How The Flash Perfectly Sets Up The DCU (And More)
The highly anticipated film, The Flash, has finally raced into theaters after nearly a decade of setbacks, delays, and changes, as Barry Allen (played by the controversial Ezra Miller) speeds through time to save his mother from death and his father from prison. Despite the film’s lackluster box office performance, fans were eager to see how The Flash would reset the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) into the new DC Universe (DCU), as marketed by James Gunn.
What sets The Flash apart from other superhero films is its innovative approach to time travel and the multiverse. After meeting an older, retired Bruce Wayne (played by Michael Keaton), Barry learns about the Spaghetti Theory, which explains how changing the past creates a ripple effect that affects both past and future, resulting in incalculable numbers of possible timelines existing all at once, creating a multiverse.
This theory frees creators to reimagine the DC universe without being chained to the older films or any source material, allowing the new DCU to be its own entity. It also allows for characters and actors to crossover from the DCEU into the DCU, giving the filmmakers the freedom to pick and choose elements they like and keep the ones they don’t.
Furthermore, The Flash confirms the existence of different DC stories in different universes from over the entire time the company has been making stories, allowing the DCEU and DCU to exist and continue at the same time. The Flash features dozens of cameos from many different DC projects, celebrating the rich history of DC and confirming the canon of all the older projects and their existence in the DC multiverse.
This approach gives DC a distinct advantage over Marvel, as they can tell any story they want, however they want, whenever they want, without being burdened by the complex events of separate films taking place in the same universe. DC can create totally separate universes, known as Elseworlds, which can tell incredible stories without any care for the consequences of a shared universe.
In conclusion, The Flash has revolutionized the superhero genre by introducing innovative concepts such as the Spaghetti Theory and the multiverse, allowing DC to reset their universe and tell unique and creative stories without being chained to the past. This new approach gives DC an advantage over Marvel and opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the future of DC films and television projects.
The Flash has finally arrived in theaters. The Fastest Man Alive was ironically delayed for nearly a decade due to setbacks and delays and changes and pandemics, as Barry Allen (the controversial Ezra Miller) speeds through time to meet himself from ten years ago (also Miller), planning to save his mother from death and his father from prison. Anticipation for the film was high, even if the box office does not reflect it, as the film was marketed by James Gunn as resetting the DCEU into the DCU.
Fans were most interested to see how The Flash would make good on the promise to clear the way for James Gunn’s new DCU. Instead of simply slapping the hard reset button by having the film act as a conclusion to the old DCEU, The Flash hit quite a few buttons during the complicated time-spanning adventure, making many things possible for Gunn and the rest of his team, including running both the old DCEU and the new DCU and even more universes all at the same time. Here’s how The Flash perfectly sets up the new DCU.
The Spaghetti Theory
After Barry and his younger self go and search for the Batman of this alternate world. They find an old, retired Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) who has hung up his wings. Bruce explains a brand new concept of traveling through time, utilizing his dinner to explain to the Barrys with spaghetti noodles how one timeline relates to another.
Barry believed in the rather straightforward linear time-stream concept, where altering the past only changes the future, and the more the past is altered, the more the future is changed, often known as the Butterfly Effect, where the flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a typhoon later on – pretty standard practice for most sci-fi stories. Though Bruce, a genius himself, sets the Barrys straight.
Bruce explains changing the past doesn’t create a linear effect on only the future, but a ripple effect that goes both ways, affecting both past and future, turning into a totally separate timeline. A single timeline, which Bruce represents as a single raw, hard spaghetti strand, doesn’t just split whenever events are changed. That point of change acts as an axis point instead of a point of diversion (as seen in the MCU), so everything past and future is affected by that change, which is why Bruce is older, and Kar-El is killed in infancy, replaced by his cousin Supergirl. Enough of these changes result in incalculable numbers of possible timelines existing all at once, creating a multiverse, for which Bruce uses the metaphor of a bowl of soft, cooked spaghetti all intertwined.
Bruce’s Spaghetti Theory frees creators to reimagine the DC universe without all the complex rules of governing a multiverse, meaning The Flash gave DC Co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran the ability to do whatever they want in building their new superhero universe without being chained to the older films or any source material, so the new DCU is free to be it’s own. It also allows them to pick and choose elements they like, as the universes can overlap with similar elements. This can also explain how characters and actors can crossover from the DCEU into the DCU, and they can keep the elements they like. It allows Gunn to keep the characters he introduced in The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker without needing to throw them away with the DCEU.
The DCEU and DCU Can Both Exist
Though The Flash is really a soft reboot that actually allows both the old DCEU and new DCU to exist and continue at the same time. Like with any multiverse, different dimensions all exist at the same time, alternate realities coaligning on separate levels, and The Flash allows and even confirms the existence of different DC stories in different universes from over the entire time the company has been making stories to exist and relate to each other.
We see all the way through The Flash Easter eggs that are simply for the fun of fans, celebrating the rich history of DC by featuring dozens of cameos from many different DC projects, from Teddy Sears’ Speedster in the series The Flash to Nicolas Cage’s canceled Superman, and much more. Though part of a simple tradition of movies, each and every reference to other universes in The Flash not only confirms the canon of all the older projects but their existence in the DC multiverse and the existence of much more.
So if these older projects can exist with the newer ones, then that means the DCEU can exist with the DCU, meaning that the DCEU doesn’t have to stop when the DCU begins. The Flashand the upcoming release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdommight mark the end of the traditional DCEU, but over the years, if fan nostalgia is strong, these characters could return. Either in continued storylines or in a crossover event with the DCU similar to the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic. There’s no reason why fan favorites like Henry Cavill can’t return as Superman in his own original universe, and so DC can continue the established universe with the new one at the same time.
Give DC an Advantage Over Marvel
Though what the Spaghetti Theory in The Flash affords is the great ability to have many separate stories running at the same time. The DCEU has always been a very lackluster copycat move by DC of Marvel, as DC has been infamous for imitating Marvel’s success for decades now, from post-credits scenes to the whole idea of an interconnected cinematic universe. Though DC has had great success whenever the fabled storyteller takes itself in a different direction than Marvel, such as in the films DC creates without any relation to others.
Films like The Batman and Joker and television projects like The Sandman and Watchmen have been able to stand on their own. Now referred to by Gunn as Elseworlds, a reference to the DC Comics imprint that created stories without any boundaries of continuity, these totally separate universes could tell incredible stories without any care for the consequences of a shared universe, which has already happened in DCEU, like Robert Pattinson’s Batman or Joaquin Pheonix’s Joker existing by themselves.
These Elseworlds stories can also run their own stories entirely separate from each other without any need for a canon, giving DC a distinct advantage over Marvel, whose MCU is burdened with complex events of separate films taking place in the same universe, meaning the story is severely limited by other unrelated events. The Flash canonically allows DC to tell any story they want. However they want, whenever they want, free to be more creative and unique with their heroes than Marvel ever could be.