The Flash
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndy Muschietti
Screenplay byChristina Hodson
Story by
Based onCharacters
from DC
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyHenry Braham
Edited by
Music byBenjamin Wallfisch
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
Running time
144 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$200–220 million[3][4]
Box office$271.3 million[5][6]

The Flash is a 2023 American superhero film based on the DC character of the same name. Produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Studios, Double Dream, and the Disco Factory, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, it is the 13th installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The film was directed by Andy Muschietti from a screenplay by Christina Hodson, based on a story by Joby Harold and the writing team of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. It stars Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash alongside Sasha Calle in her film debut, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue and Michael Keaton. In the film, Barry travels back in time to prevent his mother's death, which unintentionally results in his being stranded in an alternate past.

Development of a film based on the Flash began in the late 1980s, with multiple writers and directors attached to the project through 2014. The film was then redeveloped as a part of the DCEU, with Miller cast as the title character. Multiple directors were attached to the film over the following years, with Seth Grahame-Smith, Rick Famuyiwa, and the duo of Daley and Goldstein all departing the project over creative differences. Muschietti and Hodson joined the film in July 2019, and pre-production began in January 2020. The film is influenced by the comic book storyline Flashpoint (2011), featuring other DC characters, such as Calle's Supergirl and both Ben Affleck's and Keaton's versions of Batman. Principal photography took place from April to October 2021 at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden and on location around the United Kingdom.

The Flash premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on June 12, 2023, and was released in the United States on June 16, following multiple delays caused by director changes, the COVID-19 pandemic, post-production setbacks, and Miller's legal issues. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its humor, action sequences, and the performances, but criticized the visual effects and third act. The film underperformed at the box-office, grossing $271.3 million worldwide against a budget of $200–220 million, with projections of a $200 million loss for Warner Bros.

Plot

After helping Bruce Wayne / Batman and Diana Prince / Wonder Woman stop a robbery in Gotham City, Barry Allen revisits his childhood home, where he lived with his parents Nora and Henry, before Henry's wrongful imprisonment for Nora's murder.[a] On the day of her death, Nora sent Henry to the grocery store for a can of tomatoes that she forgot to buy, leaving her alone in the kitchen, resulting in her being killed by an unidentified assailant.[b] Overcome by emotions, Barry accidentally uses the Speed Force to form a "Chronobowl" and travel back in time earlier in the day. Despite Bruce's warnings of time travel's unintended consequences, Barry time travels and places the can of tomatoes in Nora's cart at the store, so that his father will not have to leave the house. As he returns to the present, Barry is knocked out of the Chronobowl by an unknown speedster and ends up in a 2013 where Nora is alive. He encounters his parents, his past self, and realizes this is the day he originally obtained his powers.

To make sure his past self gains superpowers, the two Barrys go to the Central City Police Department, where Barry re-enacts the event for 2013-Barry to be struck by lightning. Both end up getting struck by the lightning, giving 2013-Barry powers, but causing Barry to lose his own. As Barry struggles to train 2013-Barry on properly using his powers, they learn that General Zod is preparing to invade Earth.[c] In an effort to fight Zod, the Barrys attempt to assemble the Justice League but are unsuccessful; in this timeline, Diana cannot be located, Victor Stone has not gained his abilities yet, and Arthur Curry never existed. They travel to Wayne Manor, hoping to find Bruce, but instead find an alternate variant who has long retired. Bruce theorizes that using time travel to alter history affects events both prior to and after the alteration. They convince Bruce to return as Batman and help them find Kal-El / Superman.

The Barrys and Batman locate a Kryptonian pod discovered in Siberia. Upon arrival, they instead find Kal-El's cousin, Kara Zor-El, imprisoned in the facility. They rescue Kara and return to Wayne Manor. Barry enlists Bruce's help to regain his power once more. The first two attempts fail, prompting Kara to fly Barry into a storm, where he regains his powers. Kara and Batman join the Barrys to fight Zod and his forces. During the battle, Kara learns that Zod had intercepted Kal-El's escape pod from Krypton and killed him while attempting to extract the Codex needed to repopulate the Kryptonian species. Zod reveals that the Codex is actually within Kara. Zod subdues and kills her, then extracts the Codex from her blood; meanwhile, Batman sacrifices himself in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy Zod's ship.

The Barrys repeatedly time travel to save Batman and Kara but keep failing. Barry realizes that this sequence of events cannot be changed, but 2013-Barry keeps trying. As 2013-Barry travels, the multiverse starts to implode. The unknown speedster who initially knocked Barry out of the Speed Force returns and is revealed to be an older, future version of 2013-Barry who still believes he can defeat Zod and save his Earth. He becomes angry when Barry reveals his intention to reverse the changes he made to the timeline by letting Nora die. The elder 2013-Barry attempts to kill Barry, but instead impales young 2013-Barry, who sacrifices himself to save Barry and wipe his future self from the timeline.

Barry reverts the timeline and comes to terms with his mother's death; however, he subtly alters the past by moving the tomato cans to a higher shelf. Returning to the present day, Barry attends Henry's court hearing, where the security footage now reveals Henry looking up to grab the tomato can, allowing for his exoneration. Barry is then contacted by Bruce, whose appearance has changed once again as a result of the timeline alteration.

