Have Marvel broken Hollywood?

The shared movie universe: it is a well sought after concept which is slowly eating away at movie franchises and destroying the quality of the summer blockbusters and it is all Marvel’s fault. The idea of a shared universe is that a number of films are linked by taking place in the same environment, world or timeline. If it is successful, it can mean big money and huge returns as each new installment is met with interest. If it is done badly it can destroy a movie series before it has truly begun.

The issue is that it has only been done well once. Marvel launched their Cinematic Universe with Iron Man and slowly, tentatively but with building confidence reached the pinnacle of shared universes with Avengers Assemble. Marvel are now at the point where they release two movies every year, linked to their wider universe but sole stories as well. It has become traditional, summer, event viewing and it is making Marvel and Disney a lot of money.

Plans for an Amazing Spiderman Universe were shelved quickly

This means that many other studios want this too. Studios are looking at their properties and wondering how they can make them into shared universes of their own, trying desperately to link huge summer blockbusters together in an attempt to cash-in on Marvel’s success.

Two examples have failed quite significantly so far. The first is The Amazing Spiderman series. The two movies were very good and got favourable reviews by Views from the Sofa but definitely had one major issue, foreshadowing and setting-up sequels. The first movie slightly hinted at a wider world while the second jammed it down your throat. For many this meant that the film lacked substance and rather than concentrate on just the story that was being told, the movies worked too hard to ensure people knew they had another story to look forward to.

The second example has managed to weather it’s faults but only just. DC were always going to try to follow Marvel but have decided to speed the process up. Rather than give each hero their own movie, they have jumped almost immediately into shared films, with Batman V Superman being the first proper collaboration in their shared universe. Again, like Amazing Spiderman before it, it is a mixed bag, with some random scenes and moments highlighting future plans. It also makes for a strange ending which feels long-winded without being too clear.

The ball has started rolling for DC though and no amount of poor reception for what should have been the biggest movie of the year will stop their plans. It extends to Suicide Squad later this year, which will surely have it’s own hints and Easter eggs growing the universe wider.

Star Wars are building their shared universe

You would think with two examples of this process not being successful, studios would shy away and take heed but if anything, the opposite is taking place. New franchises are being announced at the first of major shared universe projects, each with their own horrifying plans. Star Wars is the next to get the expanded treatment and may be the only series which survives the process, especially as it lends itself more to this type of storytelling and is already seven movies in.

Lucasarts and Disney aren’t just stopping there though. Indiana Jones has been “unofficially” announced as being part of a bigger universe but how that would work is anybody’s guess. It isn’t just Disney trying this either, Sony are having another go at bringing more films under one umbrella with their Ghost Corps company trying to expand their new Ghostbusters into a larger universe. To already have the studio department set-up, with the logo appearing at the beginning of the reboot, shows clear intentions.

Ghost Corps makes Sony’s intentions clear

Even horror movies are getting in on the act. Universal want their famous monsters to team-up eventually. It begins with Tom Cruise in The Mummy but should then lead to Wolfman, Frankenstein and probably yet another Dracula movie seeing as the Luke Evans version failed to inspire.

Shared universes are breaking Hollywood. They need to stop planning the next film before the first has been successful (or not as is usually the case). It is making for shallow movies which constantly feel like a prequel to something larger rather than a proper installment in the wider story.

Is there a Universal monsters universe coming?

If studios are going to go down the shared universe route, they need to take a leaf out of Marvel’s book and build slowly. Superheroes lend themselves to this device much better and more easily but if you rush it, you end up with under performing and underwhelming movies like DC’s Dawn of Justice.

Overall, shared universes are Hollywood’s new craze but need to be put to rest. Too many studios are attempting to build and develop their own version, often for franchises which don’t fit the mold. For every Marvel or Star Wars, there is a bizarre plan for Ghostbusters or Indiana Jones which can only really end in failure.

An Indiana Jones universe seems silly


8 thoughts on “Have Marvel broken Hollywood?

  1. I agree that Marvel kicked off the trend and other attempts have paled in comparison – or been utter disasters in their own right – but I don’t really think it’s fair to blame Marvel for other studios making poor movies that are weakly tied together. I don’t think I want an end to shared-universe movies; I just want BETTER shared universe movies. (But related: I’m starting to feel burnout on all the DC TV shows, and I’m not sure how much of that is 1. I just don’t care about Supergirl or how they’re going to cram her into the Flash/Arrow/Legends-verse and 2. The CW can’t even handle getting their scheduling straight to keep TWO series’ synchronized, and I shudder to think how they’ll handle more.)

    1. I haven’t kept up with DC at all but I know what you mean. It becomes difficult to follow and watch and to juggle the different tones and ideas ends up compromising one of your shows.

  2. I’m not sure if they’ve “broken” Hollywood necessarily, but I am convinced that Hollywood has finally bitten off more than it can chew with trying to launch all of these franchises and shared universes fairly close together like they are. As it stands right now, if the audience suddenly changes its mind and superhero films aren’t “in” anymore, than Hollywood is going to be in a world of hurt because they’re so heavily invested now in bringing all of these films together.

    1. I think Marvel could do just enough to keep ahead of that curve but it is the X-Men franchise, DC and other inferior ones which may struggle when the crash eventually does happen.

  3. I don´t think shared universes would break Hollywood, i think even good series die out eventually to come back later.

    STAR TREK had a shared universe since 1987, when a TV show was going simultaneously as the movie.
    The “Star Trek:The Next Generation” TV show came after the success of the “Star Trek IV: the Voyage home” movie, and then them the movie series went on with three more series with eventual cross-overs, something
    that only ended in 2005, due to franchise fatigue. (and competition with earlier marvel movies and Lord of the Rings and the Matrix.

    Star Trek stopped in 2005 and only returned via reboot in 2009, and now is showing to be strong to be back on its feet with a new TV series going. It only needed a time-out to breathe.

    1. There is something in that. Maybe that is what is going to happen when these franchises have their own fatigue. The issue is that studios don’t let series rest, they are very quick to get them back to the screen, for example Fantastic Four and Spiderman.

    1. That’s true. That seems to be the recipe for failure and disappointment. It also means that studios are more concerned with what is to come rather than what they have already.

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