The Flash Review – Fast-Paced Fun At First, But Runs Out Of Steam

For almost two hours, I really enjoyed The Flash. It’s a fun romp through the past with big Back to the Future Part 2 vibes, not taking itself seriously enough to be obnoxious. It wasn’t perfect, and it doesn’t earn most of its sappiness, but it was a good time.

That all changes, however, when we hit that CGI money shot from the trailer, with two different Flashes flanking Supergirl as they slide into battle against General Zod. That shot, widely mocked for having a distinctly video game quality about it, turned out to be such an important reference point that we made it the header image on this review.

That shot comes right at the beginning of that big battle sequence with General Zod and his Kryptonion minions, and from there until the climax, The Flash is little more than a cacophony of ugly CGI vomit over an emotional conclusion the movie hadn’t properly set up.

The Flash begins the way most superhero movies do–with a big action sequence. Barry Allen, AKA The Flash, is on his way to work, when he gets a call from Batman: Some bad guys blew open a vault under a hospital and stole a virus, and now the part of the hospital where the babies rest is collapsing. The CGI is rough, but it’s a fun new version of that big slow-motion Quicksilver scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past, with the Flash having to catch a whole bunch of babies, a nurse and a dog who are thrown out of a very high window during the collapse.

Back in his normal life, Barry has a big day coming up: Barry’s father, who is in prison for allegedly killing Barry’s mom, has an appeal date soon, and Barry is hellbent on proving his dad’s innocence even though the evidence still doesn’t support it. And during a particularly angsty moment ahead of the appeal, Barry starts running faster than he’s ever run before–and he accidentally goes back in time to the day before.

Realizing this probably means he can go back even further than that, Barry figures out a way to save his mom that doesn’t involve him directly interacting with her, and tries to return to the present. But he can’t. As he moves forward through time, he gets to a point where everything looks like it’s been blown up, and he’s knocked back to reality by some other mysterious person who’s living that non-linear life.

He’s not in his present, though–he’s popped back into time during the events of Man of Steel, when Barry himself was in college. But this is not the world Barry came from. This world has no superheroes around to deal with the arrival of General Zod–just a retired Batman, and a Supergirl who’s locked in a Siberian prison.

All of what I described is, at minimum, pretty fun. It’s got a weird rhythm–in terms of filmmaking craft, it has more of the vibe of a car commercial than a movie, and it’s edited erratically. But the story works, the ideas are good, Ezra Miller is very entertaining as two different versions of Barryfor most of it (they’re pretty terrible during one of the more serious moments, though), Sashe Calle’s Supergirl is a solid addition to the DC roster, and Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is welcome on my big screen any time.

But then we move toward the final battle, and we get that shot that looks like a video game. For good measure, let’s look at it again.

No Caption Provided

After this shot, we’re treated to a very long battle that never looks any better than that. Frequently, it actually looks worse, especially when the two Barrys enter the Speed Force during this part–a hideous CGI room where the time travel happens. But the design of the room has no logic. It’s just a bunch of graphical nonsense that means nothing and communicates very little to the audience.

It’s also where the climax of the movie happens–and it’s tough to take the climactic scene seriously when it looks like it’s taking place in an Apartments.com commercial.

That’s the tale of two movies with The Flash. There’s a very decent and quite fun time travel adventure here, with a solid cast, perfectly acceptable fan service with Keaton’s Batman and Sasha Calle’s Supergirl (she’d be a good replacement for Henry Cavill!), and plenty of good jokes and fun action. And then it goes off the rails about as completely as it could have while still bearing some resemblance to a normal movie.

And on top of all that, it’s not clear at all if the events of The Flash mean anything for the greater DC movieverse. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’ll be a long time before we find out. One last frustration to leave the theater with.

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