On Monday, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment‘s highly anticipated feature film version of The Flash took another massive blow, creatively. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that director Rick Famuyiwa — who’s only been on board since June — has left the project over that time-tested reason, creative differences. The Dope filmmaker said he and the studio clashed over the take on the character and the world, and while it’s certainly sad to lose a filmmaker with such a unique vision, it sounds a bit like Famuyiwa’s Flash would have had a harder edge. Not only is this not the right thing for the DCEU at the moment, it’s the exact wrong thing for the Scarlet Speedster.
In the DC Comics Universe, Superman is the symbol of truth and justice, Batman is the brooding defender of the night, Wonder Woman is the defender of the weak and downtrodden; every major character has their place. The Flash — be it the Barry Allen version, the Wally West version, or any of the other iterations — is the lighthearted, fun-loving, science-minded member of the Justice League. He’s the one who doesn’t take things as seriously as Batman or Superman. He’s not burdened with being a godlike alien, a warrior woman from a mystical land, or spending every single night working through decades-old demons. The Flash can be the rush of fun.
After the reception Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (and to a point, Man of Steel) received, the powers that be decided the DC Extended Universe needed to be less dour. This constituted an effort to bring the films in closer line with the comics, which manifested in bringing in DC Creative Chief Geoff Johns to co-oversee the films going forward. While it was too late for Suicide Squad, which suffered from trying to retrofit a “fun” movie in editing, the footage we saw at SDCC of the Justice League movie seemed much lighter, had a few jokes even, and the centerpiece footage involved a funny scene between Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen. It was nice to see someone actually excited to be a superhero.
This is something we’re hoping, given Johns’ influence, will bring the tone of the DCEU films closer to the way the CW DC television universe has been handling its heroes. Of the four shows currently being shown on the network, The Flash is and has been the best of the bunch, mostly because of the tone, reflected in the lead performance by Grant Gustin. In the comics, The Flash has always had the sillier rogues gallery, the slightly trippier science fiction stories, and a supporting cast that lends itself much more to being playful and loving. Sure, Barry gets down on himself and feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, but his baseline personality is that of a nice guy given the ability to do great things.
Contrast this with the CW’s first DC Comics show, Arrow. That show is incredibly dark and its lead character of Oliver Queen is so brooding and unflinching that he’s become, in the show’s fifth season, almost totally unlikable. It’s refreshing that The Flash isn’t like that, and that Legends of Tomorrow and the newly network-jumped Supergirl have followed in the mold of fun, bright, uplifting, delightfully comic-booky rather than trying to be Bleak Outlook MacLachlan.
I’m not so naive as to think the film version of the DC Comics universe will travel too far from the darker side of things. Batman will always be dark, but I think we’ll need to wait for a time when his filmmakers no longer come from the generation that grew up with Frank Miller and Alan Moore’s version. Those are great comics, but they were absolutely of their time in the mid-’80s. The next generation will hopefully have grown up with the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animated version of the DCU and can be more flexible with different titles needing different angles.
This is all to say, though Famuyiwa is an exciting and talented filmmaker, I think it’s a good move him to part ways with WB if his take on the Flash was going to be “edgy” as is reported. There need to be differences in tone in the DCEU for them to truly stand apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. People praise the MCU for its lighter tone, but really, their tone is just uniform. DCEU needs to show it can have a unified cinematic presence, with franchises occupying the same shared universe, but still remain true to their own personalities. The Flash needs to be the beacon of hope currently lacking in the DCEU.
If losing another director means the movie misses its proposed March 2018 release date,but that it’ll be truer to the source material, the character, and the tenets of what makes the Flash the Flash, it’s a delay I can appreciate.
Let me know your thoughts on the way The Flash movie is headed in the comments, and see our gallery of the Flash through the ages below!
Images: DC Comics/CW/Warner Bros/CBS
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and a confirmed DC Fanboy. He’s the creator of the horror-appreciation series One Good Scare. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!
The Justice League movie looks a lot more fun!