Cast

Also reprising their respective DCEU roles are Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth,[28] Temuera Morrison as an alternate version of Tom Curry from 2013-Barry's timeline,[29] and Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa both appearing, uncredited, as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman and Arthur Curry / Aquaman, respectively.[30][31] Additionally, Saoirse-Monica Jackson and Rudy Mancuso respectively portray Patty Spivot and Albert Desmond, Barry's co-workers,[32] while Sanjeev Bhaskar appears as Barry's boss, David Singh.[27] Luke Brandon Field portrays Al Falcone, the leader of a terrorist crew who robs Gotham General Hospital in the beginning of the film.[33][27] Nikolaj Coster-Waldau appears, uncredited, as a man whom 2013-Barry steals a piece of pizza from,[34] and director Andy Muschietti makes a cameo appearance as a reporter Barry steals a hot dog from in the present day.[35] Karl Collins appears as Henry Allen's lawyer.[36]

Adaptations of a number of DC characters make cameo appearances in the film. These include: Henry Cavill as the DCEU version of Superman through computer-generated imagery (CGI).[37][38] Cavill had filmed additional scenes as the character for the film, but they were removed during post-production;[39][40] Jai Courtney as Digger Harkness / Captain Boomerang, also through CGI;[41] and Nicolas Cage as an alternate version of Superman, after he previously voiced the character in the unrelated animated film Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018). He was originally cast as Superman in Tim Burton's unproduced film Superman Lives.[42] Cage shot his scenes through volumetric capture and CGI was used to de-age him.[43] Through the use of artificial intelligence and deepfake technology, previous incarnations of Superman, Batman, and Supergirl appear during the "Speed Force" sequence, including Christopher Reeve as Superman from the 1978–1987 Superman films, Helen Slater as Supergirl from Supergirl (1984), Adam West as Batman from the 1966 film and television series, and George Reeves as his version of Superman from Superman and the Mole Men (1951) and Adventures of Superman (1952–1958), through the use of archive footage.[27] Archival recordings of Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson as their versions of Joker from the 1960s Batman series and 1989 film, respectively, along with Eartha Kitt's Catwoman from the 1960s series, are also featured.[44][45] The character Jay Garrick also appears through the use of CGI; his likeness was based on Jason Ballantine, one of the film's editors.[46]

Production

Development

Early attempts

Development on a film based on the DC character the Flash began in the late 1980s when Warner Bros. Pictures hired comic book writer Jeph Loeb to write a screenplay.[47] Warner Bros. hired David S. Goyer to write, direct, and produce a new version of The Flash in December 2004 after he impressed them with his script for Batman Begins (2005).[48][49] Goyer approached Ryan Reynolds to portray Wally West / The Flash after working with him on the Marvel Comics-based film Blade: Trinity (2004) and intended to have the character Barry Allen appear in a supporting role. Goyer was influenced for the film's tone by Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and the Flash comic book runs by Mike Baron, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns. By early February 2007, Goyer left the project over creative differences with the studio,[49][50] and Shawn Levy was hired to direct and oversee the writing of a new draft written by Chris Brancato, which used elements from Goyer's script.[51][52] Later that month, Warner Bros. announced the development of a Justice League film, with Michelle and Kieran Mulroney writing the screenplay.[53] George Miller signed on to direct the film, titled Justice League: Mortal, in September,[54] with Adam Brody cast as the Flash.[55] It was envisioned as the start of a franchise with planned sequels and spin-offs, including the Flash film.[54]

Levy left The Flash in October 2007 because of scheduling conflicts with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009). David Dobkin took over as director and began developing the film as a spin-off from Justice League: Mortal, with a focus on Wally West.[56] Craig Wright was writing a script for the film the next month,[57] before Justice League: Mortal was canceled and Warner Bros. set a 2008 release for The Flash.[58] Further development was delayed by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike.[59] Charles Roven joined the project as a producer by July 2009, with Geoff Johns consulting and writing a film treatment that Dan Mazeau adapted into a screenplay.[60] In October, Roven said the studio was not confident enough in their take to green-light the film, though Mazeau disputed this and said the film was moving forward as planned.[61] In June 2010, Green Lantern (2011) writers Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, and Marc Guggenheim were hired to write a new treatment for The Flash based on a recent comics run by Johns that featured Barry Allen.[62]

DC Extended Universe

Actor Ezra Miller at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con

Warner Bros. was planning a new shared universe of films based on DC by July 2013 and had tentative plans to release a Flash film in 2016.[63] In October 2014, Warner Bros. and DC Films announced a slate of planned projects as part of the new DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The Flash was set for release on March 23, 2018,[64] with Ezra Miller set to star in the film as Barry Allen / The Flash;[8][64] Miller first made cameo appearances in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016),[65][66] starred in the team-up film Justice League (2017),[64] and briefly appeared in the Arrowverse crossover event "Crisis on Infinite Earths" (2019–20), which acknowledged a wider DC Multiverse, and in the first season of the series Peacemaker (2022–present).[22][67] Warner Bros. offered James Wan the choice of directing a movie about either Aquaman or the Flash, and he ultimately chose to make Aquaman (2018).[68] By April 2015, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were writing a story treatment for the Flash film with the possibility of directing it.[69] After they decided to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) instead, Seth Grahame-Smith entered negotiations to write and direct the film based on Lord and Christopher Miller's treatment in October 2015. Grahame-Smith was set to make his directorial debut with the film, with Roven producing and Deborah and Zack Snyder executive producing.[70] In February 2016, the film's release date was moved forward to March 16, 2018.[71] Grahame-Smith left the project that April, citing creative differences. Warner Bros. chose to retain his script,[72] and he was still expected to be involved in the project moving forward, while Lord and Christopher Miller were also still involved as producers. A search for a replacement director began immediately.[73]

