Before The Flash was a successful show for the CW, it was a failed movie. Well, actually it was three failed movies. Hopefully it will soon be a successful movie, but it was three failed movies. Flickering Myth posted an article called Born to Run, which essentially did what I had been planning on doing for a while now, reviewing those ancient screenplays. I never got around to that, but they did, so why don't I do it now as well.
David Goyer Screenplay:
In this script, Barry Allen operates as the Flash in secret. He is married to Iris Allen, grows a fatherly bond with her nephew Wally West and works at the Keystone City Police Department with best friend Hunter Zolomon. In a fight with Victor Vesp (The Turtle), Barry Allen dies and Wally West witnesses the whole thing. After a bout of depression, Wally is struck by lightning and becomes a metahuman. Working with STAR Labs and being mentored by a wheelchair bound Zolomon, the new Flash is irresponsible, despite what Iris wants him to do. Wally rescues STAR Labs scientist Tina McGee from a train crash caused by Vesp. The Turtle is broken out of prison by his servant, a speed addict known as Zoom, who talks in a villainous voice. Wally and Zoom fight, Zoom kills STAR Labs scientist Jerry and Wally learns Zoom is actually Zolomon. Vesp tries to steal Wally's speed, but he is shuttled away to the past where he shares a moment with Barry before returning to the future. Zoom kills Vesp, fights Wally and dies in effect. Wally then vows to save Barry.
Now what was bad about this script? It used so much ex machina, like the infinity transducer? Really? Why did Vesp call himself the Turtle? Before Wally becomes the Flash in this script he becomes depressed that he will never be able to live up to Barry. One of the worst things I have ever read. Just so plain bad. Flickering Myth was right, it is very grounded and one of Goyer's best scenes is perhaps the moment with Barry and Wally within the Speed Force. Yet, you know what this movie would have been like? X-Men: The Last Stand. Not a good movie. Not a bad movie. Something more...
Chris Brancato Screenplay:
Wally West is a punk kid, whose aunt Iris Allen's husband Barry Allen picks him up at the Keystone City Police Department. Wally falls for Linda Park, who is smitten with cop Hunter Zolomon. Barry begins to mentor Wally, but despite being the Flash, dies in a fire. Wally's best friend John Harris is in a wheelchair. After Iris Allen dies, Wally's Flash powers activate and with John, he becomes the new Flash. They test the limits of his powers, but also investigate Mayor Savage (Vandal Savage). Turns out, Savage and Zolomon worked together to kill not only Iris, but also Barry. Gasp. With the Speed Force, Wally goes back in time and receives training from Barry. Going back to the future, Wally defeats Savage and embraces Linda. Yaaaay.
This is the most cheesy out of all of the screenplays. It would have worked if it was made much earlier, but if it was made much earlier it would have bombed because of previous failures (see Steel and by that I mean look it up, don't actually watch it). It very much seems to be a transitory script, written to diverge from Goyer's idea, but actually written as a template for another writer. Also, the Speed Force segment in this is so bad.
Marc Guggenheim Screenplay:
This script focuses instead on Barry Allen, whose mother was murdered and father framed, and shows his job as a Crime Scene Investigator, his unrequited love for Iris Allen and his love for scientist Eobard Thawne. He grows acquainted with STAR Labs worker Valerie, is saddened with Iris becomes engaged to Nathan Newbury and becomes the Flash. Placed in the care of Eobard, who is in a wheelchair, Barry's mentor Police Chief Chyre is murdered by Captain Cold. Beating Cold, Iris learns Barry is the Flash. Barry is then attacked by another speedster and loses. Valerie is killed by Eobard, who reveals himself to be the Reverse Flash. Barry diffuses bombs across the city, kills Cold, views the Multiverse, defeats Thawne and spends some time in the Speed Force with his parents. Oh yeah, and then he meets the Green Lantern.
This is when the scripts went from okay to bad. Guggenheim lays out a great plot for a comic book, but horrible for a movie. So much is going on. Barry fucks Valerie, but Eobard kills her, good for him that Nathan just happened to be working for Cold, who was working for Eobard, so that Iris can break up with him to be with Barry, but before she even knows that she plans on doing it anyways after COLD NEARLY KILLS HER FIANCE! Oh yeah, and it deals with alternate timelines and the Multiverse in one movie? Dafuq? Movies should not do that. Comics and tv shows can, but for a movie, unless your film is focused on it, it is too much.
So how did those three screenplays evolve into the television show? Well, in the tv show, we have Barry Allen have a traumatic childhood where his mom is killed by the Man in Yellow, be struck by lightning and taken to a rehabilitation center in STAR Labs. After waking up, Barry works with wheelchair bound Harrison Wells and his scientists Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow. Fighting several metahumans, Barry finds a rival in Leonard Snart, a thug who comes to be known as Captain Cold. Eventually publicly named the Flash by his unrequited love Iris, who happens to be dating Eddie Thawne, the partner of Joe West, Barry finally meets the Man in Yellow. The STAR Labs team is unable to apprehend him and as time passes, Barry believes that Wells may be the Man in Yellow. Eventually Barry opens this up to the rest of the team and get Wells to admit to being Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash. Eobard kidnaps Eddie, the team fights Gorilla Grodd and then manages to defeat Eobard, capturing him. Eobard keeps manipulating the team and builds a device that is to let him get to the future, and send Barry to the past to save his mother. Barry doesn't do it and refuses to let Eobard leave. The fight that follows is ended by Eddie, who commits suicide to prevent Eobard's birth. A wormhole forms and Barry rushes out to stop it.
Now, how was this story adapted from the screenplays? Going back to the Goyer one, obviously Jerry becomes Cisco and Tina McGee becomes Caitlin. However, if Tina is indeed Caitlin, we have to agree that she is a mix of the show's Iris as well just as Goyer's Wally is a mix of the show's Barry and Ronnie Raymond. Goyer's Iris Allen is clearly a substitute for the show's Joe West, just as Vesp and Zoom together make the show's Eobard Thawne. Yet, character transformations from this script to the show are all over the place. We can argue that the movie's Zoom also parallels Eddie Thawne, or that the movie's Barry actually substitutes show Barry's mother and partially Joe. The most interesting thing from this script, is how the idea of the wheelchair for Eobard Thawne began to develop. Yeah, it is hard to trace clean lines from the first script to the show. So, let us define those lines by looking at Brancato's screenplay.
Now the second script keeps a very similar premise to the first one, but is much more in tone with the tv show. Linda Park is the tv show Iris Allen, dating a cop (show is Eddie Thawne, movie is Zolomon) while being crushed on by Wally West (just as Barry does with Iris in the show). Wally's battles with cyclones is very reminiscent with Barry's battle with tornadoes. The bomb horde appears to have been retained for the Trickster episode. In the general story, the second script is different, but for filler episodes and subplots, it is very similar.
Then comes the third script, which was actually written by the guys in charge of the show. It is the most similar, primarily because of Barry Allen. His backstory is very similar to that of the show, Eobard's role is very similar as well and Valerie appears as a mix of Cisco/Caitlin who is fucked by Barry, who is a conglomerate of himself from the show and Ronnie Raymond. Plus, the sequence in the Speed Force where Barry meets his mom goes through another evolution.
So from those three scripts, you can trace the evolution of three films to a show and have my thoughts on all four projects.