The troubled timeline of The Flash: What happened to the DC movie?

How did it take Warner Bros. decades to get The Flash off the ground and does it mark the end of the DCEU?

·8-min read
  • DC's The Flash is finally coming to cinemas on 16 June

  • The speedster's solo movie was first announced in 2014

  • Along with Ezra Miller's much-publicised struggles, the movie has faced many delays

  • What kept The Flash from being released for so many years?

The Flash trailer. (Warner Bros.)
The Flash trailer. (Warner Bros.)

The Flash is finally coming to cinemas on 16 June after years in development hell.

While James Gunn and Peter Safran have largely burned Zack Snyder’s DC Extended Universe to the ground, there are still a few of the old guard hoping to escape the bloodshed in 2023.

Away from Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Aquaman & The Lost Kingdom, and newcomer Blue Beetle, there’s a phoenix rising from the ashes in the form of The Flash.

IT director Andy Muschietti is giving the Scarlet Speedster his long-awaited standalone movie, while Ezra Miller is again suiting up as the titular Flash.

Read more: Everything we know about The Flash

Even though The Flash is seemingly locked in for its June 16 release, some of us won’t believe it until we’re actually sat in the cinema.

Origins of the Flash

The Flash made his comic debut in 1940. (DC Comics)
The Flash made his comic debut in 1940. (DC Comics)

The Flash comics originated in 1940, however, the famous Barry Allen version of the character (replacing Jay Garrick) debuted in 1956’s Showcase #4. Having helped establish the flagship Justice League in the comics, DC planned a Flash solo movie in the late 1980s. A potential deal with Teen Wolf’s Jeph Loeb fell through and the idea was shelved.

Around 2004, Warner Bros. hired David S. Goyer to write and direct a Flash movie after the studio was impressed with his work on Batman Begins. Goyer wanted to reunite with Blade: Trinity star Ryan Reynolds, but instead of having Barry Allen as the lead, his movie would focus on the Wally West era of the Flash. Goyer envisioned a tone inspired by Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, but ultimately, “creative differences” led to his departure.

Read more: Every upcoming DC movies and TV show

George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal cast Adam Brody as Allen, while separate development on a Flash movie (as a possible spin-off) continued. This project never got off the ground, and when Zack Snyder started the DCEU with Man of Steel, WB tried to wrangle the idea of a shared universe. In 2014, the studio unveiled its official DCEU slate, which once again included a Flash standalone.

Brody was long gone as The Flash, and with the DCEU starting from scratch, The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Ezra Miller was cast as Allen. Miller had a cameo in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the character crossed paths with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and sowed the seeds for Allen's return in Justice League.

The same year, Miller cameoed in Suicide Squad as an enemy of Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).

Stalling on the Cosmic Treadmill

Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash. (Warner Bros.)
Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash. (Warner Bros.)

Way back when, James Wan was given the choice of directing an Aquaman movie or The Flash — and chose the former. Even without a director, The Flash was on track for a proposed 2018 release date. An early treatment was written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in 2015, but when they pulled out for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Pride Prejudice and Zombies’ Seth Grahame-Smith was poised to make his directorial debut.

When Grahame-Smith cited those typical creative differences, The Mandalorian's Rick Famuyiwa took the reins in June 2016. He left by October, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "It’s disappointing that we couldn’t come together creatively on the project." It was under Famuyiwa that The Flash made several big leaps, including the casting of Kiersey Clemons and Billy Crudup as Iris West and Henry Allen. Although Iris and Henry will appear in The Flash, Crudup has been swapped out for Ron Livingston.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09:  Director Rick Famuyiwa attends the For Your Consideration event for Showtime's
Director Rick Famuyiwa attends the For Your Consideration event for Showtime's The Chi, 2018. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

It’s important to remember that it was only at Comic-Con 2017 that fans were officially told The Flash would be based on 2011's Flashpoint comic crossover. The Flash fell into limbo, as the likes of future Obi-Wan Kenobi scribe Joby Harold and Game Night’s John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein joined and departed. The latter said their movie would’ve been lighter than your typical Synderverse outing and used Back to the Future as an example.

Read more: Why was Batgirl cancelled?

Around this time (2018), The Flash was delayed for a year so Miller could film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. When Miller returned in 2019, they were reportedly unhappy with the tone, so teamed up with comic book legend Grant Morrison to write their own pitch.

