The Flash review: The best superhero movie this week

the flash review
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When Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) goes back in time to prevent a personal tragedy, things don’t go entirely to plan in this fun but unspectacular superhero flick – here’s our review.

If you’ve found yourself within shouting distance of a bus, billboard or wherever canny marketing companies put posters these days, you’ll no doubt have heard that The Flash is “one of the best superhero movies ever made.”

That would be great news for the top brass at DC Studios. Frankly, after increasingly tepid box office returns with their last few outings, they need a hit.

Unfortunately, the quote placed front and centre of their latest marketing campaign might just have backfired. After months of hype (some of it, reportedly, from Tom Cruise) and initial reactions bordering on the hysterical, any viewing of The Flash necessitates a super-sized dose of expectation management.

It is, when all’s said and done, is a fun comic book movie. But it’s not really much more than that.

In a way, it’s easy to see where the poster quote was coming from. For dedicated comic book fans, this might be just the movie they’ve been waiting for. The tone is pretty light, the characters have serviceable emotional stakes, and there are enough cameos and crossovers to fill a double page-spread of a nice magazine. The central trio seen in the trailer of Barry, Batman and Supergirl even has a good stab at being the non-four-hour/cobbled-together Justice League movie we never got.

But, and there is a huge ‘but’ coming. Right here, in fact. In an era overwhelmed with superhero movies, multiverses and a culture addicted to referencing itself, that might not be enough. Take all that away and you still have a decently entertaining time-travel adventure movie. But underwhelming CGI and a wholly forgettable third act keep The Flash well, well away from the best of the field.

That’s all the more frustrating, because there really is plenty to enjoy here. Michael Keaton (he’s back, by the way) seems to be having a lot of fun reviving his 1989 Batman character. The action sequences he’s involved in find a great balance between the original’s slightly campy, gadgety, gothic persona, and the bit in Batman V Superman where Ben Affleck kicks a guy through a crate.

The script is funny, too, and its heart does seem to be in the right place. There’s little of the cynical banter that undermines emotional beats in the worst modern blockbusters, and the relationship between two alternate Barry Allens is entertaining and well-done.

Sadly, it’s hard to escape the feeling we’ve seen much of this stuff before – and not just because, in several timey-wimey-related sequences, we literally have. That feeling isn’t helped by a colour palette and CGI which, though mostly sort of okay, really looks quite a lot worse than Man Of Steel – and that came out ten years ago. At this point it feels like rushed visual effects have become the norm for big superhero movies, and while good looking explosions aren’t the most important feature of a modern blockbuster, they do indicate that not quite as much time and attention is going into these as it used to.

The Flash, then, is a fun movie. It might even be a well-made movie. But to turn around the fortunes of Warner Bros. and DC Studios, it needed to be a bit more than that. For all its qualities, it’s not fully hit the mark…

The Flash is in cinemas now.

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