The Flash: We Examine DC’s Biggest Bomb (SPOILERS)

Whether it’s the questionable FX, the lead star’s very controversial dalliances, or just audiences being burned one too many times by Comic Book Films, there’s one movie that is all anyone can talk about. And look, I get it. There was a lot of craziness that went on during this production and had more people come and go due to creative differences than any movie we’ve covered on the show. 

Warning you guys and gals right now, if you haven’t seen The Flash, you’re going to want to turn back now, because this is where things get SUPER spoilery. 

Warner Brothers tried getting a Flash movie off the ground in the late 80’s with comic writer Jeph Loeb being brought in to write the screenplay. Unfortunately nothing ever came of the property until 2004 when David S Goyer signed on to write,direct and produce a new Flash. He was the top choice after impressing execs with his Batman Begins script. After working with Ryan Reynold’s on Blade Trinity, Goyer approached the actor about taking on the role of Wally West. The plan was to have Wally as the main Flash, with Barry Allen appearing in a supporting part. But Goyer left the project in 2007 after creative differences with the studio.

Night at the Museum’s Shawn Levy was brought on to direct the film, with a new script by Chris Brancato. Shawn Levy left the director’s chair due to scheduling conflicts with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. In the midst of this, George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal was announced, with Adam Brody even cast as The Flash. David Dobkin took over directing duties, with Craig Wright tackling the screenplay. After the 2007 Writer’s Strike, along with even more shifting of writers and directors, the Green Lantern team of Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green were hired to write a new story for The Flash. You can imagine how that turned out once Green Lantern was released onto the world.

Things finally got serious once Warner Brothers had their DC Comics universe up and running with Man of Steel. So alongside Wonder Woman and Aqua Man, The Flash was announced for a solo outing in July of 2013, with the plan to release it in 2016. But by October of 2014, they were no closer, so the release date was pushed back yet again, to March 2018.  This is when we get into the Ezra Miller of it all. Okay, not THAT part yet, I mean his casting.

Zack Snyder knew he was going to be setting up the Justice League in his film Batman v Superman, so he was responsible for casting each of the larger than life superheroes. And the role of The Flash was an easy one for Snyder, because he knew who he’d cast the moment he saw the film Perks of Being a Wallflower. Ezra Miller had impressed audiences with his eclectic performance and Snyder saw him as the perfect Barry. While a bit of an oddball choice, his performance as Barry is often a highlight, whether its in the Justice League or his solo outing. And while they may have had their Flash, they still needed someone to guide the character to the big screen.

Warner Brothers was so interested in getting director James Wan involved with their Superhero Universe, that they offered him the choice of making either a solo film for The Flash or Aquaman. He chose Aqua Man so they once again had to find a new contendor for the film. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller wrote a draft, possibly even directing it. But they instead chose to work on Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Writer Seth Grahme-Smith, after having successfully made the jump to Hollywood with films like Dark Shadows and even The Lego Batman Movie, boarded the project as a first-time director. But, as has been said a lot so far, he left the project due to creative differences. Rick Famuyiwa was then hired as director, still using Grahame-Smith’s script. Having worked with her already on Dope, his first choice for Iris West was Kiersey Clemons. Lucy Boynton and Rita Ora both were up for the part, but ultimately Clemons was cast.

While Famuyiwa was involved in several casting decisions, he ultimately left the project due to those pesky creative differences again. Due to Miller’s commitments to another Warner Brother franchise, Fantastic Beasts, The Flash was delayed yet again. With the film indefinitely delayed, the studio decided to do a full rewrite of the script and hired Joby Harold. This is when Warner when a little bit crazy when courting potential directors. Matthew Vaugh, Robert Zemeckis, Sam Raimi, Marc Webb, Jordan Peele, and even Ben Affleck were all offered and turned down the gig due to one reason or another. Despite this, Warner announced that summer at Comic Con that the film was still happening and would be titled: Flashpoint.

The next update on the film wouldn’t happen until January of 2018 when Spider-man Homecoming writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein came aboard as writers and directors. Production was expected to begin in February 2019 but filming was yet again delayed due to Miller’s obligations to the Fantastic Beasts franchise, this time The Secrets of Dumbledore. This is where things get very strange. Because Ezra Miller teamed up with famed comics writer Grant Morrison on a new version of the script. Their script was more akin to Back to the Feature and didn’t feature the multiverse elements. The studio rejected the new script but asked Miller to remain on as The Flash.

Given that Ezra hadn’t liked the drafts from Daley and Goldstein, and Warner still wanted Miller as their lead, Daley and Goldstein saw the writing on the wall and left the project. Having enjoyed her work on Birds of Prey, the studio hired Christina Hodson to do a pass on Joby Harold’s script. These would be the final credited screenwriters. Finally director Andy Muschietti and his producing partner and sister Barbara, signed onto the film. 

Due to the COVID 19 Pandemic, production was delayed yet again. But this allowed more time for the film to cook as it was then announced in June of that year that Michael Keaton would be returning to the role he made famous: Bruce Wayne/Batman. It’s an absolute joy to see Keaton get back into the Batsuit again and he’s a true joy to watch. But he’s not the only Batman in the film, as Ben Affleck was also set to reprise his role of Batman. Affleck has said that this was his favorite time playing the character, finally feeling like he understood him, and knew exactly how to play the scenes. He’s also said that it was a nice finish for his Batman, so whether we see him again, may be up to more multiverse shenanigans.

