'The Flash': Why Horror Directors and Superheroes Mesh Well
Development for The Flash has long been stuck in slow-motion, but the Scarlet Speedster is once again at the starting block, and this time seems ready to catch-up to his fellow Justice Leaguers, courtesy of a new director and screenwriter. The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday broke the news that It helmer Andy Muschietti will direct The Flash, taking over for John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Christina Hodson (Bumblebee, Birds of Prey) will write the new script, using neither Daley and Goldstein’s drafts nor the script Grant Morrison co-wrote with star Ezra Miller. Muschietti is now the fourth director to join the DC film from Warner Bros. and New Line’s successful stable of filmmakers. Like Aquaman's James Wan, Shazam!'s David Sandberg and Black Adam's Jaume Collet-Sera, Muschietti has the unique opportunity to inject the skills acquired within the horror genre into the world of superheroes.
The Flash has had more than its share of development woes, with the more recent ones nearly costing the film its lead, Miller, who is said to have wanted a more serious film than what was being drafted. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa were all attached to direct at one point or another, while Sam Raimi, Robert Zemeckis and Matthew Vaughn were all on the shortlist of potential directors before Daley and Goldstein came aboard in February 2018. But with Muschietti and Hodson, Warner Bros. may have just managed to bottle lightning and learn from their recent hits that there’s safety to be found in some of the most daring choices.
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Muschietti, who broke out in 2013 with Mama, based on his short film of the same name, is no stranger to boarding projects long caught in development hell. He luckily jumped off the trainwreck that was The Mummy (2017) during the film’s infamous scripting process, and found a home in the world of Stephen King. Muschietti, who came on board It: Chapter One (2017) and the upcoming It: Chapter Two after Cary Fukunaga left the project, quickly cemented himself as a filmmaker with a vision, capable of not only delivering memorable and stylish set pieces, but in clearly defining the rules of a story based on a novel that’s rules infrequently lend themselves to a cinematic experience. He’s a filmmaker who seems cut from the same cloth as Mama producer Guillermo del Toro. The Flash doesn’t seem like an entirely different entity from It. Like the adaptation of King’s work, The Flash comes with plenty of mythology already attached to it, including ubiquitous cosmic forces and the pre-existing awareness of a popular television adaptation. No doubt, The Flash will be a challenge in terms of figuring out the science-fantasy mechanics and separating itself from the CW series, but Muschietti seems like a filmmaker up to the challenge. And of course, a strong screenwriter will be key to that.
Like Muschietti, screenwriter Hodson has her roots in the horror-thriller genre. Her first credit, Shut In (2016), may not have turned heads, but her more recent work on the Transformers reboot Bumblebee (2018) certainly did. With that film, Hodson stripped away the rusted parts of Michael Bay’s oversized engine and brought heart back to the Transformers franchise with likeable characters, a focused narrative and a tone that balanced humor and genuine emotional drama. She is hoping to continue her winning streak with Warner Bros. and DC's Birds of Prey, due out in February. From Bumblebee alone, it’s easy to imagine Hodson creating dialogue that allows Ezra Miller to really tap into the character and explore the complexities of Barry Allen.
There’s a long history of horror/thriller filmmakers delivering memorable superhero pics that we just can’t stop talking about. Richard Donner, Tim Burton, Raimi, del Toro, Zack Snyder and Patty Jenkins all have their origins in the grim and grisly. There seems to be a certain appreciation for the imagery of horror that lends itself well to comic book movies. Perhaps because so much of our modern horror and superhero films have their origins in 20th century pulp magazine. The two mediums are inextricably tied to each other. Each of those filmmakers, and the more recent examples of Wan and Sandberg, have delivered films that don’t shy away from embracing comic book imagery, regardless of how wild and stylistic it may be. If audiences can buy armored soldiers riding giant, laser-equipped sea creatures or a talking inch worm with designs on world domination, then The Flash needn’t hold anything back.
As one of the comic books that has consistently been one of DC’s most visually engaging books and populated with bright costumes, creatures and concepts that don’t lend themselves to staying grounded, The Flash feels like a perfect fit for a director who successfully brought a cosmic evil in the form of a clown to life, and a screenwriter who made robots that transform into cars, as plausible as they’ve ever been. Whether The Flash introduces us to the Rogues, Gorilla Grodd or the multiverse, it feels like the property will be in safe hands, hands that aren’t afraid to shatter expectations. Thanks to a recent crop of horror directors, the DC film universe no longer feels like its running scared.
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