The Flash: A rocky 40-year race to the big screen

Since his first appearance in 1956, Barry Allen, also known as the Flash, has become one of the most beloved and well-known superheroes in popular culture. 

After making his cinematic debut in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the character is returning to the big screen tonight in a self-titled film. However, despite being known as “the fastest man alive,” the Flash’s first-ever solo film took a much longer time to arrive in theaters after having been bogged down by numerous development issues, director changes, and more recently, a great share of controversy surrounding the film’s star Ezra Miller.

At the film’s Los Angeles premiere, the film’s director Andy Muschietti spoke on the film’s long term development and his satisfaction with finally being able to bring said film to excited audiences.

“It’s been three years and a half for us and many more years for others, especially for the audience that have been waiting for this big adventure for so long… this is the best moment,” he said.

Plans for a live-action film revolving around the Flash began developing in the late 1980s when writer Jeph Loeb was approached to write a script. However, it was never completed and the project lay dormant for over a decade until 2004, when Warner Bros. approached writer David S. Goyer.

Goyer, having come off working on the script for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, was excited at the opportunity to both direct and write the film, crediting the cinematic possibilities of the character as a main reason for his eagerness. However, differences between Goyer and the studio led to the latter’s departure. This would be the first major bump in the road for the character’s anticipated lead film debut.

The next bump came five years later with the cancellation of both a new Justice League film that would have finally brought the Flash to the big screen and a solo spin-off film directed by Shawn Levy. Factors such as the 2007-08 Writer’s Guild Strike and director Levy being forced to drop out due to conflicting schedules with other projects once again meant the plans for the character were left on the cutting room floor. 

However, fans of the character were treated to some good news when news broke that in order to match the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros. announced a new cinematic universe revolving around the characters of DC Comics, one of them being the Scarlet Speedster himself.

Following the box office success of 2013’s Man of Steel, plans for a film centered on the Flash were announced to be in development and on October 15, 2014, the project found its lead in Ezra Miller who was officially cast as Barry Allen with the film set to release in 2018. Though things were starting to pick up for the long-awaited film, no one could anticipate the further challenges that would keep the Flash out of theaters for quite a while longer.

Further announcements came in the form of writing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and novelist/screenwriter Seth Grahame Smith signing on to pen and direct the film respectively. 

However, in a case of history repeating itself, Smith would later depart from the film citing creative differences with the studio. Production was further delayed when Smith’s replacement, director Rick Famuyiwa also left for the same reason.

Following the departure of yet another director, the film experienced a series of both script (and screenwriters including Miller themselves partnering with comic book writer Grant Morrison) and title changes as pre-production and filming was constantly pushed back to accommodate the issues facing the project.

After what seemed like an eternity of delays and confusion over the film’s release, the search for a director to helm the film finally concluded when Andy Muschietti, coming off from directing the It duology, officially signed on and was later joined by screenwriter Christina Hodson. 

But unfortunately, finding a director was not the end of the film’s trouble. Like Black Adam and other films in development at the time, The Flash was greatly impacted by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down any hope of filming until early 2021. 

Then came news that Michael Keaton would be returning after 30 years to reprise his role as Batman from Tim Burton’s original films, the casting of newcomer Sasha Calle as Supergirl, and the return of DCEU actors Ben Affleck and Michael Shannon. It seemed the project’s troubles were long left behind.

Sadly, that was not entirely the case. From between March and April of 2022, numerous assault and burglary charges against the film’s star, Ezra Miller, were revealed. He had been arrested twice in Hawaii after getting into several physical and harassment altercations. 

The most shocking of allegations, however, came in June of that same year, when news broke that Miller was involved in a relationship with 18-year-old activist Tokata Iron Eyes and had been accused of grooming Iron Eyes since she was 12 years old; the allegations included sexual and physical abuse as well as the use of both LSD and marijuana.

As a result of these allegations, many believed the film would be canceled. The studio soon began looking at several options for both the film and its controversial star that involved Miller entering therapy and being allowed to participate in limited press or them being denied any participation in the film’s press if they should refuse said treatment and the possibility of being recast. 

After due consideration, Warner Bros. decided to continue with a summer of 2023 release date. Miller made plans to enter treatment for their mental health as well as apologizing for their actions.

Earlier this week, the film hosted its Los Angeles premiere. It was attended by several members of the cast and crew including Affleck, Calle, Muschietti with his sister and producer Barbara, and Miller.

Miller spoke briefly on their overall feelings at seeing the film finally premiere and being able to reunite with their fellow cast and crew members.

“It’s a huge honor and a big delight…it’s a beautiful moment for me and it’s really wonderful to see everybody and have a moment to celebrate this movie that as you say has been sort of a journey,” they stated. 

Moments before the premiere’s screening of the film, Miller stood with the cast and crew and took the time to not only praise Muschietti’s work and passion for the project but also thank the “grace and discernment and care” of recently appointed DC Studio chairman James Gunn and Peter Safran revolving around the “context” of their life.

“I want to thank every single member of our unstoppable crew, our irresistible dream cast and just the thousands of artists and workers who made this movie,” Miller concluded. Everybody who has supported us in our lives and in the world and everybody who has supported me in my life and in the world along this decade-long, trying, and very beautiful peregrination.”

Early reviews of the film have been generally positive with critics praising the film’s ambition and action sequences as well as the performances of the cast, mainly highlighting Keaton and Miller.

Luca Fornoni is a senior at FIU and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Digital Journalism. He mainly enjoys spending time with his family and friends as much as possible as well as watching and discussing movies.