The Flash is more popular than ever. Which is why it seems very strange for the upcoming and highly anticipated film based on the speedster to have no director or official release date as the film prepares to enter production.
Let’s be clear. Now is the time for a great Flash movie. As a superhero icon, he’s been a household name for decades, even outside the world of comics. But more recently, he’s entered a state of heightened cultural relevance thanks to a successful CW television show bolstered by legacy appearances on children’s programming over the last decade, like with Justice League and Young Justice to name only a few.
And many DC fans seem quite happy and content with what we’ve seen of the silver screen Flash so far. Ezra Miller, who has been cast as Barry Allen, is proving to be a bit less divisive among DCEU fans than some anticipated, thanks to a strong debut intro scene in the Justice League trailer and an exciting cameo of the character in action during Suicide Squad.
Aside from all that, we don’t know much about the planned Flash standalone movie, maybe even less than the upcoming Batman movie starring Ben Affleck. We do know that Kiersey Clemons will play Iris West, and Billy Crudup is reportedly playing Henry Allen, Barry’s dad.
Deborah Snyder (DCEU executive producer) has teased that they’re planning for a lighter tone, and Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher) will apparently be in the movie as well, though the size of his role has not yet been confirmed.
So far, so good. Especially for a movie that’s still over a year away at the very least. But the real trouble seems to start with a few of the most crucial pieces when it comes to big franchise filmmaking: the director and the release date.
Of course, having the right director for a project is far more important than the release date, unless you’re the film executive in charge of ensuring the most successful box office possible. In this regard, we’re seeing some serious warning signs for what could be a troubled production ahead, despite what Miller has said to the contrary.
It’s not simply that The Flash is yet to secure a director. That alone is no serious indicator of internal problems at Warner Bros. It’s the fact that the studio has confirmed and uninstalled two directors in a row for a film that needs to start shooting soon, that is if Warner Bros. is still set on appeasing the release schedule they’ve set for themselves, which itself is based on their own data and marketing geared toward ensuring a successful box office run amidst their other high-profile releases.
First, Warner Bros. signed on Seth Grahame-Smith to direct the movie. This would have been his first directing job—looking over a script worked on by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller—but he departed the project this past spring on friendly terms.
At the time, this was no real cause of concern and actually a sign that Warner Bros. was being preemptive with finding the right director. Grahame-Smith reportedly parted ways amicably, and rightly so. Many would agree that Warner Bros. needs to put an important movie like this in more experienced hands.
Then, as many of you know, Warner Bros. signed on Rick Famuyiwa, who directed the well-received film, Dope. True, Dope is a bit of a far cry from mainstream superhero films, but there’s ample precedent for indie filmmakers coming into their own with big blockbuster movies, usually because the studio has chosen someone who’s quicker to relinquish creative control when necessary.
Many fans, like myself, praised this decision as a smart corrective course for the movie, but then Famuyiwa quit the job as well due to “creative differences,” perhaps proving he’s not an indie filmmaker susceptible to heavy studio interference (just a guess).
The Flash is in a weird place right now.
This has put Warner Bros. in a tricky situation with The Flash, which is almost exciting for observers studying how franchise blockbusters will continue to guide studio releases and how we speculate on these sprawling superhero movie timetables. Since Aquaman was recently confirmed for a fall 2018 release, many believe The Flash will be the Warner Bros. film to fill the July 27 slot that’s just been left open. It would certainly solve the problem of The Flash competing with Deadpool 2 and the new Tomb Raider movie, also distributed by Warner Bros., no less.
This would all be fine if it weren’t for indications from Ezra Miller that production might actually start in 2016 and is “coming up quick,” which leads us to believe that the March 2018 slot is still in play. And if that’s the case, then this means Warner Bros. has to announce a new director—that will stick around—in a matter of weeks if they want to start shooting on schedule. What’s even more strange is that Joe Manganiello (who plays Deathstroke on the upcoming Batman standalone) has recently claimed that The Batman will also start production this year, though it’s possible he meant 2017 as opposed to this year.
Regardless, none of this seems to add up to a clear narrative coming from Warner Bros., as the studio has been notably quiet throughout all of this. Probably because they’re busy trying to figure out how they can possibly get the right director, script, and cast secured in time for the release date that makes the most sense for their entire lineup, as one major shakeup can have a ripple effect that reaches movies years away from development. At the very least, it could be problematic to switch the order of one or two superhero releases if they’re considered stepping stones to a greater story planned by the studio.
We want a Flash movie. We want a Batman movie. We want an Aquaman movie. It’s very unlikely that all three of these projects will come out in 2018, but there’s also compounding evidence that Warner Bros. and the DCEU could have a significant problem forming with the placement of at least one of these movies. And say what you will about the studio controlling its communication and PR, there’s something odd about the actors of a given project being more vocal and forthcoming about these movies than anything official coming out of the studio. And despite the fact that we’ve known of the Tomb Raider release date conflict since July, Warner Bros. has been completely silent about this obvious gap in information.
Perhaps there’s a good reason for that, and no one is asking Warner Bros. to have everything perfectly figured out sooner than they can. But at the very least, fans deserve something to address the obvious hurdles this movie faces as we enter 2017. Are the story boards we heard about months ago still being preserved? Will there be more cast announcements soon? Is there a shortlist of directors? There are easy and simple ways for the studio to prove that they’re working on this.
That said, none of this is a crippling judgement of a movie we frankly have little to evaluate on. Plenty of superhero movies have thrived under development hell to this degree, and Flash could very well be one of those rare cases. But for now, Warner Bros. is giving us more reasons to doubt than be optimistic.