It was assumed when Marvel began the second phase of their movie universe that Warner Bros. and DC Comics would be rushing to catch up. While they are, indeed, on their way to establishing a full-blown Justice League on the big screen, it’s the small screen that is clearly the priority where DC is concerned. Namely: Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Constantine, Supergirl, and even Lucifer.
In the space of a few months, WB has turned the tables, leaving the film side of the DC Universe to catch up to its televised counterpart; as Arrow star Stephen Amell put it: they’re already “creating a Justice League on TV.” According to the executive producer of both Arrow and The Flash, TV isn’t leaving film behind because it’s cheaper – it might just be a better format for those superheroes’ stories.
Given the history of adapting epic stories on a TV budget (that shies in comparison to that of a feature film), it’s not hard to see why a TV show based on a superhero comic book used to be seen as a ‘lesser’ project. But as executive producer Greg Berlanti explained to ComicBook.com, the sudden surge of live-action heroes means the top priority isn’t budget anymore. It’s getting the hero’s origin story right:
“You want the characters to be like you read!.. Sometimes I think if you’re doing an origin story and they’re not all the way there — like our suit here isn’t what it’s going to be, and Arrow isn’t Green Arrow yet — in this day and age, especially when [fans] can go to the movies or download a film where the character is in a suit and you’re dealing with the competition — not just against your show, but actually against all the superheroes that are out there in the universe that people can see, that are live action — you want, I think, the most true version of that.
“Even though in TV you can spread it out over a long period — it may not be as realized as it is at the end of the series — we still want enough of it at the outset that it doesn’t feel like, ‘Wait a second, I’m watching a show about Ambush Bug but he doesn’t look like Ambush Bug!'”
Those words offer a bit more explanation for the design of Barry Allen’s first costume – something a bit closer to the Smallville fiction than the “traditional comic book costume” the star Grant Gustin claimed he’d sport in the series. Yet the showrunners have promised that a brighter, sleeker costume is coming soon, and as Berlanti explains, it’s part of the reason that an origin story takes time.
And as special effects and talent – in front of and behind the camera – start blurring the line between TV and feature films, that wealth of time seems to be becoming more of a factor. At this point, would fans of “Green Arrow” be willing to trade the two seasons of Arrow for a single two-hour movie? That’s a sacrifice Berlanti doesn’t sound ready to make:
“In TV we do have more time to do more… Look at Game of Thrones, right? That’s the wonderful thing about television right now is that it can go in all these wonderful directions at the same time and both The Flash and Arrow to me were things I thought, “I would almost enjoy that more in a series because of all the other things I’d want to include, than to have to do nine movies to have that kind of stuff.”
“In particular, Arrow was an origin story and we can show him on that island for five years, you know? A movie can’t do that — it would be 20 minutes of the film and it would be really tight and cramped in.”
Berlanti and the rest of the producers shepherding The CW’s superhero universe have shown that they’re every bit the comic book fans as the viewers, citing Geoff Johns’ “Rebirth” comic reboot as a major influence. But in explaining how the show’s writers will judge their success, Berlanti drops a reference likely to send the die-hard fans spinning:
“Not screwing it up I think is the most important part of it… When I get to the end of it, if my mom, my dad, my sister — if people who didn’t read the comics the way that I did — watch the episode and they get the same feeling that I got when I would read the comic books, then I’ve done my job right.
“We can make changes in terms of elements of the character but at the core, they have to have the experience that I got when I read ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths.'”
Berlanti would go on to explain that “Crisis on Infinite Earths” is where he sets the bar since it showed how much Barry Allen meant to not just readers, but the larger world of DC Comics. That being said, the show’s pilot episode confirms that “Crisis” will play a factor; if The Flash‘s last episode really does end Barry’s story the way the comics did, then matching its impact is a tall order.
What do you think of Berlanti’s view? Have superhero TV shows gotten close enough to DC and WB’s film universe to make numerous seasons a more appealing idea than a film every few years? Or do you still think a two-hour film is as good as these heroes can get? Sound off in the comments.
The Flash premieres Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 @8pm on The CW.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on The Flash as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.