Sasha Calle made history by being the first Latina to portray Supergirl. She beat out other actresses such as Rachel Zegler and Bruna Marquezine for the part. It’s an inspired choice and she’s a real standout in the film. Despite this being a very different look to anything she’s had in the comics, it immediately feels both modern and cool.

Okay, we’ll get into the story at this point, because otherwise some of these character’s being brought up may not make sense. The story starts off with Barry really struggling trying to balance his life and accidentally discovering that he can go back in time. So he uses his newfoudn power to go back and stop his mother Nora’s death. But when he returns to the present, things have changed. Batman is now much older and Superman doesn’t exist. So Barry has to team with Bruce and his alternate self in order to fix the timeline. It gets crazy and we get a ton of really interesting cameos. 

While Billy Crudup originally had the role of Henry Allen in Justice League, he was forced to drop out of the solo outing due to scheduling conflicts with his TV venture, The Morning Show. Thankfully Office Space‘s Ron Livingston fills out the role perfectly. Then his mother Nora is portrayed by Maribel Verdu.

Both Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Henry Cavill’s Superman appear, though Cavill is mostly CGI. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman also showed up in a post-credit scene where Barry’s telling him all about his latest adventure. Originally Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was going to feature more prominently. But after his very public beef with then-Warner Bros President Walter Hamada, he refused to work under any production under Hamada’s rule. As is, his character is diminished to mere references.

Keaton Batman

And in a nice way of calling back to the beginning of Snyder’s DC venture, Michael Shannon’s General Zod returns. While he gets significantly less screentime than he did in Man of Steel, he steps seemlessly back into Zod’s shoes. Antje Traue also reprised her role as Faora-Ul, but it’s a blink and you’ll miss it cameo. As is Temuera Morrison’s Thomas Curry, who appears when Barry is trying to find Arthur in the alternate timeline.

We also get a nice shot of Christopher Reeve’s Superman as well as Helen Slater’s Supergirl. But the real coup de grace is Nic Cage as Superman fighting a massive Spiderlike creature, just as he was described to have done in Kevin Smith’s Superman Lives script. It’s a crazy moment and one, like many here, that I wish I could show you right now.

In probably the craziest reveal of the movie, we get to see the new Batman in the form of George Clooney. I was fortunate enough to get to go out to the WB Lot and view the film with the Muschietti’s but this scene wasn’t included. It was originally shot with Michael Keaton, but clearly they never intended for him to be in the actual scene. Instead, George Clooney shocked the world by returning to the role he once lamented. But this wasn’t the original end ing attached to the film. The original had Michael Keaton and Sasha Calle exiting the vehicle, as evidenced by several set photos. But then when Black Adam set up Henry Cavill’s Superman to return, they shot a new ending with Keaton, Calle, Cavill, and Gal Gadot. Once Peter Safran and James Gunn took over the DC Cinematic Universe, the ending was reshot yet again, once it was decided that Cavill’s Superman wouldn’t be returning long term. Why Clooney was chosen is still yet to be revealed, but with Andy Muschietti being announced as the director of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

And this is where we need to address the Ezra Miller stuff.

Because while filming took place in England from April to October of 2021, its star would have a very tumultuous 2022. First they were arrested in Hawaii at a Karoake bar after having a fight with a group of customers. The actor was then accused the officers of committing a hate crime due to misgendering the non-binary actor. A separate Hawaiian couple was then granted a restraining order against Miller after they barged into the couple’s bedroom and threatened them. But that wasn’t even the beginning of their troubles, with a video surfacing in April of 2020 that allegedly showed Ezra strangling a woman and throwing her to the ground. Then there’s Miller’s Vermont farm where several unseemly things were alleged to have happened. I feel like we’ve covered just about as much as necessary to get the picture that Miller really messed up. And many expected him to be cancelled for it.

But Warner gave Miller two options: they could get professional help, do limited press for the film and the film would release as planned or they could refuse help, be excluded from all press, and his role would eventually be recast. There had even been rumors that the film would be relegated to the HBO Max streaming service to lighten the financial burden.

Instead, Warner decided they would do a more grassroots campaign and rely on word of mouth. Having several early screening before the release, the word was extremely positive, with it seeming like the film was destined for greatness, even receiving endorsements from people like Stephen King and Tom Cruise.

The Flash opened on June 16th, 2023 and brought in a measly $55 Million dollars on its opening weekend. Seeing as how this film released just one week ago, we obviously don’t have a worldwide box office quite yet but one things for certain: it isn’t going to be pretty. Filmed on a budget of over $200 Million, when you factor in marketing, then its hard to see The Flash doing much more than recouping its total cost. While Warner clearly hoped that by keeping Ezra away from the press, audiences would be more likely to let his dalliances slide. This proved to not be the case, as the film brought in even less than the abysmal projections.

While this number is sure to change, The flash is currently sitting at a 66% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But even despite this, the critical consensus is that: The Flash is funny, fittingly fast-paced, and overall ranks as one of the best DC movies in recent years.  

These are very trying times for Warner. As they’ve failed to have any real success with their DC Films the last few years, the window for the company to get things right is quickly shrinking. With David Zaslav coming aboard and making several controversial choices such as shelfing the finished Batgirl movie, as well as getting rid of HBO staples like Westworld, it’s a wonder whether we’ll see a new President by the time the DCU actually gets back on track. All we know for certain is that Peter Safran and James Gunn are at the helm, with Superman: Legacy being the first film in the new DCU.

Getting away from the multiversal controversy, we’re diving into a whole different controversy as we finally get all of our Superheroes under one roof. BUT…that’s a story for next time. Join us! Saaaame Movie time, saaaame movie channel. 

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