To the casual observer, The Flash seems like a pretty straightforward superhero: He’s fast. Simple, right? Man, I wish.
Instead, Barry Allen/The Flash is so fast that the laws of time and space do not apply to him. In the comics, this makes him a frequent nexus of interdimensional tomfoolery, and now the movies have followed suit. Andy Muschietti’s The Flash leans hard into all this metaphysical stuff, cribbing from comics like Flashpoint to meddle with the on-screen history of DC’s Snyderverse in fun ways.
Given that there is a new DC cinematic era on the horizon, it makes sense to assume that The Flash will also make way for what’s to come. But does it? Does it actually?
[Ed. note: Mondo spoilers for The Flash follow.]
The Flash ends with Barry (Ezra Miller) thinking he’s fixed a movie’s worth of multiversal tampering, with one seemingly harmless exception: a small tweak to a grocery store’s shelving that makes sure his father is seen on security footage the night Barry’s mother was murdered, exonerating his father in the present. If Barry is right and everything in his time is hunky-dory, then the most shocking thing about The Flash is how much it doesn’t reset the Snyderverse, making The Flash an adventure that acknowledges the multiverse, but doesn’t really do anything with it.
However, in its final twist — maybe a gag, maybe not — Barry calls his Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), following up on a conversation they had at the start of the film, only to discover that Bruce is now entirely different and played by George Clooney, the Batman/Bruce Wayne of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. There is no direct explanation for this, as the movie ends immediately after Clooney’s megawatt smile baffles Barry.
Wait, how did a grocery store shelf change who Batman is?
If you’ve seen The Flash, then you know. The movie has a unique, spaghetti-themed idea of how time travelers move through the multiverse, the upshot of which is: There is no butterfly effect. Changing the past can have unpredictable effects on your entire timeline.
Does this reboot the DC Films universe? What does this mean?
Well… The Flash’s stinger could simply be a joke about George Clooney’s tenure as Batman, in a movie surprisingly full of wistful looks at DC adaptations that never were. However, the film’s credits scene might offer some clarity. In it, Barry tries to explain the events of The Flash to an extremely drunk Aquaman (Jason Momoa), telling him that while Bruce is very different now, Aquaman seems pretty much the same.
This scene could be read as a subtle hint that what we once knew as the Snyderverse is now a malleable setting, where what works (like Momoa’s Aquaman, who conveniently has a film on the way) stays the same, and what does not is simply discarded.
Of course, how much this matters when a new DC cinematic universe is inbound with James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy is an open question. DC seems content to use the “Elseworlds” label to allow for films like the forthcoming Joker sequel and Matt Reeves’ Bat-projects to exist independently of the new DCU, and that may extend to Snyderverse remnants like The Flash or Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, should they get further sequels.
Given the nature of The Flash’s multiverse-spanning story and the Flashpoint comics that inspired it, it makes sense to expect something a bit more definitive than this, something akin to the Spider-Verse films or Spider-Man: No Way Home that clearly lays out the scope and scale of the DC multiverse and what it means for future movies. But for whatever reason, the filmmakers behind The Flash went for something a little more open-ended. Which, in turn, might be the most comic book thing about it: an ending that offers just enough closure, with plenty of room for whoever comes next to take things wherever they want.