When it comes to superhero fiction, aside from the rogue gallery of the Trinity, which consists of Supes, Bats, and Spidey, the character Flash boasts the most versatile, well-written, and memorable coterie of villains, occasionally referred to as ‘The Rogues.’ As consideration of a live-action Flash movie started making rounds in the late 80s, a number of classic ‘Rogues’ like Captain Boomerang, Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Trickster, Heatwave, and Mirror Master were considered to play the role of antagonist(s) throughout various drafts under different directors. Back in 2015, when finally a feature entry of the character as a part of the DCEU entered the pre-production stage, it was reported that the movie would adapt the seminal comic storyline Flashpoint. The news excited readers immensely as it presented the chance to see the fan-favorite antagonist Reverse Flash on the silver screen for the first time, as Flash’s arch-enemy is integral to the story, and his popularity has already skyrocketed since CW’s The Flash series started airing.
However, fast forward to 2023, directed by Andres Muschietti, when The Flash finally hit theaters. Despite being an adaptation of Flashpoint, the role of Reverse Flash was removed, and instead, in a twisted interpretation of the story, a corrupted version of Barry Allen, dubbed “Dark Flash,” took on the role of hidden antagonist. We would like to discuss the reason for this change, the role the character serves, and all the differences and similarities with the comic counterpart of the character.
Role Of Dark Flash In The Movie
The central plotline of The Flash revolves around the titular character, aka Barry Allen’s effort to prevent his mother Nora’s death by going back in time. In the movie, Barry first accesses the chronosphere accidentally after his emotionally excited state leads him to run his fastest, and the Speedforce takes him to the central controller of the timestream. Despite Bruce’s warnings that tampering with the past might result in grievous consequences, Barry decides to save his mother’s life by altering a particular moment, and as he runs back to his timeline, he sees his action resulting Nora’s survival. However, all of a sudden, a menacing, protrusion-covered Speedster makes his appearance through the timestream and knocks Barry into the physical world—quite earlier than intended—in the year 2013. Before Barry could think of the identity of the character, he arrived at his home and got overjoyed after reuniting with his parents. However, the invasion of Kryptonian general Dru Zod and his troops happened in the same year as well.
Through the course of events, Barry meets his alternate version, recreates the lightning accident for alt Barry to grant him powers to ensure his return to the prime timeline, and learns that his actions have created an alternate reality where both past and present have been affected in some major ways. Among the changes, the most significant one is the absence of Superman, and despite two Flashes, a Kryptonian in the form of Kara Zor-El, and an aged Batman being present to battle the Kryptonian adversaries, their combined might is just not enough. During the course of the battle, Bruce and Kara die, and the alternate Barry, who has so far known about Barry’s timeline tampering action, decides to do the same, totally unconcerned about the implications.
No matter how many times Alt-Barry tries to save them, their deaths seem inevitable in every scenario. During each of his attempts, the fabric of reality starts getting increasingly strained, and Barry realizes that his mistake of changing the course of history has doomed not only this alternate timeline but the entirety of existence all at once. Nora’s death was a fixed point in time, unalterable by any means, and to let things return to their previous state, Barry has to undo his past action of saving her. Barry tries to reason with Alt Barry, who by now has been too driven to even consider letting go as an option. The difference in their ideologies is understandable, as in his short stint as a hero, Alt Barry has never known the sacrifice and consequences that come with responsibility like Barry did.
Standing at the chronosphere, as Barry tries to stop his alternate version from causing any further damage, the monstrous Speedster appears once again and attacks Barry. It is revealed that the Speedster, dubbed by the movie Wikia as the Dark Flash, is a corrupted, future version of Alt Barry. The character knocked Barry into the year 2013 to let him recreate the accident that gave his alternate version powers as well, thereby making his creation possible and living as a paradox. He has tried to prevent the deaths of Kara and Bruce forever and also tried to stop Barry from undoing his action of saving his mother, failing in both cases. The continuous transgressions of alt-Barry and Dark Flash create a rupture in the timestream, and the trio witness different universes consisting of distinctive versions of their known heroes and characters colliding with each other. Barry tries to reason with the monstrous Speedster but realizes that he has gone too far already. Considering Barry to be the reason neither Nora nor the alternate timeline could be saved, Dark Flash lunges at Barry to kill him, but Alt Barry ends up taking the blow instead to save him. By killing his own past self, the Dark Flash is erased from existence.
Having one’s own alternate timeline version be one’s adversary isn’t something new (“Triangle” comes to mind), but “The Flash” manages to add a new angle by adding emotional weight which acts as the fulcrum. Barry realizes his mistake and is willing to make amends, while the future version of his alternate self never went through the hardships and sufferings needed to earn his worth; hence, he keeps acting selfishly and forever remains stuck in a losing battle with destiny.
Comparison With Comics Counterpart And Similarities
In comics, Dark Flash or Black Flash had a completely different role to serve. The character essentially exists as a zombified grim reaper for speedsters, arriving to claim them at their life’s end—or when any speedster has caused irrevocable damage. This version of the character can be seen in the second season of The CW’s The Flash, where he ends the misery of Hunter Zolomon, aka Zoom.
There are a number of references the movie makes to the CW’s The Flash, even excluding Teddy Sears’ Jay Garrick cameo. The concept of an alternate self turning villainous is very similar to Savitar’s origin as shown in the third season of “The Flash” series, where Barry’s neglected time remnant became self-conscious and turned into the monstrous Speedster, whose armor even matches the movie’s Dark Flash’s Kryptonian armor appearance. Another exciting reference was how Alt Barry’s death removing Dark Flash from existence is similar to Eddie Thawne sacrificing his life to erase his distant descendent Eobard Thawne, aka Reverse Flash’s existence.
Was Reverse Flash In The Movie?
It seems that as The Flash turned out to be the last DCEU movie, the makers didn’t want to introduce a totally new and pivotal character right before the beginning of the DCU, as it can lead to much confusion about continuity. As a character, Barry’s arch-enemy, Reverse Flash, is absent from the movie; however, there is an interesting easter egg slyly added, which keen-eyed fans might catch in repeated watches. In one particular moment, when alt-Barry is on a stupidity spree across the Central City after gaining superpowers, a pedestrian, played by actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is seen to be proceeding to take a bite out of his pizza slice, which alt-Barry snatches away. Now there is no reason at all as to why the director would hire an established actor like him to be basically an NPC, and adding to the fact that the actor was previously rumored to be playing the role of Reverse Flash in early drafts of the movie and he attended The Flash movie premiere as well, I think it is safe to say we just got the first uncredited cameo of DCEU’s version of Man in Yellow.