Comics on Film: Can a 'Flash' Movie Succeed Alongside the Acclaimed TV Series?

Comics on Film: Can a 'Flash' Movie Succeed Alongside the Acclaimed TV Series?

Nov 20, 2015

As most comic book fans are likely to agree, it's never been a better time to love superheroes and head to the movies. Comic book characters account for much of the business done in theaters' busiest season, and the influx of new films based on the characters of DC Comics will soon join the ranks of Marvel's blockbusters by introducing another cinematic comics-based universe for fans to enjoy. Television is also proving to be an ever-expanding realm of superheroes, with acclaimed Marvel-based shows on ABC and Netflix, with popular DC-based shows now appearing on the CW, Fox, and CBS.

One of the more popular TV series to come down the pike is The Flash, starring Grant Gustin as the forensic scientist-turned-speedster in a portrayal that's made even the most ardent Flash fans -- including comic book writer extraordinaire Mark Waid -- loyal viewers. Gustin himself has been singled out as a shining light on the series, and the young actor seems to be enjoying his time playing the Fastest Man Alive.

In the wake of the TV series' success, though, where does that leave Warner Bros. forthcoming cinematic adaptation of the same character, especially since he'll be embodied by an entirely other actor?

 

Ezra Miller: the Film Flash

In October of 2014, we learned that actor Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a WallflowerWe Need to Talk About Kevin) was cast as Barry Allen/the Flash in Warner Bros' upcoming cinematic adaptation of The Flash. This would be the version of the character that would embody the same cinematic universe as Henry Cavill's Superman, Ben Affleck's Batman, and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, and he would also be appearing alongside these characters -- and several others -- in Zack Snyder's upcoming 2-part Justice League film.

Initial reaction to his casting was tepid, largely because fans had just gotten their first look at Grant Gustin's Barry Allen on the CW, and liked what they saw.

One outspoken actor who disagreed with WB's casting decision was Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen/Green Arrow on the CW's Arrow, taking place in the same universe as The Flash on the same network. Amell's perspective isn't necessarily one that stands against Ezra Miller as much as it stands for Grant Gustin -- he felt that Gustin should've been the actor to play the character on both the big and small screens. Still, the film will have to make a conscious effort to set itself apart from the TV series, a task that would be made a lot easier if the series wasn't so well liked by comic book fans.

Recently speaking to that difference was Miller himself, who was directly asked about what would set his version of Barry Allen apart from others. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the 23-year old actor says that what it ultimately comes down to is the nuance. He said,

“Well, [first] it’s going to be a movie. I’d like for it to be an exploration of a human being, a multi-dimensional human being, to speak...Wow, I just made such a pun, without meaning to!

"I’d like the character to have many dimensions. But really, I’d like him to have the usual dimensions we know and love, and then some extra ones that are part of the amazing consideration of this superhero. I hope to realize him as a person, and I think what’s most exciting for me in superhero mythologies is when we feel the humanity of someone who is heroic — or the heroism of someone who is a flawed, deeply human person."


Miller's overall perspective on how to play Barry seems relatively in-line with what a lot of successful comic book movies have accomplished, which is emphasizing the human element to these larger-than-life personalities. Can he do it in a way that's both refreshing, and at least on par with how well liked Grant Gustin's iteration of the character is? That's another question entirely.

 

The Flash: TV vs. Film

Since the debut of the first season last fall, The Flash has been consistently lauded by fans and more casual viewers as a solid superhero experience, and a worthy adaptation of the character that first appeared in 1959. As alluded to earlier, it will prove difficult -- though not impossible -- for the cinematic version of The Flash to stand apart in a positive way from its television-based colleague, and to do so by reinforcing what makes the Flash such an engaging character, no matter which medium he's presented in.

One of the obvious ways that the film can do this is from a visual perspective. The world as seen on shows like The Flash and Arrow is definitely a heightened one when compared with the more grounded aesthetic presented in a film like Man of Steel, or how it looks like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad will present their world next year. The 2018 Flash film will firmly be a part of the same universe as these films, and combing that with a bigger visual effects budget may help to make the film stand in contrast to the more limited budgetary realities of an ongoing television series.

Comic book fans have often felt that the Flash could be a character that can potentially push the limits of visual effects in the way that a film featuring him can present his speed, and The Flash will also have to contend with well-liked versions of super-speed presented in films like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Avengers: Age of Ultron, made possible by another character who's had two concurrent actors play him at the same time: Quicksilver.

Beyond this, though -- and unlike a TV series -- a film will have to make more economical use of the character and his world, since it only has around 2 hours of runtime when compared with a full season of television. The Flash film will have to communicate a lot to audiences in order to get them to invest in him for this film and the new universe at-large, and that's a tall order.

For many fans, The Flash is one of the absolute ripest DC Comics characters for cinematic adaptation, but many of us fans didn't really foresee a film version having to run up against a good TV show starring the same character. Hopefully, Warner Bros., Ezra Miller, and new director Seth Grahame-Smith is keeping this in mind as they all set out to present us with a new version of a fan-favorite.

Let's hope all involved are well up to the task.


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

 

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