Rick Famuyiwa was hired to take over as director in June 2016, with Warner Bros. feeling that Famuyiwa's vision for the film would resonate with younger audiences, and also be compatible with Grahame-Smith's existing script.[74] Filming was expected to begin later in 2016 and was not believed to be delayed by the director change. Famuyiwa's top choice to portray the film's female lead, Iris West, was Kiersey Clemons, whom he had worked with on Dope (2015).[75] Rita Ora and Lucy Boynton were also in the running for the role,[76] but Clemons was cast as the character at the end of July.[77] At that time, Warner Bros. gave the film's release date to Tomb Raider (2018), leaving The Flash without a release date.[78] In August, Ray Fisher was set to appear in the film, reprising his role as Victor Stone / Cyborg from Batman v Superman and Justice League.[79] Famuyiwa completed a revision of the script a month later,[80] when Gal Gadot was set to reprise her role as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman from Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman (2017), and Justice League,[81] and Billy Crudup was in negotiations to portray Barry's father, Henry Allen.[82] Clemons and Crudup both filmed cameo appearances for Justice League after being cast in The Flash.[83][84] Pre-production began by October ahead of a filming start in March 2017, scheduled before another commitment that Ezra Miller had in July. At the end of October, Famuyiwa left the project after not being able to "come together creatively" with the studio, which disagreed with the more mature direction that Famuyiwa wanted to take the film.[85]

The film was put on hold while the studio searched for a new director and Ezra Miller prepared to film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018). During that time, Warner Bros. decided to take the film in a new direction, and in January 2017, Joby Harold was hired to do a page-one rewrite of the script.[86] He handed in a draft by May, when the studio's top choices to direct were Robert Zemeckis and Matthew Vaughn. Both had expressed interest in the project, but had potential scheduling issues that could prevent them from taking it on.[87] Raimi, Marc Webb and Jordan Peele had already turned down offers to direct the film,[88][89] as did Ben Affleck, who portrayed Bruce Wayne / Batman in previous DCEU films.[90] At the July 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, the film was announced with the new title Flashpoint, based on the comic book of the same title, in which Allen travels back in time to save his mother's life and accidentally creates an alternate time line.[91] Dan Mazeau contributed to the script during this time.[92] Johns confirmed in November that the Flashpoint concept would allow the film to tell a unique story about Batman, with the comic book storyline exploring a time line where Thomas Wayne is Batman;[93] Jeffrey Dean Morgan expressed interest in reprising his role as Thomas Wayne from Batman v Superman.[94]

In January 2018, the filmmaking duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein entered negotiations to write and direct the film after the studio chose not to wait for Zemeckis's schedule to be free.[95] Daley and Goldstein were confirmed as directors in March,[96] and the film's title reverted to The Flash the next month.[92] Filming was expected to begin in Atlanta in February 2019,[97][98] but Ezra Miller's commitments to Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) delayed filming again.[99] The Flash was aiming for a 2021 release at that point.[99] In mid-March 2019, Ezra Miller was revealed to be writing a new version of the film's script with comic book writer Grant Morrison. They disagreed with the lighthearted approach to the film that Daley and Goldstein were taking, though that was Warner Bros.' preferred direction for it. The new script could be submitted to the studio by the end of the month, and if the studio did not like Miller and Morrison's take, there was potential for the actor to leave the film; Miller's holding deal to star in the film was expected to end in May.[100][101]

Morrison later said that Miller had not been happy with the prior scripts and approached Morrison with their ideas, and the pair were given two weeks by Warner Bros. to write the script in Scotland. Morrison described their script as "a Flash story",[102] which they felt was a more science-fiction story similar to Back to the Future (1985),[103] but said that the studio wanted to explore the multiverse and other DC characters with the film instead.[102] Morrison also denied reports that Miller wanted the film to have a dark tone and said their script had dark aspects related to the Flashpoint story.[103] The studio rejected Miller and Morrison's script in May but asked Miller to remain as star of the film. Daley and Goldstein left the project in July, and Warner Bros. chose Christina Hodson to write a new screenplay for the film after writing its DC film Birds of Prey (2020). Andy Muschietti entered negotiations to direct the film, with his sister Barbara set to produce alongside Michael Disco. A January 2020 pre-production start was expected.[104] The involvement of Andy Muschietti and Hodson was confirmed in November 2019, and filming was expected to begin in 2021 after Ezra Miller finished filming The Secrets of Dumbledore.[105] A month later, Warner Bros. scheduled The Flash for release on July 1, 2022.[106]

