Rooting for the Rogues
Those following the comic book movie news are probably aware of recent developments with regard to the Flash movie. At the time of writing they're still revising the script, they've hired a production designer, and several cast members from Justice League (including Ezra Miller) are slated to appear in the movie.
Of course Justice League was a trainwreck if there ever was one, and Warner Bros.' claims that this movie is still "in development" are to be treated with extreme skepticism. But until we hear otherwise, this movie's a distinct possibility. And if Aquaman, Shazam!, and/or Wonder Woman 2 overcome the "Justice League curse," it's even more likely that it'll get made.
I don't know about you, but I'm still hoping the Flash makes his next cinematic outing sooner rather than later. This isn't only because the Flash is my favorite superhero, but also because he has a lot to offer in terms of story. He's visually appealing, easily recognizable, and easily understood. In the right hands, The Flash would make a great movie.
Yet I was thinking the other day, what if they turned a Flash movie on its head? What if they made his Rogues Gallery the heroes, or at least sympathetic antagonists? What if the story was told from their point of view, with the Flash in the background?
I think such an approach would avoid a lot of problems, and would also go a long way towards forging a more original story. Ignoring Suicide Squad for a moment, let's imagine that we live in Central City, in the presence of the Flash. We get up and go to work every morning. We pay taxes, and eat at restaurants. We get stuck in traffic. But everywhere we go we're aware of this presence, this force that rights wrongs, and transports criminals to local jails. We want to believe that this presence is protecting us from ourselves, but we're never quite sure. We begin to wonder about the freedom of our actions, and the wisdom of the figure that seems to be impinging upon this freedom.
This presence, of course, is not my invention. It was touched upon in the Kingdom Come series, though the idea was never (to my knowledge) explored in any depth. But I've always been captivated by the idea, partly because you'd never see the Flash saving people. You'd never see him running through the streets. He'd be largely invisible - not unlike certain communist states. Would you come to love your scarlet-clad Big Brother? Or would you come to distrust him? Would you wonder what future he was steering you toward? Would you wonder what the mere fact of his presence was doing to your humanity?
I picture this scenario unfolding from a short voice over in the beginning of the movie. One of the rogues talks about seeing the Flash on TV when he was a kid. This rogue then discusses aspects of growing up in a place where you're sure to be caught for any crime you commit, and where you could be spied upon by a being moving faster than you can see. You might see a red blur now and then, but most people only glimpse their city's "savior."
Over time a collection of "individualists" forms - not necessarily criminals, though there are of course criminals in the group. They meet together, far outside of the city limits, where a careful study of the Flash's activities has shown he never goes. They begin to air grievances. They begin to form plans. It could be that some of their grievances are entirely justified, and it could be that other grievances are just the ravings of antisocial personalities. They begin to meditate upon bringing down the Flash - either killing him or taking away his powers. Perhaps their goal is just to shame him, or to cast his activities in negative light.
One of the fun things about such a movie is that Barry Allen can still be a character in it. He can interact with the rogues at several points in the movie. They won't even know that he's the Flash. Perhaps at several points he almost discovers their plan, but other circumstances intervene. We see him as the Flash, foiling a variety of crimes, but it's not until the end of the movie that our group of misfits face off against the scarlet speedster.
For the final confrontation, I'm thinking of something clever, something similar to a heist film, in that each of the rogues uses his or her set of skills to bring down the Flash. It would be a very scientific exercise, based on a careful study of the Flash's powers. They'd have to find the chink in his armor (so to speak), and their plan would progress in careful stages.
I should add that I've always found the "speed force" concept used in the comics slightly ridiculous. To my thinking it's an explanation that isn't an explanation, and attempts to elaborate on this concept are usually recursive and somewhat lazy. You might as well say that the god Mercury bestowed his powers on Barry Allen. So when I say "very scientific exercise" in the paragraph above, I mean that the rogues would be taking advantage of the physical limits of his powers, in whatever order of magnitude the movie chooses to present them. Giving the cinematic Flash some kind of Achilles heel would be a good thing, and would make it easier to relate to him as a character. There's not much anyone can do against a guy that runs at the speed of light and passes through solid objects, so you'd have to give him some kind of weakness.
I envision one of two endings for such a movie: 1) one of the rogues almost kills the Flash, but is restrained by another, who has a change of heart, or 2) an even bigger threat arrives, and the rogues realize that they need the Flash to save them from it. In either event both Flash and the rogues reach an understanding, and he decides to limit his interventions in the future.
Now I hear you saying: "How is this different from Suicide Squad?" Well, for one thing the plot would be fully thought out. For another, we already have a "through line" in the form of the rogues' antagonistic relationship with the Flash. Suicide Squad was a mess of a movie, full of plot holes, and the characters in it were entirely disposable. This movie would do its best to remedy those problems, though I freely admit that eliminating plot holes in any superhero movie is a challenge.
Suicide Squad also lacked a satisfying antagonist. Both the Joker and Enchantress were a huge letdown. In my version of the Flash, we're not going for any big, cartoon villains like that. We're going for a certain moral relativism, and for "villains" you can relate to.
All of the above, of course, is just a thought. Oh, and no "Flash armor" in my version. Why does the Flash need armor? And what good is armor with a big open mouth and eye holes?
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