The Best Part of The Flash Is a Painful Reminder of the DCEU's Failure
Maybe everybody was just a bit too precious with the Snyderverse.
If The Flash has anything going for it, it’s that it genuinely wants to be fun. It doesn’t always succeed at being that, and the film itself suffers a lot from the kind of shoddy visual effects and mercenary, nostalgia-bait decisions that seem to pervade the entire superhero genre now. Most of the best moments in The Flash are, in fact, the ones that seem the least concerned with the film’s place in the greater, soon-to-be-over DC Extended Universe.
The film’s most memorable scenes involve Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) directly interacting with his fellow members of the DCEU (or, as it’s known among fans, the “Snyderverse”), including Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), and Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa). These scenes, which include a brief but humorous conversation on a bridge between Gadot, Affleck, and Miller, are so fun and loose that it’s hard not to wish that fans had gotten more scenes like it over the years.
The fact that we didn’t may go down, depending on how you look at it, as either the greatest tragedy or biggest mistake of the DCEU.
Over the course of its runtime, The Flash offers glimpses at what the DCEU could have been had everyone involved in it — mostly the Warner Bros. executives that oversaw it but even, to a much lesser extent, Zack Snyder himself — been a little less precious about its overarching story. In trying to achieve a similar level of success as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, those involved in the DCEU seemed to treat every installment in it as if they had to be utterly perfect.
Of course, most of the DCEU’s offerings ended up being anything but perfect. What’s worse than the Snyderverse’s actual track record, though, is that Warner Bros.’ indecisiveness prevented the franchise from delivering the kind of moments that comic book fans actually go to DC and Marvel movies wanting to see. That’s what makes The Flash’s infectious moments of lighthearted camaraderie not only refreshing but also bittersweet.
The DCEU has, after all, already been killed behind the scenes by Warner Bros. and the new heads of the studio’s DC division, James Gunn and Peter Safran. The few team-up moments between the Snyderverse’s Justice League members in The Flash and (potentially) this year’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will, therefore, be the last that fans will likely ever see. Given how effective they are in The Flash, that’s a real disappointment.
To put it simply: Moviegoers deserved to see more moments of Momoa, Gadot, Miller, Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Henry Cavill actually bantering together and enjoying their roles as some of the world’s most iconic superheroes. Those actors, in turn, deserved a chance to actually get to experiment with their performances and feel liberated, not restricted, by the shared legacy of their characters.
For a long time, it looked like the success of the MCU had legitimately poisoned a lot of the popular thinking in Hollywood. Nowhere was that more evident than in Warner Bros.’ constant mismanagement of the DCEU. The studio was so desperate to replicate the MCU’s formula that any negative reactions its DC films received seemed to only make it all the more unwilling to actually work with the franchise’s creative players.
WB’s constant behind-the-scenes creative disagreements, combined with its unwillingness to actually back its filmmakers, resulted in more exciting ideas for the DCEU ultimately dying rather than being brought to life. While most of that was due to Warner Bros.’ frequent missteps, too, part of it could also have been due to Snyder’s insistence on telling an interconnected story that, frankly, didn’t sound all that interesting in the end.
As rewarding as it can be when a studio or auteur manages to tell one decade-spanning story, too, The Flash proves that it can be just as rewarding to see actors like Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Jason Momoa just cut loose and have a little fun with their characters. It’s a shame that they not only didn’t get to do that very often, but that fans also rarely got to see them do it.