It certainly isn't the news that comic book movie fans were hoping for, but The Flash may be making his live-action debut sooner than some might have thought. Despite the lack of any Justice League announcements at Comic-Con 2013 (beyond that Batman vs. Superman movie, of course) Warner Bros. is apparently moving forward with an adapted Flash TV series for The CW.
With writing from DC mainstay Geoff Johns and two out of the three Arrow creators attached - Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti - the project centering on Central City's Flash - a character and city alluded to with tongue-in-cheek references in Arrow itself - is being fast-tracked by the network, with Barry Allen to first appear as a recurring character in Arrow's Season 2. So what does this mean for a Flash movie?
Obviously, whether this announcement from Deadline comes as good news or horrible depends on your view of Berlanti and Kreisberg's adaptation work with the character of Green Arrow. Nevertheless, the show's creators seem intent on bringing some of the DC universe' best and brightest into the fold, with Barry Allen confirmed to appear as a recurring character, while the creative team prepare a standalone series of his own. CW president Mark Pedowitz explains:
"We're planning an origin story and we'll see how it goes. We do want to expand on DC Universe, and we felt this is a very organic way to get there... He may not come in with superpowers."
How the series would impact the consistently-rumored Flash film wasn't mentioned, but sources of THR claim that Marc Guggenheim is still working on his movie for a 2016 release, so fans don't need to panic just yet.
From a serialized drama standpoint, The Flash certainly has the occupation and villains to work in a weekly format; in fact, some might argue that the serialized format of comic books in general is more fitted to a 'monster of the week' structure than tentpole blockbusters. As a member of the Central City Police Department's forensics lab, Barry Allen spends his days picking up the clues everyday criminals leave behind, using superspeed and a bright red jumpsuit to take down villains of a more theatrical flavor.
That blending of C.S.I. and superhero is an odd mix that was apparently at the heart of the proposed Flash movie script, so it's easy to see how it could work on television. As for the villains... well, any Flash fan will tell you that viewers who found some of Arrow's antagonists silly haven't seen anything yet.
However, Barry Allen has proven to be a strong enough hero to keep audiences invested regardless of the surrounding villains. It's no surprise that Allen will be the live-action Flash for the time being, but given The CW's target audience and tone, introducing him as a police scientist (and part of Oliver Queen's team) may be cause for concern.
We're not going to criticize Arrow for being, to many, something of a Batman knock-off; Oliver Queen was created to be just that in the comics. But the application of love triangles, 'frenemies,' and melodrama to the core story of a masked vigilante are hard to miss - just one way The CW has attempted not only to attract a younger, female audience, but strengthen comparisons to the likes of Smallville. That's something of a departure from the Se7en and Silence of the Lambs vibe the Green Arrow film script had been seeking.
But while a younger Flash has been moderately successful in the comics (last seen when Barry's grandson Bart took over the role), that is not the version fans have been demanding. And it is most certainly not the version we feel would work best in a Justice League universe. Even if Warner Bros., under the leadership of Johns, Berlanti and Kreisberg, managed to adapt Barry's dual identities into a workable CW formula, what would that mean for his feature film appearances?
Sharing a universe across TV and film is not impossible - even Marvel is doing it - but while TV fans will be able to see how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fits into the Avengers universe, those currently watching Arrow, Flash, or potentially Amazon can't say the same (although Arrow star Stephen Amell has some ideas).
Who knows; Warner Bros. may have some grand plan for bringing their TV and movie universes together, but for the moment, this move will be questioned by fans. While Green Arrow is far too fringe a character to risk building a motion picture, or possibly even a Justice League position around, The Flash is absolutely strong and popular enough to carry a standalone film; a prospect that now seems less likely than ever.
Not to say that a Flash TV series is doomed from the start, but getting disappointed fans to support a TV show - and its much more limited budget - is a challenge for any project, let alone one with a movie franchise riding on it. Of course, we'd love to be proven wrong. After all, Wonder Woman fans were up in arms about the prospect of an Amazon origin story, and look how that turned out.
What is your immediate reaction to this news? Is a Flash TV series a mistake, or could the show's creators be onto something? Sound off in the comments.
We'll keep you updated on The Flash TV series and movie as more news develops.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.