There was an incredible burden on the DC FanDome panel for the upcoming The Flash movie. This project has buzz-sawed through multiple scripts and directors and already endured several release-date bumps even pre-COVID, not to mention the rough prospect of being an alternate version of the character racing up against six seasons of the Grant Gustin/Greg Berlanti television series that has done an overall commendable job on a regular basis since 2014; The Flash TV show has channeled the wow and wonder of the character who inaugurated the Silver Age of Comics. I am one who, from the initial announcement, was quite dubious about this set-up and bummed that they didn’t just bump Gustin and his crew up to the big screen after having certainly put it the hours, months, and years imbuing a continuity with heart and a great deal of earned character development.
Ezra Miller came off well enough in his cinematic debut, but his cameo during last December’s televised CW Crisis On Infinite Earths went a long way toward mitigating my doubt, not just acknowledging Gustin’s continuity/journey, but also through their wonderful on-screen chemistry. It was a Top-5 moment in a 5-episode crossover hyperdense with incredible moments, and it left me curious and optimistic to see what Miller and director Andy Muschetti had in store for their cinematic version/vision.
It was a spirited conference from the get-go. Miller, long-haired and bearded, immediately dropped in with his first Flash Fact! that, according to his Wikipedia page, Muschetti was a PA on the 1996 Evita movie starring Antonio Banderas & Madonna. This set a playful, irreverent, and high-energy tone that careened through the entire experience. Also on the call were Barbara Muschetti, the director’s sister and co-producer, and Christina Hodson, whose last two produced screenplays, Bumblbee and Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, have been slam-dunks.
Hodson came across very well and knowledgeable about the source material, stating that she fell in love with the juxtaposition in the original Geoff Johns Flashpoint source material of a massive timeline-rebooting hijinx worthy of the original Wolfman/Perez Crisis juxtaposed with the story of a boy just trying to save his mum (she’s British). She also dropped a wild back-channel DC cinematic crossover that growing up, she was best friends with Robert Pattinson’s older sister, so she’s known the current champ “since he was two years old and in diapers.” Which winds up being a hilarious image when you make it to the Reeves The Batman trailer at the end of that experience.
But the especially cool thing about this panel is that it runs with the vibe from the also-excellent earlier Greg Berlanti/Jim Lee Multiverse panel about how this Flash movie is the one that’s going to blast through all the continuity barriers and not only acknowledge but celebrate the entire insane DC Multiverse. I wish they were able to keep the lid on these kinds of things, but Ben Affleck is going to be Batman again in this movie. Michael Keaton is going to be Batman again in this movie. That’s the best news and a very positive direction for where DC movies should be heading as a whole. Embrace the screaming madness.
Muschetti tried to share concept art, but Miller straight-up Rick-rolled him. I guess maybe it was planned? I’m not certain, but it was extremely convincing in the moment. Muschetti seemed very annoyed and is maybe a better actor than anyone credits. The concept art that eventually evaded “Never Gonna Give You Up” is everything you want from your Flash, kinetic and dynamic. The threads of light embedded through the infrastructure are something we haven’t seen in all these years. Hodson said she stole some glimpses of Muschetti’s concept art that has a Speed Force visualization that nobody has ever imagined. It’s all pretty exciting.
Miller kept things crackling with another Flash Fact that the first ever cinematic adaptation of Batman is Andy Warhol just letting it rip in 1964 with unlicensed madness, something called Batman vs. Dracula with a soundtrack by the Velvet Underground. This news appears to be true, Scarlet Speedsters! There are currently 36 minutes of footage available to be screened. Your humble reviewer was so overwhelmed by just this primary experience that he did not investigate further but promises to report back with further results.
The last question was what random crossover would anyone like to see? Muschetti said that he wanted Barry to intersect with the Game of Thrones crew, mainly to cut down the voyage-lag (though it seems like those charmed little fellows Benioff & Weiss took care of that themselves just having Jon Snow leave The Wall at the end of 7.01 and suddenly arriving at Dragonstone there at the top of 7.02? We don’t care anymore and we’re not doing that here? That’s fine. It was wild to me that Muschetti still seemed completely dialed in and just giving notes on that final season. Those choices). Miller ended the whole deal as he began it, knocking it out as hard as he could, wishing that Barry could meet Nicolas Cage, not Spider-Noir Cage or Long-Haired Cage in costume as that whacked-out screen-test 90s Superman Burton/Smith version nobody asked for or received, just the actual man Nicholas Cage, “who I fully believe can actually transcend space and time.”
These words ring true. 4.5/5 Bibles.
And then, on the other side of 133 episodes and months of quarantine lockdown, come our old friends Grant Gustin and Candice Patton and Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes for a very-much Zoom call hosted by Entertainment Weekly’s Chancellor Agard. Agard did his best trying to propel energy into the situation and elicit engagement from the cast, but it was kind of an offbeat deal where they all came across as very much over it. I don’t mean this in a bad way.
