In email, zzzzthunk asks:
So a long time ago you talked about how a Flash movie shouldn’t be about the origin of the Flash but instead be about the final adventure of Barry Allen. But who signs on to be Barry Allen in that movie when they’re just going to be cut from the franchise?
Firstly, go ask Liam Neeson why he signed on to play Qui-Gon Jinn. Hint: the answer is “it’s fun and you get to make a lot of money.” But the real answer is that if I was going to plot out a trilogy of Flash movies (as trilogies are the hot thing these days, assuming the first one goes off properly), whoever played Barry would be key in all three. But, since I am not a hack, each movie itself would also have to be a self-contained work within a larger theme.
So what is the Flash’s theme? “Runs real fast” is not an answer, and Geoff Johns’ thing where he tries to turn Barry Allen into Batman isn’t the answer either. Barry Allen works best when he’s just a decent sort who gets superpowers and does good because he can, which is not that fascinating, which means his conflict should be external rather than internal. Wally’s can be internal, though – and the fact that I am mentioning Wally should key off that a Flash movie and/or trilogy should ultimately be about family. The Flash has always been best when the generational aspect of the costume raises its head: after all, the Flash was basically always just a dude who ran fast, and what ultimately distinguished him from other superheroes was really the fact that at a certain point someone took over for the previous guy, and then again, and then again.
The Flash: Barry Allen’s last adventure. Jay and Wally and Linda are introduced as well: Jay is quite explicitly the “older Flash,” and Wally is the former sidekick, grown up, with Linda as his lady. And he’s got cancer, which is of course killing him because every time he uses his speed powers his metabolism clocks up to deadly o’clock. Professor Zoom is the villain, perhaps with Savitar as his assistant, and Zoom wants to command the Speed Force itself to do Bad Things. (NOTE: Do not ever call it the Speed Force in the movies. Say it out loud and you will quickly understand why. Call it “the lightning,” which sounds properly ominous, and you are fine.)
But Zoom gets killed by the end, and the end is Barry Allen running himself into relativity/the Speed Force to save the world from the Speed Force, turning into pure Speed Lightning, traveling through Wally (and curing him in the process by retro-aging the cancer into nonexistence) and eventually going back through time to become the lightning bolt that gives him his superpowers in the first place. (This can actually work as a nice twist on the superhero movie genre as a whole, by having the movie resolutely refuse to explain WHY Barry has speed powers throughout the entire movie – until it does right at the end.) Your conclusion is Wally putting on Barry’s uniform and declaring that the Flash lives again.
There is nothing terribly original in this – the originality would be in putting several disparate elements and tying them together into a satisfying whole. But then we turn to the second movie:
The Return of Barry Allen: Exactly what you think it is. Take Mark Waid’s classic Flash story and use it for the midway point of the trilogy. Any actor warned of this in advance would kill to play Barry Allen now, because he gets to play both the noble hero and a psychotic villain in what is essentially the same role. (This is of course why you need Zoom to be the baddie in the first movie.) And this is as straight an adaptation as can be: maybe you remove Johnny Quick (because he’s mostly extraneous to the plot), but you keep Max Mercury around because you’ll need him to explain the Speed Force a little more than Jay can – particularly how it’s sort of like Heaven – and because he’ll come in handy for movie number three, to be the Magical Speedster who doles out less-than-helpful advice as necessary.
The Fastest Man Alive: The capper of the trilogy only features maybe a brief appearance from Barry within the Speed Force, because at this point it’s become clear that although a trilogy of Flash movies is about family and generational responsibility, it’s also about man’s relationship with what he perceives to be Heaven and what Heaven even is. The third movie is a combination of “The Quick and the Dead” and “Dead Heat” (the Flash stories, not the movies of the same names) and features Savitar as the villain, trying to ascend to his idea of Heaven, even if it destroys the world – and Wally then has to choose, at the same time, ascension to bliss or return to Earth – and Linda. You can place a lot of callbacks in this movie to the first of the trilogy, and show how Wally’s different choices and different personality mean that things end differently for him.
That’s your Flash trilogy right there: a commentary on the superhero as mortal man, and on the superhero as godly ascended being. You can fit in a lot of commentary on man’s relationship with religion as you see fit, but it will all be in the entertaining context of somebody being a superhero by running really, really fast. And, in case any of the movies bomb, each one has its own satisfying ending (Barry ascends and Wally takes his place/Wally finally comes out of Barry’s shadow/Wally makes his final choice). I think that works.