Pre-production

Andy Muschietti, the director of The Flash

Andy Muschietti said in January 2020 that the film would still adapt elements of the Flashpoint comic book storyline but that it would be telling a different version of that story.[107] Muschietti later elaborated that he was requested to adapt the storyline by Warner Bros., but recognized it as a great story due to employing time travel to include Barry Allen's origin story and Batman, though Muschietti personally feels that his film is more suspenseful than the comic due to making a more emotional experience whereas the original comic's structure is more like Jacob's Ladder (1990).[108] In April 2020, the film's release was moved forward to June 3, 2022, when Warner Bros. shifted its schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[109] That June, Michael Keaton entered early negotiations to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne / Batman from Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).[22] Fisher discussed his role as Cyborg in the film with Muschietti that month before Warner Bros. set a two-week shoot for Fisher to film what was referred to as a cameo appearance alongside other Justice League actors. Fisher said the studio only offered to pay him a fraction of his traditional salary for reprising the role.[110][111][112]

In August 2020, Keaton was confirmed to be appearing in the film, and Affleck agreed to reprise his version of Batman. Muschietti explained that the film would be introducing the idea of the multiverse to general audiences by including multiple versions of characters and acknowledging past film franchises based on DC as alternate universes. It was important for Muschietti to include Affleck in the film since his version of Batman is the "baseline" for the DCEU, and he felt the introduction of Keaton's Batman would not work as well without first seeing the Flash's relationship with Affleck's Batman. Affleck chose to return, after saying he had retired from the character, because he would have a smaller role in the film.[24] During the virtual DC FanDome event "Explore the Multiverse" in September 2020, Barbara Muschietti said the film would feature many characters from the DC Universe and the Flash would serve as the bridge between them and their different time lines. She added that the film would be used to restart the continuity of the DCEU without disregarding the events of the prior films.[113] Crudup, who left the film during the changes in directors, entered negotiations to rejoin the project a month later. Clemons's involvement was uncertain at that point.[83] The film's release was pushed back to November 4, 2022, by further pandemic-related delays,[114] and filming was set to begin in March 2021 in London.[83][112] Warner Bros. had written Cyborg out of the film by January 2021 after Fisher refused to work on any project that DC Films president Walter Hamada was involved in. Fisher said this was due to Hamada's handling of an investigation into the on-set behavior of Justice League's replacement director, Joss Whedon.[110][115] The role of Cyborg was not expected to be recast.[115]

Andy and Barbara Muschietti arrived in the United Kingdom to prepare for production,[116] with filming set to begin in April at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, after Ezra Miller finished on The Secrets of Dumbledore.[117][116] In February, construction for sets at Leavesden Studios had begun,[117][118] Crudup was confirmed to be returning,[16] and Sasha Calle was cast as Supergirl.[15][16] Calle was chosen from a group of more than 425 actresses that also included Bruna Marquezine and Rachel Zegler.[15][119][120] All auditions for the role, as well as chemistry tests with Ezra Miller, took place over Zoom.[15]

In March 2021, Clemons signed a new deal to star as Iris West in the film after her role in Justice League was cut (though the cameo was restored in the 2021 director's cut, Zack Snyder's Justice League).[21] Maribel Verdú was cast to portray Barry Allen's mother, Nora Allen, but Crudup was forced to drop out of the film because of scheduling conflicts with his series The Morning Show. The role of Henry Allen was expected to be recast.[20] At the end of March, Keaton said he had received an older version of the script but had not yet read it and would have to read the latest draft before deciding if he could commit to the film. He also cited the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom as a concern for his involvement, as well as balancing his other commitments.[121] Shortly after, Ron Livingston was cast to replace Crudup as Henry Allen, with Ian Loh cast as a young Barry Allen and Saoirse-Monica Jackson and Rudy Mancuso joining in undisclosed roles.[13] Before filming began, Keaton was confirmed to be starring in the film,[122] with Andy Muschietti believing Keaton's decision to join The Flash was due to the script that he had been sent. Muschietti said Keaton felt honored to play Batman again.[123] The Muschiettis formed a production company, Double Dream, to co-produce the film, and Marianne Jenkins was revealed as an executive producer.[124] Fisher said it would be a "bummer" if the situation surrounding his involvement in the film were not resolved,[125] and said he would return to the role of Cyborg for the film if Warner Bros. were to make amends with him.[126]

Filming

Principal photography began on April 19, 2021,[127] at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, in England,[117][118] under the working title Baby Shower.[128] Henry Braham served as cinematographer after previously working on DC's The Suicide Squad (2021).[129] In early May, filming took place at Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire, which doubled for Wayne Manor.[130] In mid-June, Ezra Miller, Clemons, Keaton, and Calle filmed scenes at St Paul's Cathedral in London, with the surrounding locations designed to portray Central City.[131] Filming was also set to occur later that month in Edinburgh and Glasgow—doubling for Gotham City—for scenes with Affleck and Keaton.[132][133] In late July, filming continued in Glasgow at Ingram Street, George Square, John Street, and Cochrane Street and involved several vehicles, while filming with the Batmobile occurred in George Square.[134] On July 29, filming was halted after a camera operator on a motorcycle shooting behind the Batcycle on Renfield Street collided with it near West George Street. The operator was injured but not "seriously hurt".[135][136] In August, Braham said the film was "technically complex" despite not being based in reality and called the concept of featuring the different generations of comic books in it fantastic.[129] In early September, Luke Brandon Field said he had joined the cast.[33] Filming wrapped on October 18, 2021.[137]

