One of the major aspects that contemporary pop-culture movie franchises, which rely heavily on interconnected storytelling spanning multiple forms of content, need is coherent world-building that can hook regular viewers easily. Out of the two major comic-book-oriented movie franchises, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has learned the trick and capitalized on it properly from the get-go, but unfortunately, the counterpart of its rival franchise, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), has time and again faced hurdles in its journey of expansive world-building and eventually reached rock bottom. With the release of the much-anticipated 13th movie of the franchise, The Flash, the DCEU will be officially terminated and make way for a new, more coherent DC Universe (DCU) under James Gunn’s guidance. The movie itself is going to deal with multiple plotlines from the DCEU itself and also from other storylines that are not directly connected with it, and in order to keep the viewers in the mix, we would like to briefly discuss them.
A Brief Overview Of Barry Allen, AKA The Flash
Although in DC comics, ‘Flash’ is regarded as more of a mantle than a singular character, as there have been multiple metahumans since the beginning to play the role of the speedster superhero, the most famous and influential one to do so is Barry Allen, the protagonist of the upcoming movie as well. Barry Allen’s destiny will be altered at a very young age by a tragic event: his mother, Nora, was murdered (in most iterations, at the hands of the villainous speedster from the future, Reverse Flash), and his father, Henry, was convicted for the crime. To bring his mother’s killer to justice and clear his father’s name, Barry was determined from a very young age to pursue a career in the crime investigative sector and later joined the CSI. During his time as a forensic scientist, Barry was struck by a lightning bolt and came into contact with a number of chemicals, and this freak accident turned him into a super-powered individual with heightened senses, reflexes, strength, and speed—in short, a speedster. After learning about his newfound powers, Barry adopted the title “Flash” and a costume similar to that of his childhood hero, Jay Garrick, and started his superhero career.
The Flash movie itself won’t delve much into the origin of the speedster itself; therefore, a brief overview of his comics counterpart was necessary.
Flash In DCEU So Far
We first met the DCEU version of Barry Allen during Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in a brief cameo appearance, where Bruce Wayne decrypts Lex Luthor’s files on metahumans and comes across a clip of ‘the fastest man alive.’ Later, during Justice League, as the Apokoliptian general Steppenwolf’s invasion on Earth became imminent, Bruce sought out Barry’s help along with other metahumans like Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman. The group was later joined by a resurrected Superman and became the Justice League. In Zack Snyder’s original version of Justice League, Flash performed an incomprehensible feat of stretching the last moments of Earth in its near-destruction phase and going backward in time to save the planet and the League.
Barry worked closely with Bruce, who showed him the ropes of superheroing, and the duo formed a close mentor-friend relationship. The appearance of Barry in The Flash marks the most number of times a prime member of the League has appeared in the DCEU, with the latest one being in the HBOMax Peacemaker series as a fun cameo.
As It Begins, So It Ends: The Man Of Steel Connection
The Flash is going to be the thirteenth and canonically last movie of the DCEU, as the upcoming Blue Beetle has been stated by James Gunn to be the first movie of the DCU. As the plot points were teased for the movie through trailers and updates, it can be seen that the movie will reconnect with the first big event that kick-started the live-action franchise, the Black Zero event, aka the Battle of Metropolis in Man of Steel.
Released in 2013, Man of Steel chronicled the arrival of Kal El from the destroyed planet Krypton to Earth, being raised in the loving care of the Kent couple, gaining superpowers under the much more tender atmosphere (compared to Krypton) of Earth, and emerging as the iconic hero, Superman. During the course of the movie, the ruthless Kryptonian General Zod, who along with his loyal troops was banished to the Phantom Zone by the erstwhile Kryptonian Council for attempting a coup, arrived on Earth in search of the Kryptonian genetic archive named Codex. He learned that the Codex was imbued in Kal-El’s DNA by his father, Jor-El, during his escape from Krypton. Aside from his willingness to harvest the Codex from Kal El, Zod went on with his conquest to terraform the planet to make it more like Krypton, at the cost of mass human genocide. In the end, Superman is able to stop the driven general by sending Zod’s troops back to the Phantom Zone and reluctantly killing the general. Just to mention, this was a pivotal moment for the DCEU, which created massive controversy for the choice of killing off Zod at the hands of Superman, as taking lives is something that the much-respected superhero would never resort to.
In the movie The Flash, Barry Allen is going to run back in time to prevent his mother’s death, thereby shifting the course of the timeline in such a massive way that he inadvertently creates a reality where Kal-El didn’t arrive on Earth and instead, his elder cousin, Kara Zor-El, crash landed on the planet and was held captive by the military. Zod’s aim to conquer the planet remains the same, which means Barry is responsible for the crisis situation. It is kind of befitting that the first movie that began the franchise will also be revisited from a different angle during its conclusion, creating a full circle of a roadmap.
An Alternate Timeline And Classic Batman
Barry’s timeline tampering resulted in a world where metahumans were nonexistent, and even the Batman Barry knows and forms a bond with has been altered completely. In the alternate timeline, the jaded, aged Batman, played by Ben Affleck, is replaced by an even more jaded, aged version of the Caped Crusader, played by Michael Keaton. Fans of the character will easily recognize the iconic version of Batman who made his appearance in Tim Burton’s much-celebrated duology, Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). The first entry showcases the origin of the Caped Crusader and how, in this iteration, it is entangled with his arch-nemesis, the Joker, while the second one sees Batman tackling the dual threat of Catwoman and Penguin. In the alternate timeline, this version of Batman is present, but three decades have passed since the events of Batman Returns, and the protector of Gotham has retired. To stop Zod and his allies in a world where Superman doesn’t exist, Barry will need any help he can possibly get, even if it means coercing a retired Dark Knight into joining the battle.