With all the DC movie updates we got last week, the news that writer/producer Greg Berlanti might direct The Flash movie kind of got swept up in the current. However, when that news did drop, we got an interesting reaction from many of our Screen Rant readers: a number of them didn’t feel like The Flash movie had anything to offer.
After reading so many comments claiming that The Flash is a lame character, I just had to write a response. In my opinion, the sentiment that The Flash movie will have little depth or complexity to it couldn’t be more wrong. So let’s discuss: what will The Flash be about?
WHICH FLASH ARE WE TALKING?
First of all, we need to establish which Flash we’re talking about. The Flash has had more incarnations and copy-cat versions (some with multiple incarnations of the their own) than just about any other character in comic book history. We previously discussed which Flash is best for the movie; check out that discussion and weigh in if you’d like.
On the current Flash Family tree there is:
- Jay Garrick (Golden Age Flash)
- Barry Allen (Silver Age Flash)
- Wally West (Kid Flash/Modern Age Flash)
- Bart Allen (Impulse/Kid Flash #2)
- Max Mercury (Quicksilver)
- Johnny Chambers (Johnny Quick)
- Jesse Chambers (Jesse Quick)
If you’re not familiar with The Flash comic book, time travel is a big part of the character’s mythology (his speed powers help him transcend both space and time), so there are actually even more variations of the character. The names I listed are what I would call the “primary speedsters” of the DC Universe; technically speaking, any one of the characters who have carried the Flash mantle (Garrick, Allen, West) are viable candidates for the forthcoming movie.
Just some of The Flash Family
Comic book writer Geoff Johns has been in charge of The Flash comic book since 2000, and was also responsible for writing up a treatment for the movie, which he turned in to DC/Warner Bros. sometime in the Spring/Summer of ’09. When I asked Johns about his Flash treatment at Comic Con last year, this was his response:
“We’re caught up in a world that’s obsessed with speed these days. Texting, faster downloading… We’re always looking for ways to speed things up, it can be hard to slow ourselves down.”
Other comments made during that panel led me to believe that Johns’ treatment for the film had Silver Age Flash (and fan-favorite) Barry Allen at its center – which would make sense, since it was Johns’ reverence for Barry Allen that led him to resurrect the character more than two decades after his comic book demise (a record death length for a comic book hero, BTW).
THE NEW MYTHOLOGY
Since resurrecting Barry Allen, Geoff Johns has done a major overhaul to the mythology of of The Flash – much the same way he did when he took over writing duties on Green Lantern. With both books, Johns managed to sweep away the increasingly absurd/cynical storylines that came with the 90s era, while still preserving the core values that have made Hal Jordan and Barry Allen enduring icons. Johns also took the prudent step of revising (not erasing) those campy sci-fi origin stories of the 40s/50s era, giving them more logical and weighted narrative dimensions.
In the case of The Flash, Barry Allen was originally portrayed as a forensic scientist working with the Central City police. One night while preparing to leave work, a mysterious bolt of lighting strikes a case of chemicals Allen is working with, spilling them on him and imbuing him with the ability to run at super speed.
That must’ve been a great origin story back in the day, but it’s a pretty thin premise for today’s savvy comic book audiences. Johns has updated Allen’s origin, adding a brilliant backstory where Barry’s mother was murdered when he was young and his father was arrested as the prime suspect. It was the need to prove “what really happened” regarding his mother’s death that drove Barry into forensic science in the first place. In Johns’ revision, Barry is essentially a cop trying outrun the one injustice that forever plagues – and just like that, we have a strong foundation for a complex and interesting super hero protagonist.
The Flash caught up in The Speed Force
Over the years it’s been revealed in the pages of Flash comics that there is a (sentient?) ‘Speed Force’ at work in the universe, which occasionally empowers individuals with the ability to move so fast that they can literally breach the limits of time and space. In the Geoff Johns era, Barry Allen has been brought into the epicenter of this Speed Force mystery and it has (for better or worse) become a central theme of his story. However, that same Speed Force storyline comes with the burden of a lot of time travel logistics.
For example: that fateful lighting bolt that struck Barry Allen and gave him his powers? Well, without going too far into The Flash’s history with time-travel (no pun), let’s just say it has been proposed that the lighting bolt was Barry Allen himself, using the Speed Force to set his own destiny in motion. See what I mean about the burden of time-travel? It’s a tricky device to shape a cinematic origin story around…