Post-production

In December 2021, Michael Shannon and Antje Traue were revealed to be reprising their roles from Man of Steel (2013) as General Zod and Faora-Ul, respectively. Former codirectors of the film Francis Daley and Goldstein were also confirmed to be receiving story credit for the film alongside Hodson.[18] Temuera Morrison, who portrays Aquaman's father, Tom Curry, in Aquaman and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023),[138] was reported to be in the film in February 2022.[29] In March, Warner Bros. adjusted its release schedule due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workload of visual effects vendors. The Flash was moved to June 23, 2023, to provide more time for VFX work to be completed; The Flash had around 2,500 visual effects shots.[139] The following month, the final writing credits were revealed: Hodson received screenplay credit; Daley, Goldstein, and Harold received screen story credit; and off-screen credit for additional writing material went to Rebecca Drysdale, Famuyiwa, Grahame-Smith, Johns, Lord, Christopher Miller, Ezra Miller, Morrison, and co-writer Adam Sztykiel.[140] In May, Deadline Hollywood reported that an unspecified "high-profile" comic book film that would be released in 2023 had its script recently submitted to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), having a total of 45 writers involved in it throughout its development.[141] Some commentators believed that the film was The Flash, due to its lengthy development process.[142][143] Miller later participated in "regularly scheduled additional photography" in mid-2022.[144]

Following several controversial incidents and arrests involving Miller throughout 2022, the newly formed parent company of Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), considered various options for the film after previously hoping delaying its release would help avoid controversy. In August, WB was considering three options: providing Miller an interview explaining their behavior and do limited press for the film should they choose to accept professional help, being released as planned; exclude Miller from all press of the film and recast their character in future projects should they choose to reject professional help; or cancel the film as a "last resort" if the situation further deteriorated. The latter was considered an "unprecedented move" due to its large budget, though it would have come after WBD already canceled the nearly complete $90 million film Batgirl that was being produced for the streaming service HBO Max. WBD was not considering recasting Miller's role in the film due to them portraying multiple characters and appearing in nearly every scene. It was also considered to be "key" for the studio's future DCEU plans and had been received well during test screenings despite Miller's legal troubles.[145] WBD CEO David Zaslav reiterating that The Flash received positive responses from the studio, and that they were committed to releasing it in theaters.[144][145] Miller released a public apology through their representative soon afterward and announced they were seeking professional treatment for "complex mental health issues".[146] Soon after, Miller and their agent met with Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, the co-chairpersons and co-CEOs of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, to apologize for their behavior, while VFX was expected to be completed by the end of the year.[147] Machliss later stated that the film was the first to use new technology to feature different versions of an actor on-screen.[148] Barbara Muschietti also rejected reports alleging the film would potentially be canceled due to Miller's actions.[149]

In December 2022, the film's release date was moved forward to June 16 following positive test screenings,[150] while The Hollywood Reporter reported that Henry Cavill and Jason Momoa were set to make cameo appearances as Superman and Aquaman, respectively, and that Cavill had filmed his role in September. WBD was reportedly debating on retaining the cameos depending on their future plans, as they had not yet been finalized since The Flash did not yet achieve a picture lock.[39] Cavill's cameo, along with one Gal Gadot filmed as Wonder Woman, was soon reported to have been cut after DC Studios chose not to move forward with sequels to Man of Steel and Wonder Woman 1984 (2020). Cavill was paid $250,000 for his cameo.[40] In March 2023, Affleck revealed that he filmed a scene with Gadot,[26] who appeared at an in-progress cut of the film screened at CinemaCon the following month.[30] The following month, Muschietti revealed some of the planned cameos that did not make the final film, including Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman from the television series Wonder Woman (1975–1979), Marlon Brando's Jor-El from Superman (1978), Burgess Meredith's Penguin and Cesar Romero's Joker from the series Batman (1966–1968) and Grant Gustin's Barry Allen of the Arrowverse continuity (2013–2023).[151] Gustin was never approached by anyone like his representatives about appearing in the film as far as he knows.[152] The finished film contains a cameo of Adam West's Batman from the 1966 Batman series; the cameo was nearly cut, but Muschietti wanted to include it due to the personal attachment he and his sister felt to the show due to seeing its reruns back during their childhoods in Argentina.[153] Jay Garrick, another cameo featured in the film, was based on Jason Ballantine, one of the film's editors.[46][154] Nicolas Cage, who was famously cast as Superman in 1997 for Burton's unproduced film Superman Lives, appears as that version of Superman during the sequence,[42] for which CGI and de-aging was used to create his appearance, depicting his Superman fighting a giant spider as a homage to producer Jon Peters wanting to include such idea in the film.[43] Cage originally shot another scene for the sequence in three hours where he just stood in an alternate dimension witnessing the destruction in such dimension's universe, describing himself as playing the character through emotion in his eyes with no lines.[155]

Paul Machliss and Ballantine serve as the film's editors,[148][46] with Ballantine having previously worked on Andy Muschietti's films It (2017) and It Chapter Two (2019).[156] Muschietti's initial cut of the film was around four hours long.[151] The visual effects were provided by DNEG, Scanline VFX and WetaFX, with John "DJ" Desjardin serving as the visual effects supervisor after previously doing so for several DCEU films.[157][158]

