In DC Comics, there are a few words that are loaded with universe-shattering implications – “Infinite,” “Identity,” and especially “Crisis.” At Warner Bros.’ San Diego Comic Con Hall H presentation, DC Films dropped another loaded word when they made the announcement that their long-beleaguered movie about The Flash would be called Flashpoint. The very word “Flashpoint” is a Pandora’s box of possibilities, both exciting and scary – Flashpoint was the 2011 DC Comics event that transitioned the original DC Universe into the rebooted New 52 universe.
Flashpoint coming to the DC Extended Universe has already sparked the debate within fandom of whether this means the DCEU will be rebooted or not. The DCEU has only been in existence since 2013 and has only produced four feature films, with the fifth, Justice League, bringing the DCEU’s greatest superheroes together this November. It seems far too soon to even begin to be considering rebooting their movie universe, even if Flashpoint does make a speculated release date in 2020. Reboot or not, Flashpoint is its own separate universe with its own grim depiction of DC’s world and its superheroes.
The core concept of any Flashpoint story – which The CW’s third season of The Flash has already adapted – is Barry Allen time traveling and thus sparking the creation of a dark alternate timeline. Should the DCEU Flashpoint stick closely to the comics crossover event masterminded by DC Films President Geoff Johns, this means The Flash (Ezra Miller) would inadvertently create an apocalyptic version of the DCEU where the superheroes aren’t mankind’s saviors but are instead marching the world towards Armageddon. The two superheroes most responsible for the state of war gripping the world are Aquaman and Wonder Woman.
THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX
In the comics and in the DC Animation adaptation Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the Justice League never existed in the Flashpoint universe. Instead, very different versions of the superheroes are forced to work together to prevent a war between Atlantis and the Amazons from destroying the world. In this alternate timeline, King Arthur of Atlantis and Princess Diana of Themyscira were lovers. The comics had them meeting in the ocean when he saved her from a kraken, after which they decided to marry and unify their two nations. At their wedding, rogue forces within Atlantis and the Amazons steadfastly against a Wonder Woman/Aquaman marriage conspired to assassinate Queen Hippolyta. With the Queen’s murder, the two peoples were plunged into a war of attrition.
The Flashpoint Paradox cartoon changed the circumstances to be a bit more sordid: in creating a peace treaty, Wonder Woman and Aquaman began an affair, and they were caught by Arthur’s wife Mera. Wonder Woman then murdered Mera (she would also kill Mera in the comics, but that would happen later in the story), and with that, Atlantis and Themyscira went to war. Europe pays the heaviest price in both versions of the story. After Atlantean forces destroy the island of Themyscira, Wonder Woman leads the Amazons to the United Kingdom, which they promptly conquer and make into their new home. Aquaman then attacks Western Europe and sinks it. Millions of innocent people die in the continuing conflict, including members of the Justice League when they intervene.
CAN AQUAMN V WONDERWOMAN WORK IN A MOVIE?
Gal Gadot is rumored to be part of the Flashpoint movie. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, Gadot will have starred in Justice League and then returned to topline Wonder Woman 2, which is rumored to be an adventure set in the Cold War-era 1980s. Will audiences be ready for – or even want to see – an evil version of Wonder Woman by 2020? The Flashpoint version of Wonder Woman is a complete 180 from the Diana audiences are solidly behind: she’s arrogant, reactionary, and a brutal killer. (In the comics and cartoon, Wonder Woman beheads Mera and then dons her helmet to taunt Aquaman.) Whether Gal Gadot would like to play a horrible version of the purest hero in the DCEU – and whether audiences will accept it – is anyone’s guess. However, considering how Wonder Woman was embraced by a generation of children as a hero and inspiration, an evil version of Wonder Woman – even if it’s made explicit this is an alternate universe version – seems like a bad idea to say the least.
It seems unlikely that a Flashpoint movie wouldn’t also include Aquaman and the Justice League. Thus far, we know very little about how Jason Momoa will eventually portray Aquaman, but his swagger and sarcastic bite in the Justice League trailers is already placing him as a fan favorite. In the Flashpoint comics, Aquaman is kind of a dupe. His brother Orm plotted against him and conspired to have Hippolyta murdered to end the Atlantis-Themyscira alliance. Aquaman turns into a warlord in reaction. In the cartoon, Aquaman is already married when he and Diana decide to sleep together, before they are immediately caught by Mera. Pick your poison on which version of evil Aquaman is preferable. Either way, “Emperor Aquaman” as he becomes known, plunges Europe and all of its people underwater, and he’s just as violent and bloodthirsty as Wonder Woman.
Audiences just fell in love with Gadot’s inspiring and heroic Wonder Woman this year, and the advance word on James Wan’s Aquaman starring Momoa is very good. The actors, along their fellow Justice Leaguers Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher, rocked Hall H with smiles and cheer at Comic Con, igniting anticipation for them to come together on the big screen. With all the positive vibes generated for the DCEU this summer, it seems strange indeed for DC Films to be plotting a violent, apocalyptic alternate version of the DCEU to be unleashed in just three short years. However, there is definitely a coolness factor and opportunity for epic spectacle to see a Wonder Woman-led army take on the forces of Atlantis commanded by Aquaman.
IS FLASHPOINT A GOOD IDEA?
A Flashpoint movie that adheres to the comics’ story seems to be a betrayal of what Geoff Johns recently announced as the core tenets of the DCEU films going forward. With Wonder Woman‘s success as the DCEU’s first superhero film comprised of pure, unabashed heroism, Johns trumpeted that future films would, in his own words, “Get to the essence of the character and make the movies fun. Just make sure that the characters are the characters with heart, humor, hope, heroics, and optimism at the base.” “Heart, humor, hope, and heroics” are four word that don’t describe Flashpoint.
Flashpoint stands for everything opposite that; it’s a remnant from a previous era of DC Comics mired in superheroes irrationally in conflict with each other, ultraviolence, murder, and a sordid underbelly that DC’s current publishing initiative, DC Rebirth, has moved away from to great success and acclaim. However, with the multitude of creative issues that have plagued The Flash movie, Flashpoint has immediate brand recognition as a major movie-worthy event that centers around The Fastest Man Alive. Like how Captain America: Civil War was an Avengers movie that centered around Steve Rogers (and Tony Stark), Flashpoint would essentially be a Justice League movie with Barry Allen as its main protagonist.
If the Flashpoint movie goes all in towards creating an even more violent version of the DCEU (which the current direction of films is purportedly moving away from), Flashpoint seems like something right up Zack Snyder’s alley, should he choose to return to direct another DCEU film. There’s been speculation about whether Snyder’s initial vision for the DCEU that defined the first wave of films is in conflict with the ‘new direction’ initiated by Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and the seemingly more upbeat vibe Justice League is said to contain (which, to be fair, was mostly directed by Snyder before he stepped down for personal reasons). A Flashpoint movie true to the comics seems like a project that would suit Snyder’s particular talents and established DCEU worldview, though, again, whether this is anything audiences even want to see should hopefully factor into the equation.
It’s also possible that the Flashpoint movie will be Flashpoint in name only and will diverge from the source material, perhaps even further than Captain America: Civil War did from its source material. There could still be a conflict between Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but it would hopefully be about something a lot less disturbing than sexual dalliances, decapitations, all-out war, and the murder of millions of people. There are numerous ways to highlight differences between Wonder Woman and Aquaman, see them fight each other (though superhero v superhero conflicts are already something that seems very 2016), and tell an alternate universe tale about them and the DCEU without resorting to the worst aspects of the comics.