in the red, and that’s enough for meerkat-like analysts to pop up and question whether the superhero genre is dusted. 

It comes with a metric ton of controversy too, as Ezra Miller has been stacking up accusations and alleged crimes since filming stopped on The Flash. And then there’s the confusion around the DC Universe, as James Gunn has taken the reins from Zack Snyder and various others, only to cherry-pick what is included or not. Is The Flash part of the upcoming reboot? Is he the trigger for it? We honestly couldn’t tell you, and punters – it seems – have felt the same way, largely staying at home. 

And now we’re here, with The Flash on the Xbox Store, barely a month after it first arrived at cinemas. That’s fast for you. 

So, just how terrible is The Flash? Are the cracks from Ezra’s shenanigans and various reshoots evident from a viewing? The boring answer to these questions is that no, it’s not terrible, and the cracks are nowhere to be seen in the performances. This is a thoroughly entertaining escapist treat where the faultlines are in the CGI and a clumsy, gallumphing ending – both of which, you would imagine, would have benefitted from the delay to the release date. But something clearly went wrong. 

Things start out inauspiciously. The Flash features not one but two of our least favourite plot devices in modern movies: multiverses and time travel. You can’t move for multiverses in modern media, and we’re of the opinion that they’re crippled by being confusing (or requiring exposition dump after exposition dump to make sense of), as well as being vehicles for pure nostalgia. They rarely have merit by themselves, and we wish cinema would back off and stop using them. Time travel’s been around for longer, and it can – Great Scott! – be done well, but in the wrong hands it can buckle under the weight of the same criticisms. 

But you know what? The Flash, by a minor miracle, speeds out of the way of all the usual issues. It really isn’t complicated or dealing in over-exposition. It finds a way to make the rules self-evident, and what could have slowed down the plot instead gives it momentum. The opening moments in The Flash are some of the best.

The tone clicks into place quickly. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) is capable enough to save the day, but nowhere near the levels of Batman, Wonder Woman or Superman, so he’s relegated to the side stuff. That’s led to self-esteem issues, a suggestion that he might land somewhere on the neurodivergent spectrum, and The Flash borrows some (slightly overused) tricks from Ant-Man and The Deep by making him the butt of jokes from the surrounding team. 

The Flash isn’t plagued with the modern superhero issues of undercutting the action. Thor: Love and Thunder is the most egregious example of a recent film that won’t allow thrills to be thrilling: it has to toss in a joke to immediately relieve the pressure. Here, the humour supports the action, and we immediately felt we were in good hands – something we didn’t expect with the surrounding narrative of the film. 

But the CGI issues hit pretty early. The Flash himself, and the feelings of speed, are fine. But an encounter with a tumbling skyscraper and its newborn inhabitants felt like a return to the Dancing Baby days of Ally McBeal. Ezra looks like he’s stumbled into a PS2 cutscene, and he looks suitably confused about it. 

Still, the plot trundles on, as Barry resolves to use the Speed Force, a faster-than-light means of traveling through time, to save his mum who was killed in a robbery. Anyone who’s watched a single movie with ‘causality’ mentioned in the script will know this is a Very Bad Thing Indeed. And so Barry finds himself existing in an alternate version of his reality where Eric Stoltz played Marty McFly in Back to the Future, and the Barry Allen of this world is dorkishly innocent. 

The issues with his situation compound, as – while Barry’s mum has indeed been saved – it means that this universe’s version of Barry won’t ever get his powers: a paradox that has to be avoided. Plus General Zod is about to arrive on Earth (some knowledge of Man of Steel is helpful here), yet Superman doesn’t seem to exist. Cue panic and the assembling of a very different team to face the threat. 

And what a team it is. Michael Keaton as a dishevelled, ‘getting too old for this s**t’ update of the 1980’s Batman is an utter joy. He’s having a whale of a time and so are we. Sasha Calle as Kara Zor-El is given almost nothing to work with – her backstory could be written on the back of a postage stamp – but she’s a force of nature, screaming and thudding into the obstacles that are put in her way. And on the opposition’s side, Michael Shannon reminds why he is far and away the best villain to come out of the DC Universe. It’s not even close. 

But, alas, all things must come to an end, and it’s here where The Flash becomes a pulsating mess. Going into too much detail would rob the movie of some surprise, but it’s a cacophony of noise, fairly obtuse logic, and some of the worst CGI we’ve encountered from a blockbuster in the last twenty years. If there’s a case study for VFX artists being overworked and underpaid, it’s The Flash: it makes MODOK from Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania look like some kind of digital Rembrandt. 

Arriving at The Flash with the knowledge that none of it matters – James Gunn is planning to Etch-a-Sketch all of the characters and happenings in the movie – means that the ending has even less weight. It suggests something big that can never be. It’s all empty promises, and robs the movie of some drama that it dearly needed. The result is an ending that mostly gets the eyes rolling. 

So back to that question: does The Flash feel like one of the biggest box office bombs in modern history? Strangely enough, no, it doesn’t. It’s an amiable take on the multiverse movie that has enough momentum to push you through some shocking CGI and an ending that mostly fails. If you can put on the blinkers and ignore the surrounding controversy around The Flash, then you might even find that you ride its momentum and have a good time as you do. 

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Supporting cast is a real treat
  • Surprisingly coherent take on a multiverse
  • Nails its comedic tone early
Cons:
  • CGI is disconcertingly terrible
  • Hard to ignore the issues surrounding the movie
  • Ending trips and falls
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 2hr 24mins | 2023
  • To rent/buy - £15.99/£19.99 SD,HD,UHD
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Supporting cast is a real treat</li> <li>Surprisingly coherent take on a multiverse</li> <li>Nails its comedic tone early</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>CGI is disconcertingly terrible</li> <li>Hard to ignore the issues surrounding the movie</li> <li>Ending trips and falls</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 2hr 24mins | 2023 <li>To rent/buy - £15.99/£19.99 SD,HD,UHD</li> </ul>The Flash - Film Review
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