Revisions to the ending

The ending for the film, which features George Clooney reprising his role as an alternate Bruce Wayne due to Barry's actions, changed multiple times during post-production due to the constant change of leadership at Warner Bros in 2022. The original ending shot for the film, conceived by then-heads of DC Films Toby Emmerich and Walter Hamada, featured Keaton's Batman, as well as Calle's Supergirl continue existing in the new timeline but erase Cavill and Affleck's roles of Superman and Batman respectively from the DCEU continuity. It was intended to set up a sequel and culminate in a film based around the Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) storyline, despite The CW already having done its adaptation in 2019, which included the DCEU in its continuity.[159] It was also intended to set up the then-in-development Batgirl prior to its cancellation, as Keaton was set to reprise his role in that film.[160][161]

Following the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc. in 2022 to form Warner Bros. Discovery and the removal of Emmerich and Hamada, executives Michael DeLuca and Pamela Abdy took over. They decided to keep Cavill within the DCEU and reshot the ending – Cavill filmed his scenes alongside his cameo for Black Adam (2022) in September; Gadot also filmed a scene for this ending. The scene was meant to have generated interest for the planned Man of Steel sequel and third Wonder Woman film, before both were canceled.[159] In November, James Gunn and Peter Safran became the new leaders of DC Studios, who planned to conceive the new DC Universe (DCU) as a soft reboot of the DCEU. As a result, Cavill would no longer reprise his role and his scene was cut, while the ending was again reworked without Cavill, Keaton, and Gadot's characters, and the final ending with Clooney was shot in January 2023, which was kept secret until the film's release.[159]

Music

Main article: The Flash (soundtrack)

Benjamin Wallfisch was set to compose the film's score by April 2021 after previously working with Muschietti on It (2017) and It Chapter Two (2019). Wallfisch also previously wrote the score for DC's Shazam! (2019).[162] By late August 2022, Wallfisch was set to begin a scoring session at Abbey Road Studios in London.[147] Throughout the film, Wallfisch references Danny Elfman's themes from Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) due to Michael Keaton's appearance in the film as his incarnation of Batman.[163][164]

Marketing

Miller debuted the first footage from the film at the virtual DC FanDome event in October 2021.[10] They said there was not enough footage available to make a full trailer or teaser, but William Hughes at The A.V. Club felt the footage could comfortably be categorized as a teaser. He said being able to see it was proof of the film actually being made after its long and troubled production history.[165] Polygon's Matt Patches and io9's James Whitbrook both highlighted the footage as the beginning of the DC multiverse on film, with its hints at Keaton's version of Batman and the reveal that Miller would portray multiple versions of Barry Allen.[166][167] In February 2022, more footage was released as part of a teaser for Warner Bros.' 2022 slate of DC films, which also included The Batman, Black Adam and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (before The Flash and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom were delayed to 2023).[29][139] A new trailer was shown at Warner Bros.' CinemaCon panel in April 2022,[168] and was noted by attendees for Keaton's Batman reusing the line "You wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts" from Batman.[169][170][171]

DC published a three-issue prequel comic book limited series titled The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, written by Kenny Porter with art by Ricardo López Ortiz, Juan Ferreyra and Jason Howard.[172][173] Three issues of the comic series were released.[173] It is set after the events of Justice League and depicts Batman training the Flash and the Flash's early days as he attempts to defeat the supervillains Girder,[172][173] Tar Pit,[174] and the Top.[175] The first trailer for The Flash was shown during Super Bowl LVII on February 12, 2023, before playing in theaters ahead of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.[176] The trailer had the most engagement on social media, outpacing other trailers that were shown in the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, with RelishMix reporting the trailer gained 97.4M views within a 24-hour period.[177] Many commentators highlighted Keaton's reprisal as Batman and Calle's role as Supergirl, and also noted the de-emphasized focus on Miller's Flash following their controversies. Charles Pulliam-Moore of The Verge particularly felt that "it's the other heroes they're [the Flash] going to be allying with who are likely to steal the show", and felt that Supergirl and Keaton's Batman were being posited as the film's "World's Finest", and expressed enthusiasm for Supergirl's role in the story.[178] Alli Rosenbloom from CNN also praised Keaton's appearance, highlighting the usage of Danny Elfman's score from Batman, while Collier Jennings from Collider felt that trailer "certainly is working to sell the image that the wait was worth it".[179][180]

In April 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery's Global Consumer Products division and DC unveiled a series of merchandise to coincide with the release of the film, including toys produced by Mattel, Funko, Spin Master and McFarlane Toys, costumes by Rubies and Puma shoes.[181][182] It was also announced that a visual companion would accompany the film's release, titled The Flash: The Official Visual Companion: The Scarlet Speedster from Page to Screen, written by Richard Lotowcyz and published by Insight Editions.[182] An in-progress cut of the film was screened at CinemaCon on April 25, 2023.[183][184] Executive officers had approximated that WB had spent over $14 million to promote the film via TV spots and trailers during the 2023 NBA playoff.[185] A second trailer and poster were released online the same day. Joshua Rivera at Polygon noted the trailer focused heavily on Keaton's Batman, including starting and ending with him, and felt it leaned into nostalgia,[186] while David Crow of Den of Geek compared the trailer's tone and Batcave design to that of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005–2012).[187] The final trailer was revealed on May 22, 2023, along with a new poster exclusive to the Chinese market. The trailer, set to Pink Floyd's "Time", confirmed the appearance of Jeremy Irons, reprising his DCEU role as Alfred Pennyworth.[28][188]

