The Flash Review — Crossing the finish line with flying colors

What do you get when you combine a studio wanting to distance itself from failure, a problematic movie star, and an "it's all getting rebooted anyway, screw it, let's just have fun" attitude?

One of the best comic book movies of the year, apparently.

The Flash is burdened both by lofty expectations and tired apathy towards the DCEU in general, and yet the Snyderverse's supposed nail in the coffin is a surprising mix of heart, soul, and superheroic action that hammers home what might have been.

Based loosely on Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert's 2011 DC Comics event Flashpoint, The Flash sees Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) lace up his boots once again as the eponymous speedster. When he's not saving babies from collapsing hospitals faster than you could blink, Barry works as a forensic scientist to prove his father, Henry Allen, is innocent for the murder of his wife Nora years ago.

After witnessing the limitations of the justice system in freeing Henry, Barry looks to his superhuman speed for a solution. But in doing so, he breaks the universe in surprising and dangerous ways, and soon Barry finds himself teaming up with old allies with new faces to fix it before all of reality breaks him as well!

We've seen Barry's speed showcased in Zack Snyder's Justice League, but here in The Flash he is well and truly unleashed. The superspeed scenes are breathtaking visual spectacles, and the movie really makes you feel the forces involved when you're traveling faster than the speed of light in rather creative ways. And just when you think you've seen what The Flash can do, the movie throws in some innovative uses as well as classic speedster tricks that are infinitely rewatchable.

But while the speed scenes are obviously big budget, it seems the rest of the movie's CGI isn't. The Flash paradoxically features the most glaringly bad CGI of any blockbuster film to date. Immersion is a big part of movie magic, and you'll often find yourself being pulled out of it with copious amounts of obviously transposed live-action faces sitting weirdly on doughy CGI bodies. Even a supposedly awe-inspiring scene involving The Flash exploring time through a "chronobubble" becomes absolute nightmare fuel as humans with plastic "faces" shift and meld eerily across the screen. I can't even tell if it's a stylistic choice or the consequences of being rushed as hell to premiere.

Shining bright in the middle of this CGI mess is Ezra Miller, who summons the focused totality of his acting abilities to give us one of the most layered superhero performances in years. The Flash deals with subjects like grief, loss, and the journey towards accepting that you can't save everyone, and Miller steps up at every juncture with a moving portrayal that only enhances the heroism Barry is capable of. The rest of the cast work well with what they're given, particularly Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne/Batman. But Sasha Calle's Kara/Supergirl feels criminally underused despite being one of the movie's main selling points.

The Flash is more than just the Snyderverse swan song; it's also a nostalgic love letter to the larger DC multiverse, with neat easter eggs and cameos from DC Comics' history. While they're an amazing piece of fanservice, it's palpably ironic for a movie whose major theme is about moving forward. And I would have enjoyed it more if not for the aforementioned abominable CGI. Thankfully, powerful performances and a pretty solid script prevents the movie from falling flat.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but The Flash is a truly enjoyable celluloid distraction. Don't give in to the hypebeasts propping this up as a masterpiece, but don't take the negative Nancys at face value either. It's better than anyone expects and better than it has any right to be, and it's bittersweet to say goodbye to a character who just found their footing. But with the way The Flash has opened up a multiverse of opportunities, time (and the box office) will tell if it's all worth it.

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