Out of all the heroes in the DC Universe, it’s the Flash who most has the power to traverse time and space. But the Scarlet Speedster’s incredible abilities will be taken to their fullest extent with a surprising cameo that rumors claim will change everything for 2022’s The Flash.
What Happened? — On Monday, scoopster The Illuminerd reported that TV actor Grant Gustin, star of the CW hit series The Flash, will bring his small-screen role as the Arrowverse’s equivalent of the Scarlet Speedster to theaters, making a cameo appearance in The Flash. In DC’s big-budget standalone feature, the character is played primarily, as in Justice League, by Ezra Miller.
Further details on this alleged cameo were unavailable, and so far Gustin, Miller, and The Flash director Andy Muschietti are keeping quiet as to whether there’s any truth to The Illuminerd’s report.
But it isn’t impossible for the 2022 Flash to create a bridge between DC’s film and TV spheres — especially because the two Flashes have already met via the CW’s Arrowverse, which staged an ambitious “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover in which Miller made a brief appearance. With The Flash coming to the big screen, the DC film franchise is racing towards a multiverse event: one that will canonize all past DC TV and movies as existing in parallel to the studio’s other shared universes, like the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) where Miller plays the Flash.
To wit, The Flash movie will not only star Ben Affleck, back in his role as Batman, but feature Michael Keaton returning as another version of the Caped Crusader, the one who appeared in Tim Burton’ films Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). The Flash may set the stage for other such surprise cameos, though none have yet been announced.
War of the Multiverse — In what can only be described as super-capitalism at work, both Marvel and DC are setting up multiverses, and Gustin possibly being recruited from a popular Flash TV series to make the journey to the big screen can be read as DC raising the stakes.
At Marvel, the multiverse is being explored through this year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is rumored to find past onscreen Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield joining Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. (Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx who’ve both played villains in Spider-Man movies, are also confirmed to return for No Way Home.)
The multiverse is a historic moment in this age of the never-ending superhero explosion. No superhero movie franchise has been prolific enough to not only span several iterations, but then to bring those iterations together in a single movie. Marvel will continue to dive into the multiverse with 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
DC, meanwhile, is making its own history. If Illuminerd’s report is true, DC will pull off bringing a major TV superhero to the big screen, which not even Marvel has done at this level. (“Jarvis” actor James D’Arcy from the TV series Agent Carter did have a cameo in Avengers: Endgame, but Jarvis wasn’t a superhero, nor was he the titular character. Agent Carter was also only greenlit thanks to the popularity of a film character, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter, who first appeared 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, making it an imperfect comparison here.
Marvel also can’t (yet) lay claim to a popular shared universe that exists mainly on the small screen. The Marvel-Netflix experiment that spawned Daredevil and Jessica Jones is long gone, and now all of Marvel’s shows are film spin-offs that exist as incentives for audiences to buy Disney+ subscriptions. DC, by contrast, the standalone “Arrowverse” that thrives on The CW and includes Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and Superman and Lois. Said universe, as previously mentioned, featured the epic “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline, which found its series crossing over into each other’s chronologies and established the very multiverse that 2022’s The Flash will explore.
The Inverse Analysis — While it’s still unknown whether Grant Gustin will actually reprise his TV role in 2022’s The Flash, the fact it’s not hard to imagine him doing so is a testament to how wisely and extensively DC has weaponized the multiverse concept.
Though Marvel has ruled the last twenty-ish years at the box office, grossing a billion dollars several times over, DC has a longer and more historic heritage of contributions to superhero cinema, ranging from big-screen classics and obscure TV gems. It’s a big deal that all bets are seemingly off when it comes to The Flash, which may or may not zip around the studio’s many multiversal corners.
The Flash will be released in theaters on November 4, 2022.