Warner Bros. had difficulty marketing the film due to Miller's legal issues. As such, WB focused on marketing the "film itself", according to The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit and Aaron Couch, rather than focusing on Miller; during press conferences, WB opted to sideline Miller and pivoted towards director Andy Muschietti, producer Barbara Muschietti and Sasha Calle to promote the film. The studio also made intensive efforts to highlight Keaton's role as Batman to introduce nostalgia, though Kit and Couch felt the results were mixed, as they opined some felt it was derivative of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). Additionally, the studio provided advanced screenings to various figures, including Tom Cruise and Stephen King, to improve discourse surrounding the film, while WBD CEO David Zaslav and DC Studios co-CEO and co-chairman James Gunn touted it as "among the greatest superhero movies of all time". Various insiders felt the marketing campaign was unconventional, who had felt WB was setting very high expectations for the film.[185] As such, Miller ultimately attended the film's premiere for photos only and would not be interviewed.[189]

Shortly after the film's release, a six-part Apple podcast that was intended to be a companion piece towards the film was announced. The podcast, titled The Flash: Escape the Midnight Circus, stars Max Greenfield as the voice of Barry Allen / The Flash. It was later established as a canonical continuation of the film, with the events of the podcast being set a few years after the film's ending. The series was included with the film's physical home media release.[190][191]

Release

The Flash premiered on June 12, 2023, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles.[189] It was released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on June 16, 2023.[150] The film was initially scheduled for release on March 23, 2018, when Warner Bros. first announced its slate of DCEU films,[64] before it was moved to March 16.[71] In July 2016, this release date was given to Tomb Raider,[78] and The Flash was not given another release date until the hiring of Andy Muschietti in July 2019, after which the film was slated for release on July 1, 2022.[106] It was then moved up to June 3, 2022,[109] before being delayed to November 4, 2022, after Warner Bros. shifted its release schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[114] Warner Bros. again adjusted the release date to June 23, 2023, in view of the impact of the pandemic on the workload of visual effects vendors[139] before moving it forward a week to June 16, 2023, after positive test screenings.[150]

Home media

The Flash was released on digital download and on the non-fungible token (NFT) Eluvio blockchain by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on July 18, 2023, making it one of the first then-recently released feature films to be made available in a blockchain.[192][193][194] This was followed by its release on the streaming service Max on August 25, and on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD on August 29, 2023.[192]

Reception

Box office

The Flash grossed $108.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $163.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $271.3 million,[5][6] underperforming at the box-office, with projected losses for Warner Bros. to be as much as $200 million.[195][196][197]

In the United States and Canada, The Flash was released alongside Elemental and The Blackening, and was initially projected to gross $68–85 million from 4,234 theaters in its opening weekend.[198] It was also expected to gross $85–95 million internationally, for a global opening of $155–165 million.[199] However, after making $24.1 million on its first day (including from $9.7 million Thursday night previews), weekend estimates were lowered to $60 million.[200] It went on to have a $55 million domestic opening, with an additional $75 million from international markets, for a worldwide debut of $130 million.[201][202] In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film debuted atop the box office with £4.2 million ($5.4 million).[203] Several publications labeled the film a box office bomb, with The Hollywood Reporter calling it "snubbed" and /Film saying that the hype "proved to be hot air" following poor box-office returns. The poor box-office opening was attributed to various controversies surrounding Ezra Miller, mixed word-of-mouth, competition from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, early hype being "unwarranted", the imminent DCU reboot, decline of the superhero movie genre (being labeled "superhero fatigue") and middling critical reviews.[204][205] The film retained IMAX screens and other premium formats into the next weekend, which could have provided some padding from what was expected to be a steep box-office decline from its opening weekend.[206] In its second weekend, the film dropped 72% to $15.1 million,[207] the third-largest sophomore drop ever for a superhero film, behind Morbius (2022) and Steel (1997).[208][209] In its third weekend, the film dropped another 65% to $5.2 million, losing 1,538 theaters and finishing in eighth place in the process.[210]

Critical response

The Flash received mixed reviews from critics.[204][211][212] Early reviews for the film generally praised the humor, action sequences, and the performances, but criticized the third act and visual effects.[213] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 63% based on 386 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The Flash is funny, fittingly fast-paced, and overall ranks as one of the best DC movies in recent years."[214] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 55 out of 100 based on 55 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[211] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, tied with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) as the lowest grade for a DCEU film, while PostTrak reported 77% of filmgoers gave it a positive score, with 59% saying they would definitely recommend it.[202]

Rolling Stone's David Fear identified the film as being the best in the DCEU, but cited the complicated production and Ezra Miller's legal controversies as detracting elements. Nevertheless, he acknowledged Miller's performance, and felt they could properly portray the two different Barrys well, but lamented "It is not what we'll talk about when we talk about Ezra Miller". He praised Keaton's and Calle's performances, feeling that Batman felt well into the narrative, while commenting the script was "primed for both nimbly quickening the action and slowing down enough to wink, nudge, and crack jokes". He expressed some criticism with the action sequences, comparing them to cutscenes, and the post-credits scene, albeit noting they tend to be included in superhero films.[215] Joshua Yehl of IGN gave the film a 7/10, praising Muschietti's direction and enjoyed its focus on Barry's "emotional journey". He enjoyed the film's logic and depiction of time-travel, crediting it for being original when depicting the "chrono bowl [sic]" and the impact of friction, while adding it effectively implemented the Flash's origin story in the film. However, he disliked the inclusion of fan service, the third act, and Supergirl's role in the film. Nevertheless, he praised Keaton and Affleck's performances as Batman, and also commended Calle's performance for doing "as much as she can given the thin nature of the role". Ultimately, he opined that it felt like a "love letter to the Snyderverse" and called it a "fitting swan song" for the DCEU.[216] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave a mostly positive albeit mixed review, appreciating its "relatively brisk" runtime and felt it was a comparatively better superhero film, enjoying the overall cast performances, saying the "overall vibe is upbeat", and praised Muschietti's direction and pacing. However, she criticized the beginning scene, as she did not enjoy the "creepy setup" of falling newborn babies and also couldn't ignore Miller's real-life controversies, and felt that the substantial presence of other characters had taken the film's focus away from establishing the Flash as an individual character.[217]

