It is no surprise after this summer, that Marvel can do no wrong. They took their most obscure property [Guardians of the Galaxy], a bunch of “not known that well” actors and a director known for B-movie shlock, and somehow turned that into the highest grossing film of the year thus far. How? Their marketing was fantastic of course, and the movie was actually very good, but that isn’t what brought in the big bucks. The gamble for Marvel paid off, because every movie they have made up to this point was connected. The very idea that Guardians, albeit loosely connected, shared the same universe as the other films meant that you almost had to see it or else you wouldn’t be the cool kid at school. Marvel knows what they are doing so much so that every property under the sun is looking to get in on the “shared universe” game. With the NYC Comic Con (the little brother con) taking place this past weekend, lets take a quick look at all the franchises that are attempting to out-Marvel marvel.
Man of Steel was a modest success. So instead of making a sequel to Man of Steel, the powers that be at DC have decided to get their Avengers money ASAP. They are now making what should have been a Man of Steel sequel into gulp Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. So instead of making sure they nail the world of Superman, they’re going to have him play second banana to Batman, add in Wonder Woman, sprinkle in Aquaman, garnish Cyborg, and expect viewers to buy in. This is their first major move. They also are going to give us a Shazam! Movie starring The Rock (a boy who turns into a man who is a superhero), Sandman, Wonder Woman, a Flash/Green Lantern team up movie, a Justice League movie, and THEN a proper sequel to Man of Steel. They have staked out ten release dates, but have only released ONE film so far, which was ok at best. DC/Warner Bros is gambling on people giving a crap about that one movie so much that they are staking pretty much the next 7 years to building a universe around a movie universally regarded as “meh” at best. Good luck… My advice to DC at this point would be stick to TV. Flash and Arrow look great, play well on tv, and feel like characters that are allowed to be themselves. Get away from Nolanizing everything.
Fox Marvel: X-Men and Fantastic Four
Fox feels like they are playing with house money because X-Men Days of Future Past was well received and did awesome worldwide (despite not really earning much more stateside than X-Men 3), so they are striking while the iron is hot by announcing X-Men Apocalypse, developing an X-Force film, greenlighting Deadpool, greenlighting a third Wolverine, and developing X-Factor for tv. That really balloons the X-Men verse quite a bit. Considering that X-Men books feel like they have their own universe outside of Marvel, I can’t say any of this is a bad move. I can however say that with all of those simultaneous properties existing together, start learning how to develop more than two characters per film. There is no need to rely on Wolverine, Magneto, Xavier, and Mystique (because it’s Jennifer Lawrence) each time around. There is a wealth of mutants and vastly different tones to the X-Books. Disney Marvel has proven that comedies, fantasies and dramas can exist in the same universe. X-films need to get better at this. Deadpool is a dark comedy, X-Force is heavy action film, and X-Factor could be this smaller, sleeker affair more in line with a stupid CBS prodecural I’m shocked is still on the air after six seasons. It doesn’t all have to be a morality play.
On the Fantastic Four side of things, all I can say is stop. Marvel comics doesn’t want this happening so much so that they are canceling the book, and the tone of Fantastic Four really doesn’t fit with the X-films, so instead of trying to shoehorn it in and piss of the legions of fanboys, don’t do it. That said, I love the casting of this future trainwreck.
Of all the future shared universes, this is the one that seems to be the outright dumbest. At least DC has the characters to pull off a shared universe (though I wont like the execution). With the Spiderman shared universe, the biggest problems are:
- All of Spiderman’s characters are villains.
- The new Spiderman movies blow
I hate admitting they suck because Andrew Garfield is perfect as Peter Parker and Spiderman. He is just stuck in a film series wrought with poor writing, worse acting, tons of exposition, and a belief that we care about the over-arching mystery of who is pulling all the bad guy strings. So instead of getting another Spiderman in a few years, we’re getting a Sinister Six movie. That will be two hours of us watching what? A bunch of bad guys decide to team up, give themselves a terrible name, and I dunno, kill people or something? Where will Spiderman be? Did he decide to let this happen? Oh wait, he’s going to be in it maybe? Then why isn’t it just called Spiderman? Oh then a Venom movie is going to happen? And he’s going to fight Carnage? Didn’t Venom become Venom after Spiderman took off the symbiote, so then how will Veno-oh nevermind. My advice to the Sony folk; follow the rumors and create a way to get Garfield’s Spiderman into the proper Marvel Universe, and cancel every film currently in development. His films are only two deep, but they are about to become a cluster-fuck of non-profitability and franchise killing. Get him out before its too late and make a tidy profit doing it.
Sure why not! Universal doesn’t have the comic book properties like Disney, WB, Fox, or Sony, so they’ve decided against creating a larger Fast and Furious world (bad move), and hitched their wagon to those old-timey movie monsters? You know, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon (who doesn’t get enough movie love). On paper this is stupid. Most of these characters have had movies in the last ten years that were dumb, and more than that, they have chosen to start this shared universe with the worst possible movie, Dracula Untold. Because no one has asked or cared about how Dracula became who he is, they have decided to make this character, along with whoever the hell Charles Dance plays in the film, the glue of the universe. So in order to really get the new The Mummy coming out in two years, I would have had to seen a movie, most didn’t both to see at the box office this past weekend. Then I have to see a new Van Helsing, and the rest of the movies and then what? All these guys show up in one movie and Van Helsing kills them all? That movie already came out in 2003 and it was dumb. Stringing out a bad decision over a decade doesn’t make it a better one. Instead of worrying about a shared universe for monsters we see every year anyway, just make more Fast and Furiousers!
Give Lego a ton of credit for making a children’s movie [The Lego Movie] that was hilarious, didn’t talk down to kids, and celebrated imagination, without fart jokes. I generally get pretty skittish when a very good kids movie comes out and the immediate emphasis is on sequelizing and spinning off as quickly as possible, but in this case, I can’t help but sign off on it. If you haven’t been paying attention, Lego has taken over entertainment for children in a big way. The Ninjago franchise will be next to get a Lego movie, followed by Lego Batman (who stole the show in Lego Movie), and then a sequel to Lego Movie. It almost looks like the Lego movies are following the DC comics path to universe expansion, by giving us everything else, before the sequel to the movie that started it all. Because the Lego movies are built on irreverence and humor and the guys that mostly make their movies about the idea of making movies, I feel a lot safer about this expansion than many others. Besides, if we get a song halfway as addictive as “Everything is Awesome” it’ll make our universe just a tiny bit brighter.
At the end of the day, I don’t blame any of these distributors for trying to find a way to get you to see all of their movies. What they aren’t paying attention to however, is that you need to hit people hard the first time around to keep them coming back. Iron Man was so good it bought Marvel infinite clout. The Lego Movie was so infectious it was the highest grossing film of the year, until Guardians. Man of Steel was ok. Amazing Spiderman was boring. Dracula Untold will be Unseen by the masses. Word to the wise: If you are going to force me to see four movies over five years just to see the one I want, make sure the first one is good.