The Flash’s Unusual Marketing and Potential Future

It’s almost becoming a cliché to say that the behind-the-scenes or other real-world events surrounding a movie make a better story than the film itself, but the way Warner Bros. is marketing The Flash, as detailed in a Variety piece, is interesting. A lot of this is born of necessity because of the corner Ezra Miller put them in due to his despicable actions over the past couple of years and beyond (none of which he’s denied, to my knowledge, but he totally wants to get help). Despite rumors that the entire film would be reshot with a new actor as Barry Allen – and the temptation to believe that was true after suffering through Miller’s past performances as the character – The Flash was way too expensive for that; it’d have needed to double Avatar’s profits just to break even. So they’re stuck with a guy who is accused of grooming, molesting, and endangering children, assaulting people at a bar, choking a pregnant woman (which was caught on film), and breaking into people’s homes as the star of their tent pole summer superhero movie.

What’s a movie studio to do? Well, first of all, they needed to keep a lid on this nutcase, so The Flash is maybe the first big-budget movie whose star has been wholly absent from the marketing campaign. Miller has made no talk show appearances or conducted any interviews; he’s in the trailers, he’ll be at the movie’s premiere – where he will walk the carpet, wave to the cameras, and talk to no one – and that’s it. Variety says someone close to Miller claims he “wants the movie to open and the conversation to be about the movie and not about Ezra.” Oh, please; we’re talking about someone who dresses like a peacock at a masquerade ball. No, the much more likely scenario is that Warner Bros. executives sat Miller down and said, “Stay home, keep your mouth shut, and for God’s sake, wear a suit to the premiere.”

And that’s “premiere,” in the singular form, because The Flash will only have one, to be held in LA on Monday, June 12. According to Variety, this is not because of Miller but “to keep the ‘secret ending’ under wraps.” I believe this because I’ve heard the same; Chris Gore of Film Threat saw the movie and said that the final scene, which was about to reveal something big, was cut out of his screening. Variety also details screenings with the image blurred. I like this; I’m tired of having this stuff ruined, and Warner Bros. has been one of the worst offenders, like when they spoiled a major cameo at the end of Shazam!: Fury of the Gods in a commercial a week before the movie was released. Despite Variety’s spin, The Flash is not tracking well, so I appreciate Warner Bros.’ restraint and hope they can maintain it till the film hits theaters.

To make up for the lack of premieres, The Flash is being screened in multiple cities around the world, including London, Madrid, Sao Paolo, Miami, Buenos Aires, and Toronto, as well as many screenings throughout the United States and Canada, which Warner Bros. is calling a “word-of-mouth screening program.” This indicates that those reactions may not be as phony as they seem (and boy, did they seem phony); maybe Warner Bros. really is proud of The Flash and thinks it will speak for itself, especially since the titular superhero can’t speak for it. (That silence will continue for these screenings; Michael Keaton introduced the movie at the one in London, which took place this past Saturday, and director Andy Muschietti will be at several others, but Miller will not attend any of them.) Of course, it could also be desperation because Warner Bros. needs a hit, and The Flash is the likeliest DC movie to be one. At this point, they’re banking on the film having legs, with Variety comparing its soft opening to Aquaman’s before the latter film made over $1 billion (while not mentioning that Aquaman opened in December with little competition, not in the busy summer season). And if it’s as good as they pinkie-swear it is, perhaps it will.

If it does, Warner Bros. is ready. A script for a sequel has been written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, the writer of Aquaman and its upcoming sequel, as well as some episodes of The Walking Dead, a few horror movies, and Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, which is probably among the worst movies I’ve ever seen. This seems like a lousy way to reward Christina Hodson (who, admittedly, has a pretty bad track record herself), but recent reports indicate she may be moving on to a higher-profile hero. Regardless, Johnson-McGoldrick’s screenplay supposedly features Michael Keaton’s Batman and Sasha Calle’s Supergirl once again, which seems odd; shouldn’t this team-up be a one-off thing? That suggests to me that they don’t have much faith in Miller’s Flash and want him buttressed as much as possible – art imitating life. But for his part, Andy Muschietti can’t see anyone but Miller in the role, which is swell for people who can’t stand his previous performances and haven’t been swayed by the footage in the trailers.

The Flash marketing

A lot rests on The Flash’s performance at the box office. The future of the DC Universe will almost certainly be impacted, especially if this is a huge hit and James Gunn and Peter Safran are either pressured from above or compelled of their own accord to weave Miller’s Flash into their burgeoning reboot. Miller’s own career may be on the line as well, with a bomb being another knock against his continued bankability; his preferred pronouns may help him out, but if he’s deemed too much of a financial liability, referring to himself in the plural form may not save him. And then, there’s Michael Keaton; I assume he won’t be included in the new DCU, but if this movie is either successful or garners a lot of praise and goodwill for him and his version of Batman, could Gunn and Safran decide to pull him in after all? If they’re doing The Brave and the Bold, an older Batman will make sense as Damian’s father. My guess would be that they won’t, but more Keaton (unless it’s some dumb and humiliating Batman Beyond nonsense) would be my favorite result of The Flash.

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