From Vulture, Angelia Jade Bastién criticized the film for being too dependent upon previous DCEU elements and disliked that the film did not explore Barry's emotions following his mother's death, but instead used the event as a "springboard for uninspired multiverse plotting". She felt Miller's performance was acceptable and thought Calle's performance was limited by the script, but enjoyed Keaton's performance. Bastién disliked the visual aesthetic and use of CGI, ultimately describing the film as "the cinematic equivalent of a snake eating its own tail" and "closing down of all the possibilities a multiverse is meant to represent".[218] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter praised Miller's performance despite noting their legal troubles impacted the film's reception. He also enjoyed Calle's performance, calling her a "scene-stealer", and Keaton's "sadness" in portraying Batman. His biggest highlights was the opening sequence, feeling it strongly established the comedic tone, Hodson's writing and characterization of Barry as a "virginal nerd who has gone through college without managing to acquire much self-assurance, even after mastering his superpowers", and Muschietti's overall direction. However, he criticized the runtime and thought the final act was formulaic in terms of its depiction of CG-based action sequences and thought the nostalgic elements "often threatens to marginalize the central plotline" but still managed to "yield pathos" in the narrative.[1] Reviewing the film for RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars, summarizing his thoughts on the film as being "simultaneously thoughtful and clueless ... Like its sincere but often hapless hero, it keeps exceeding every expectation we might have for its competence only to instantly face-plant into the nearest wall". He felt that Miller's legal issues had undermined the film's comedy but credited Muschietti's direction and Hodson's writing for "taking its ideas and the pain of its characters seriously without devolving into glum, colorless machismo", enjoying how the film's science-fiction elements allowed it to provide a positive ending for the character while also noting other scientific and philosophical issues "raised elsewhere". However, he felt Miller's dual role was executed well and commended the accompanying visual effects, but he heavily criticized the use of CGI to depict alternate realities in the Chronobowl.[219]

The film was the subject of controversy over the ethics of its use of digital imagery to recreate the likenesses of deceased actors.[220] Andy Muschietti said when it came to these cameos, there was "total freedom".[221] Jack King from GQ expressed concerns that the use of actors such as Christopher Reeve and Adam West was "the next step in the normalisation of a queasy, questionable trend in Hollywood, one in which actors are brought back from the grave using new computer techniques".[222] Original Batman director Tim Burton expressed his distaste for Warners "misappropiating" his Batman and the reference to Superman Lives, as he feels that whatever project you don't do affects you for life.[223]

Accolades

The Flash was nominated for Best Teaser at the 2022 Golden Trailer Awards.[224][225] At the 51st Saturn Awards, it received nominations for Best Superhero Film and Best Supporting Actor in a Film (Keaton).[226] The Flash was nominated for the Emerging Technology Award at the 22nd Visual Effects Society Awards for the development of "Volumetric Capture".[227]

Future

By October 2022, a script for a sequel had been written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, who wrote the Aquaman films, in the event The Flash performed well.[228] The script reportedly included Keaton's Batman and Calle's Supergirl.[189] Warner Bros. was not expected to retain Miller for future films because of the actor's controversies and legal issues,[145] although some Warner Bros. executives were open to continuing with Miller by January 2023, since they began treatment.[229] Later that month, DC Studios co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran said there was potential for Miller to reprise their role in the new franchise, the DC Universe (DCU), but a decision on the character had not been made.[230]

Gunn confirmed that The Flash would reset the continuity of the DCEU and, alongside Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, would lead into the DCU's first film, Superman: Legacy (2025).[230] Andy Muschietti said in May 2023 that if he and Barbara Muschietti were involved in a sequel, they would have Miller return, believing that there was not another actor who could portray this iteration of the character the same as Miller did.[231] In June, he also said he would love to feature Eobard Thawne / Reverse-Flash as an antagonist for a sequel, while confirming that the character was responsible for Nora's death in this movie.[7] In the same month, it was reported that a sequel could happen if the film managed to come close to the box-office revenue of The Batman (2022).[232] The poor box-office performance of the film left a sequel in question.[195][196][197] In October 2023, Variety reported that no actors from Zack Snyder's DCEU films would be reprising their roles in the DCU (including Miller), effectively ending any chances of a sequel.[233]

Notes

  1. ^ As depicted in Justice League (2017) and Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)
  2. ^ Identified off-screen as Eobard Thawne / Reverse-Flash by director Andy Muschietti[7]
  3. ^ As depicted in Man of Steel (2013)

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