The Flash is racing toward becoming one of the year's better-reviewed movies. And if you're surprised by that, you're not alone. The DCEU movie has been burdened by development issues, pandemic delays and star Ezra Miller's various legal troubles.
Yet, none of those things might matter in the end. The Flash is getting mostly positive reviews. Miller himself is being lauded for a fine performance. And the movie could rake in a huge haul at the box office when it opens in theaters June 16.
After all, the Super Mario Bros. movie got a dismal Rotten Tomatoes score and still became the second biggest animated film of all time (surpassing Frozen!). So, with a majority of critics on its side, The Flash could do even better.
The Flash is 'the best DCEU movie,' but that's not saying much
Rolling Stone ranks The Flash at the top of all the DCEU movies, though critic David Fear acknowledges, "We’re grading on a curve."
"The Flash is, by far, the best movie to come out of this modern, post-Nolan Warners/DC collaboration, and builds on the promise that Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman first put forth," Fear writes, though he adds, "None of which excuses what’s happened offscreen in the slightest."
Empire's Chris Hewitt declares, "Set to be one of the final entries in what we know as the DCEU, this is also one of the best, a witty and warm buddy comedy that deserves to be more than just a Flash in the pan."
Indiewire's Kate Erbland says, "Andy Muschietti’s film has lots to offer, and frequently shows flashes (apologies) of brilliance that set it a cut above most of its existing DC Universe brethren."
Yet, Erbland isn't totally sold on the movie, either: "In its best moments, the film is funny, ambitious, and heartfelt, but it’s also frequently buried under iffy effects, convoluted storytelling, and a been-there-done-that familiarity that’s hard to shake."
Many critics enjoyed the nostalgic cameo by Michael Keaton as Batman. Keaton is "undeniably good in his return as Bruce Wayne, even if he does have to shoehorn a couple of his famous lines from 1989 into this film," writes AV Club's Matthew Jackson.
Brian Truitt at USA Today concurs, highlighting the rest of the cast besides Miller. "Michael Keaton back in a Batman cape and cowl, the debut of Sasha Calle’s Supergirl and a top-flight sense of humor make “Flash” worth the hype, though trying to do so much also leads to a head-scratching kitchen-sink climax.
A problematic star is nothing to messy storytelling
While most critics brought up Miller's recent controversies (the actor has apologized and said they are seeking treatment), most of the negative feedback was about the movie's storytelling and not about their performance.
Miller's presence "gets lost in the inevitable third-act CGI battle apocalypse, which is weightlessly free of jeopardy and, like the rest of the film, does not exactly go by in a flash," The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw complains.
Christian Holub at Entertainment Weekly points out The Flash is going over well-trodden ground with its plot about the multiverse. "This doesn't exactly reek of originality," Holub writes.
Matt Zoller Seitz, at RogerEbert.com encapsulates the vibe of many reviewers, which seems to be whiplash. "One of the most spectacular and frustrating mixed bags of the superhero blockbuster era, 'The Flash' is simultaneously thoughtful and clueless, challenging and pandering," he writes.
"It features some of the best digital FX work I've seen and some of the worst. Like its sincere but often hapless hero, it keeps exceeding every expectation we might have for its competence only to instantly face-plant into the nearest wall."
Outlook: How much will The Flash's reviews matter?
As noted at the beginning of this article, a movie can get terrible reviews and still be a smash hit at the box office.
The Flash is tracking to make at least $75 million domestically in its opening weekend, which is better than the last two DC movies (Shazam! Fury of the Gods with $30.1 million and Black Adam with $67 million). Still, it's also a lot less than the $134 million raked in by The Batman last year.
Also, for anyone who likes to pit DC against Marvel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse debuted last weekend to $120.5 million, making it the second biggest opening of the year.
Of course, the first was Super Mario Bros., proving again that good reviews don't mean much.