It was actually refreshing; there was no artifice or pandering, few smiles, zero bullshit, everybody answering questions but basically not putting a pretty face on any of it. The quarantine was showing, Gustin & Valdes had beards and needed haircuts too, but were projecting the opposite energy of Miller. He was wooing us, dancing through the Flash Facts! This cast was done, haggard and exhausted from quarantine shutdown, very much a Rock of Ages vibe running through, which landed for me…
Showrunner Eric Wallace was on the call, and everyone interacting with him was my favorite dynamic. I hadn’t zoomed out enough to process it, but Season 6 very much split between the first 2019 half being alllllllll about how Barry was going to die on December 10th then we were delivered unto Crisis, praise Rao above all Gods, and but afterwards the post-Crisis 2020 focus shifted much more toward Iris and what she had going at the Citizen with her own crew. They mentioned conjuring Charlie’s Angels, but that allusion misses the entire point about there not being some random old white guy on speaker-phone telling them what to do; it was all about female agency and empowerment.
There was some focus on the newcomers, Kayla Compton as Allegra and Brandon McKnight as Chester. Both actors came across as very sweet and welcomed into the fold by the cast. Compton told a quick anecdote about Danielle Nicolet (Cecile Norton) taking a picture with her to set her at ease. McKnight shared that he’d been watching the series with his little sister since the first season and couldn’t believe that he had punched through into the onscreen narrative.
Again, there was a tired sincerity on display with the cast throughout that I found very moving, keeping in mind that I’ve watched every episode of this series twice the week that it aired, once for consumptive delight, once for craft analysis, and then hitting this second-round Fandome at 12:55 in the early Texas-AM; the lack of artifice was really moving. Valdes had a line late in the game about people stopping him in the street giving him trouble about Cisco surrendering his Vibe powers being “so so gratifying to my budding narcissism,” and right then the frame cuts to bearded Rock-of-Ages Rebel Grant Gustin only closing his eyes and shaking his head, the world-weariness of it, the amount of friendship that gesture speaks to, it was almost my favorite beat of the entire Fandome.
On the aforementioned Greg Berlanti Multiverse panel earlier in the day, Berlanti and Jim Lee confirmed what already seemed apparent in the moment, that in that brilliant Ezra Miller cameo in the Crisis last December, Gustin inadvertently inspired his counterpart to dub himself The Flash just by blurting it out. That is deeply resonant because as any fan or scholar of the DC Multiverse knows, long before Barry Allen actually came face-to-face with Jay Garrick in Flash #123 to canonize the Multiverse, the Golden Age Flash had inspired him to take his name and, it turns out, inaugurate the Silver Age of Comics in Showcase #4. Let’s all have a deep breath and a paragraph break.
There is so much happening now with cinematic comic-book adaptations. Feige & his MCU reigning over the entire medium/industry, even the formally insurmountable Star Wars franchise. Objective domination. Fox still running around spinning out kind of weird shit like Tom-Hardy Venom but then Into The Spider-Verse, an instant classic that almost instantly blasts Maguire & Garfield continuities out of existence even while leaving the door open to welcome them back home later.
Whatever DC’s got going on, the dominant Snyder arc of the past decade that many love and many hate, followed by offshoot schisms where Wonder Woman is an instant classic and Shazam and Aquaman land well enough for most folks, and though Joaquin Phoenix wins the second Oscar for somebody being The Joker (which it seems like nobody has done at all a deep dive on that yet?) and then but all that focused and accelerated into the future while we’re already celebrating obvious successes like WW84 and James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (and I acknowledge some folks who only think Robert Pattinson can only play poor doomed Cedric Diggory or a sparkly vampire who is going to ruin their fun once again, but this Matt Reeves The Batman movie really has the potential to be the best one yet, you have to see it), all of that, so much swirling, but the guiding magnetic pole about the DC Universe has always been legacy, right? Inspiration.
Remember what Oliver Queen said to Barry Allen on that Central City rooftop in the pilot that aired on October 7th, 2014, that first night that teased that all of this Crisis might even be possible: “You can be better, because you can inspire people in a way that I never could, watching over your city like a guardian angel . . . making a difference . . . saving people . . . in a flash.”
These two Flashes. In the original 1956 sequential situation, Barry Allen reads his original Golden-Age comics about Jay Garrick as a child and honors his hero, actualizes his potential by becoming The Flash. Now, in our insane but analogous 2020 multi-media/televisual/cinematic situation, Ezra Miller Barry Allen stumble-crashes into Grant Gustin Barry Allen Crisis continuity and is immediately receptive to the vibration of the same name.
Lightning crackles. Run, Barry, Run. 4/5 Bibles.