One of the big revelations to come out of DC FanDome surrounded the upcoming (and long awaited) big screen version of The Flash. As fans have long suspected, the film will be at least somewhat based on Geoff Johns’ 2011 comic book series Flashpoint. Although many changes will be made, the spine of that storyline will seemingly remain the same.
Flashpoint finds the Scarlet Speedster going back in time to when he was a child to prevent the murder of his mother. In doing so, he alters reality in the classic “butterfly effect” sense. When he returns to his present, the world he knew has totally changed for the darker. Aquaman’s Atlanteans are at war with Wonder Woman’s Amazons. A young Bruce Wayne was murdered in Crime Alley, turning his father Thomas (who survived the attack in this timeline) into more extreme and violent Batman. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes in this grim reality.
T0 fix all these problems, Barry Allen goes back once more to allow his mother to die as she was meant to. While his reality reverts back to something a lot more recognizable, it still is not exactly the same as it was originally. This story allowed for DC Comics to soft-reboot their entire line of comics. This gave us what was referred to as “The New 52” era, since there were 52 initial titles in the launch. And if we were to guess, the DCEU is about to use this very same tactic with its The Flash movie.
At the FanDome event, producer Barbara Muschietti said of The Flash movie, “Flash is the superhero of this film because he is the bridge between all of these characters and timelines. And, in a way, it restarts everything and doesn’t forget anything.”
So what do we think this means? We think The Flash will “soft-reboot” the DCEU in much the same way as Flashpointdid re: the comics. What is working will remain in continuity, but what didn’t click with audiences will be altered, if not outright deleted. But The Flash character will remember it all, so it will all still “count” (to him, and ultimately to us as the viewers).
When DC Comics launched the New 52, they were at a crossroads. Sales were not great on several DC titles, so the entire line felt stale. So the higher-ups used the Flashpoint event to restart books that weren’t working. When Flash restores his proper timeline, the more successful titles—like Green Lantern and Batman—reverted to their normal continuity, while the likes of Wonder Woman and Superman underwent huge changes. It was the “have their cake and eat it too” approach.
The DCEU is in the same pickle now. A lackluster response to Batman V Superman and especially Justice League means that a reboot of the cinematic DC universe is in order… but one that spares huge hits like Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Thus, the Flashpoint approach is the answer.
If the upcoming The Flashmovie follows the premise of the comic, Barry Allen will go back in time to stop his mom’s murder and return to the present to find that the universe has changed. (This will probably explain why Michael Keaton’s Batman replaces Ben Affleck’s Batman.) Thus, he’ll have to repair his timeline, but won’t be able to fix everything. Almost assuredly, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman will stay as they we know them. But this storyline just might erase things like the theatrical version of Justice League entirely.
This means that Warner Bros. could bring back Henry Cavill as Superman, but could also change whatever they wanted to about his recent circumstances without worrying about continuity. It also means they could totally replace Cavill with a new Man of Steel should they choose, and similarly not concern themselves too much if everything doesn’t “match.” They can keep Affleck’s Batman or replace him with Battinson. And no matter what they change, the presence of The Flash as a constant would underline that everything we’ve seen still happened—in a manner of speaking—and still “counts.”
Of course, there are pitfalls to this approach. The haphazard style of the New 52 continuity in the comics eventually became unwieldy and hard to follow. But it’s one thing to maintain a new and coherent continuity across dozens and dozens of comics over several years, and quite another having to do the same thing with just a handful of films a year. But we think they can pull this off. At the end of the day, it might be the most elegant approach to what could have been a much messier situation.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.