The Flash’s CGI Costume Problem and the Success of Keaton’s Practical Batsuit

Michael Keaton’s practical Batsuits in “The Flash” exacerbated the film’s problem with CGI costumes. While a movie centered around Barry Allen and the multiverse was expected to heavily rely on computer-generated imagery (CGI), the visual effects in “The Flash” often worked against the overall film. This included the divisive CGI cameos of Flash, the portrayal of the speed force, Barry’s powers, and the frequent use of CGI costumes and doubles during action scenes.

Characters like Supergirl and Flash appeared better in promotional pictures and behind-the-scenes images than they did on-screen most of the time. This was primarily due to their costumes being replaced by CGI versions during the majority of action sequences. In fact, Supergirl and Flash were often entirely replaced by CGI doubles. Interestingly, Michael Keaton’s Batsuit managed to avoid the criticism directed at “The Flash’s” CGI costumes, and there’s a reason behind it.

In theory, Michael Keaton’s Batsuit in “The Flash,” which was based on his attire in “Batman” and “Batman Returns” from the late 1980s, should have looked worse compared to the Flash and Supergirl costumes designed for a modern shared superhero universe. However, the outcome was the complete opposite. Keaton’s Batsuit, which remained mostly unchanged from “Batman Returns,” appeared better on-screen compared to Flash and Supergirl’s costumes.

Unlike Flash and Supergirl, Keaton’s Batsuit didn’t have any CGI elements except when his character was entirely replaced by a CGI double. Most of Keaton’s Batman scenes in “The Flash” were grounded, requiring a practical suit and stunt performers to bring the character to life. On the other hand, Flash and Supergirl scenes heavily relied on CGI. While characters like Flash and Supergirl necessitate visual effects to portray their powers, “The Flash’s” excessive use of CGI suits wasted two great costumes.

The fact that Keaton’s Batsuit avoided the criticism of “The Flash’s” CGI costumes serves as a reminder that simpler, practical superhero suits generally work better. Films like “Batman” have aged well because practical costumes always look good on-screen, unlike CGI suits tied to a specific era’s technology, such as Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern. Furthermore, “The Flash’s” CGI costume problem is exacerbated by the underutilization of practical suits worn by Barry and Kara.

“The Flash’s” CGI costumes are just one aspect of a larger problem, yet they exemplify a mistake that superhero movies increasingly make. For instance, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man suit was predominantly replaced by a CGI model in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” While visual effects can enhance or expand a suit, practical costumes should not be completely replaced by CGI, as they offer a more grounded and timeless appeal.

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