Morrison told Rolling Stone it was a sci-fi heavy script that would largely avoid the multiverse aspect of character cameos, meaning it was firmly rejected by the studio. Thankfully, it was here that the final version of The Flash finally took shape when Muschietti signed on.

The Death of the DCEU

Ezra Miller as Barry Ellen in The Flash. (Warner Bros.)
Ezra Miller as Barry Ellen in The Flash. (Warner Bros.)

January 2020 was a big month that saw Muschietti reiterate he’d still adapt Flashpoint (albeit in a different way). Elsewhere, Miller reprised their role as Barry Allen, appearing with Grant Gustin’s version of the Flash in the Arrowverse's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover.

The Flash was finally on the way to its new July 2022 release date, but then the world ground to a halt amidst COVID-19. Bizarrely, the studio actually moved the movie forward to June 2022, before doing a U-turn and bumping it back to November that year when the pandemic worsened.

Despite a myriad of setbacks, The Flash finally started filming in May 2021. The same year, DC FanDome debuted its first footage, featuring Miller playing dual versions of Allen. Barbara Muschietti has promised that The Flash would be used to bridge the gap between timelines and reset the continuity of the DCEU while keeping previous continuity intact. From what we've seen from the return of Affleck, this is still the case. The problem is, there's no DCEU to reset anymore.

A still from the trailer for The Flash. (Warner Bros.)
A still from the trailer for The Flash. (Warner Bros.)

As The Flash quietly ticked away in the background, the DCEU crumbled around it. Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/Cyborg was tipped for a cameo before he levelled allegations of abuse at Justice League director, Joss Whedon.

The Hollywood Reporter claims that Henry Cavill’s Superman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman were cut, and The Wrap’s Umberto Gonzalez says Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s representatives “politely declined” a Black Adam cameo.

Whereas Justice League cornerstones Cavill and Gadot have seemingly been shown the door, Miller has been kept on board to ease the transition between Snyder’s DCEU and Gunn/Safran’s DCU.

Thankfully, not all is lost for the ever-decreasing ties to the DCEU and dwindling calls to #RestoretheSnyderverse.

The Flash's Future

A still from the trailer for The Flash. (Warner Bros.)
Michael Keaton as Batman in a still from the trailer for The Flash. (Warner Bros.)

Although the various trailers for The Flash confirm we’ll be adapting elements of Flashpoint, it’s a who’s who of returning faces that includes Affleck, alongside Michael Keaton, reprising his role as Bruce Wayne for the first time since 1992’s Batman Returns. Now that Batgirl has been canned, there's a sense that this could be the last time we see these Batmen, but what about Barry Allen?

The THR says Gunn and Safran are planning “a reboot that will cut significant, if not most, ties to the previous regimes that handled DC movies for Warner Bros.” As it’s no secret that Miller has been embroiled in behind-the-scenes drama resulting in multiple arrests, it’s unclear what’s next for the Flash and whether this is the end of the road for the star's tenure as the Crimson Comet.

A still from the trailer for The Flash. (Warner Bros.)
A still from the trailer for The Flash. (Warner Bros.)

Gunn says that the first slate of shows and movies is just part of his Chapter 1: God & Monsters, but at the time of writing, there’s no confirmation of what will happen to the Flash as a character. Much like how the Marvel Cinematic Universe built out from its Phase 1 characters, Gunn seems to be doing the same ahead of an inevitable Justice League reboot.

Whether the future of the DCEU involves Miller, a recast for Barry Allen, or one of the other speedsters to don the mantle of the Flash, Muschietti’s the Flash marks the end of an era for DC movies. Fitting then that this movie has been decades in the making.

What are critics saying about The Flash?

While viewers patiently await The Flash's June debut, a select handful of journalists received a sneak peak at Muschietti's movie both at Las Vegas' CinemaCon 2023 and beyond.

As a result, a handful of early reactions have made their way onto social media, with many critics praising its humour and nostalgic beats and others drawing attention to its uneven nature and ambitious story.

"Loved Keaton, the action, humor and emotion. Andy Muschietti has crafted something special," said Collider's Steve Weintraub.

Gizmodo and iO9's Germaine Lussier compared it to "Back to the Future meets Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Meanwhile, /Film's Ben Pearson teased that the film had "Easter Eggs galore" and praised its "inventive and impressive visuals."

It's important to remember that these are just gut reactions to an unfinished cut and we'll have to wait until closer to the film's release for official reviews of The Flash.

The Flash is coming to cinemas on 16 June, 2023. Watch a trailer below.