Five Projects for DCE to Jump On, Day 1: ‘The Flash’
On the surface, The Flash may seem too simple of a project to make into a decent movie, but it’s that simplicity of the character that has always intrigued me. As a superhero, The Flash is not complicated. Regardless of which of the four incarnations you reference, The Flash embodies superhuman speed, agility, quick-thinking and intelligence and even the ability to defy certain law of physics, such as being able to vibrate so fast he can walk through walls or leap to alternate dimensions.
For the sake of argument, and popularity, we’ll focus on the most popular incarnation of The Flash. The story of Barry Allen began back in 1956, when DC Comics made the successful decision to modernize it’s most popular characters. In this re-imagining of The Flash, scientist Barry Allen is exposed to some powerful chemical agents when lightning strikes his lab, resulting in an exponentially-enhanced metabolism and physical ability.
A version of Barry Allen’s story line has appeared “on screen” with the 1990 Emmy Award-winning TV mini-series THE FLASH, starring John Wesley Shipp. I personally loved this TV series, as did many, but it really only barely touched the surface of the character. So, crazing to see more, I’ve followed the long and arduous process of getting The Flash on the “big screen” fairly close, reeling every time the project experiences setbacks or obstacles.
This has been one of those DC Comics/Warner Bros projects that has been in developmental Hell for what seems like forever, right up there with Wonder Woman. If there’s one reason above all else that I feel THE FLASH “needs” to be made into a live-action feature film, it’s because it’s one of the few greats that is totally feasible, especially with today’s technical capabilities and vast amount of comic book and special FX talent that is out there ripe for the picking. Compared to other projects like JUSTICE LEAGUE and even the X-MEN, THE FLASH would require far fewer of the big budget bucks, but still offer a great story and a popular franchise platform to run with.
Honestly, if THE FLASH is done respectfully and not ruined by the studio, I see it being just as big a hit, critically and financially, as the IRON MAN franchise is shaping up to be. The Flash is one of the few great DC heroes, aside from Batman, that aren’t bogged down with a God-like story line or premise that people in general (not just comic book fans) can actually relate to. So, what’s the story going to be? From what I’ve gathered, THE FLASH is likely to be based on the Wally West version, who becomes The Flash while visiting the same crime lab his uncle (Barry Allen) worked. Allen, in this story, has died during an epic battle. [In the Final Crisis storyline, however, Allen returns to life.] I’ve even heard that he becomes The Flash in the same way Allen did, which perhaps seems a bit too convenient.
Regardless, Wally West takes on his uncle’s superhero persona, but finds himself struggling with diminishing powers and rumor has it, possibly also dealing with the mentally unstable Hal Jordan, a long-time friend and incarnation of Green Lantern. Again, I strongly emphasize… THESE ARE MERELY ONLINE RUMORS. I have no validation for these plots points.
The Flash has had his roles in animated projects, including SUPERFRIENDS, TEEN TITANS and JUSTICE LEAGUE. He had a regular part in the 1978 series CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS and had occasional guest appearances on the TV series SMALLVILLE. (Speaking of which, there’s a popular forum debate online lately over whether Superman is faster that The Flash. Not in my opinion, especially when it comes to endurance.)
I believe it was about 2007 when news broke that Warner Bros had tapped Shawn Levy (THE PINK PANTHER, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM) to helm the big screen adaptation of The Flash. I have to say that I get frustrated when director’s with zero experience in films even remotely connected to the genre are considered for major titles such as THE FLASH. This is a project that should be handled seriously, not dumbed down and made into a comedy or a kid’s movie. One of the more recent names to hit the Internet (around 2009) as a potential director was David Dobkin (SHANGHAI KNIGHTS, WEDDING CRASHERS) and, once again, the project is potentially handed over to someone likely to ruin the franchise before it gets started… a la Brett Ratner, who ruins a franchise just by looking at it.
So, who do I feel would be a positive choice for directing THE FLASH?
This one is really tough. First of all, there are many very talented filmmakers out there, many of whom are very versatile. I’ve already ruled out Bryan Singer and Christopher Nolan. No, not because they couldn’t do it! I actually think any three of them could do well. Hey, quit picking on Singer over SUPERMAN RETURNS already. It wasn’t that bad, and he did just fine with the first two X-MEN Movies. No, I rule them out because I find it unlikely they want to pigeon-hole them selves into this genre much more than they already have. Darren Aronofsky almost always comes up in my mind with projects I am interested in, but he can’t do everything and I wonder if he even has any interest in making a superhero movie?
