During Warner Bros.’s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con yesterday, the studio confirmed that the upcoming The Flash movie is still on track, even though the movie has yet land a director. But one thing stuck out: the movie will apparently be known as Flashpoint.
The title alone should be a shock. The 2011 Flashpoint event has risen to iconic status in only six years because it took a deeply personal Flash story and used it to rewrite the entire DC comics universe, taking Flash to an alternate universe where the Justice League doesn’t exist and the world’s heroes are on the brink of war.
Flashpoint certainly sounds like the kind of story that deserves the blockbuster treatment. And as it happens, it’s already been adapted into an animated movie and was incorporated into the most recent season of The CW’s The Flash. But at a time when the DC Extended Universe is still struggling to get off the ground, isn’t it a little too soon to give it the live-action movie treatment?
Flashpoint starts with Barry Allen waking up in an alternate timeline, where everything he knows has changed. Superman doesn’t exist. Bruce Wayne is dead, and Dr. Thomas Wayne is Batman. Wonder Woman is at war with Aquaman. And crucially, Barry’s mother Nora is still alive. Readers soon learn that Barry actually used his powers to go back in time to stop his nemesis, Reverse Flash, from murdering Nora, altering the timeline in the process. It’s only by time traveling again and merging with his earlier self that he’s able to undo the damage he’s done.
If that sounds incredibly convoluted, it should. Flashpoint is convoluted. However, it works, because it relies on the readers’ base-level understanding of not only the Flash, but also Reverse-Flash, the Justice League, and how they all connect. All of the characters involved, even if they’re alternate versions of the ones fans know and love, are impactful because they reflect some aspect of established canon. Take the Wayne family: not only does Thomas Wayne become Batman after his young son Bruce is killed, but his wife, Martha, is pushed so far into madness by of her grief that she becomes the Joker.
Appreciating these story beats requires time and investment in the characters and the events they’re caught up in. Having a strong relationship with a character and their actions makes an alternate version of them hit that much harder. Think about it: encountering a Batman who kills only resonates if the Batman you know goes out of his way not to kill. With that in mind, how can a Flashpoint movie in the DCEU ever create that kind investment? Even after Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League, how much will we really know about any of these characters? Don’t they need more time to develop as characters before they’re flipped upside-down? In the end, choosing Flashpoint sounds like choice of a studio more committed to adapting recognizable stories at the expense of the characters in them.
There’s an argument to be made for how Flashpoint might present an opportunity for Warner Bros. to change course for the DCEU after its previous stumbles. (Rumors that Ben Affleck is on his way out at the studio make this strategy sound somewhat reasonable.) Consider the story: after the Flash returns to his proper timeline, he discovers that his world has been transformed into what fans came to know (and, in many quarters, hate) as the New 52. But that would be a tacit admission that everything the studio has attempted on the big screen has been a failure and needs to be reworked from the ground up. Wouldn’t it be better to make better movies with the characters they have, instead of starting all over again?
Comic book superheroes are defined by the stories that shape who they are and how fans relate to them. Warner Bros. should be making movies that build their characters up, helping to foster that relationship. Making a universe-flipping movie like Flashpoint too soon runs the very real risk of undermining that.