Another factor to consider in this debate would be what the story is and how it’s being approached. This makes a difference. For example, if THE FLASH were to be a PG-13/R-rated comedy, Kevin Smith would be perfect, especially considering his comic book knowledge. However, that’s not where the film is going… RIGHT? OK, that question was directed towards Warner Bros, so please… don’t make that mistake. If they move in a darker direction like David S. Goyer’s script suggested, that combined with a more sci-fi based origin story makes me think Alex Proyas could do THE FLASH justice. The combination of Proyas/Goyer on THE CROW was epic!
Let’s get creative, shall we? What about a younger filmmaker with lots of talent, but hasn’t dipped into the superhero pool yet? As soon as I considered this, the name that came to mind was Rian Johnson. He has the right style, the right ratio of drama to humor and a talent for telling good stories that are smart as well as accessible to broad audiences, even if his films generally aren’t distributed as broadly as they should be. Finally, as I was eyeballing my DVD collection, SHOOT ‘EM UP caught my eye. This was written and directed by Michael Davis and had a very good comic book feel to the movie. I’d love to see him make a superhero movie, but part of my also thinks he’s more suited to direct DEADPOOL.
Perhaps one of the greatest losses this project has endured over time was that of it’s writer. David S. Goyer had been one of the earlier parties involved, which was great because, despite his uncertainty as a director (BLADE: TRINITY, THE UNBORN) he’s an outstanding writer who truly understands what it takes to adapt good comic books into feature films. I present my evidence, exhibits 1-6: THE CROW, BLADE trilogy, BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT. Goyer also has the following prjects in development: X-MEN ORIGINS: MAGNETO, Y: THE LAST MAN and SUPER MAX.
Goyer’s screenplay was said to be “too dark” for Warner Bros, who followed up by saying they also had no intentions of making the film a comedy. I certainly hope not. With Goyer off the project, it’s unclear which scribe (or scribes) will finally get creds for the finished film. Dan Mazeau was attached back in 2009 for a bit, after Warner Bros read his screenplay for JONNY QUEST. Following this, Geoff Johns wrote a new treatment for the film. This was promising, as Johns is actually a comic book writer who has written for The Flash since 2000 and also been an integral writing force within the Green Lantern universe.
Ah, the heated and much-anticipated debate over who shall portray The Flash on film. Well, the popular studio golden boy right now when it comes to superheroes is certainly Ryan Reynolds, who has recently signed on to play Deadpool in his own spin-off (a good choice) and to play Green Lantern (a terrible choice, IMO). He’s played a vampire hunter in BLADE: TRINITY, which was sort of a possible precursor to what we may expect from DEADPOOL. He did bulk up and get ripped for these roles, but The Flash is NOT a character I connect with Ryan Reynolds… at all! Then again, some feel that if the story follows that of Wally West, Reynolds has the right personality, but that’s not enough for me. Besides, he’s already signed to play Green Lantern, so you can’t exactly have the same actor play two superheroes that existed withing the same era of the DC universe. It just wouldn’t be right!
In the past, some very “interesting” names have emerged, including Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie?) who actually voiced The Flash in the animated film JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER, and Scott Porter (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) who, surprisingly, struck me as a good choice in terms of appearance and relative low-key stardom. Neil Patrick Harris is a long-shot that might actually work, given the story is properly written, but I just can’t imagine Warner Bros giving NPH a starring role in a big budget project such as THE FLASH.
So, who do I think would be an appropriate casting choice for THE FLASH?
Personally, I though John Wesley Shipp was great as The Flash, but clearly that’s not an option. I’ve toyed with Bale in the past, but he’s a bit too serious and he’s also Batman, so the previous argument I applied the Reynolds knocks Bale out, not that I was serious about him anyway. As much as I hate to say it, Matthew McConaughey could make a decent Flash, but this is all assuming we have to go with a major star. As I mentioned earlier, I like digging for the rising stars for superhero roles. Jensen Ackles lost in the battle for Green Lantern as a popular underdog, so maybe could have a shot at The Flash, but I don’t think he’s quite right.
I saw Jerry O’Connell mentioned on a forum somewhere, which made me laugh, but then I thought about the idea of someone like O’Connell or even Jason Bateman. After all, the character is supposed to be a really smart scientist dude, but funny also… either of them would be good choices, but they would have to buff up a little to make the costume look good. Finally, Brad Piit keeps getting mentioned for virtually every new superhero movie that arises… Thor, Captain America, etc, etc… ENOUGH! Pitt should NEVER play a superhero. He’s too big, and more importantly, too damn talented. I want to see him do other kinds of movies, not comic book movies.