The MCU Effect: Do We Need Cinematic Universes?

Jordan Samuel Jordan Samuel
Expert Contributor
December 20th, 2017

Content Editor, Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast

The MCU Effect: Do We Need Cinematic Universes?
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Do We Need Shared Universes?

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Marvel's interlinked superhero franchise has transformed the industry as rival studios fight for dominance, throwing away the need for old-school storytelling. A move which has resulted in film studios including Warner Bros, Paramount, and Universal all pushing for their respected universes. The last couple attempts include The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Green Lantern and The Mummy which all failed to be a success, with planned sequels all shut down before filming dates.

These projects all felt rushed despite long and historical source material, couldn’t create a livable world with established lore. Instead, all felt like useless cash grabs from Hollywood, with mind-bogglingly terrible choices and not understanding their director’s visions. But the question is for many, do we need Shared Universes? Do we need Studios to force rich characters into a rugged box? Thus, pushing away from directorial vision with unnecessary baggage and studio interruptions.

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Connected universes started all the way back in 1940, with the iconic Universal monster films that were all loosely connected in one world with Dracula and Frankenstein all able to coexist. It was a for Hollywood, with Studios able to have their lore and set rules for future stories. It did come with problems due to installments feeling almost identical. The idea sadly died out in the end as horror movies stopped connecting with audiences, but was revitalized decades later in 2008 with the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios made it work with their shared universe, taking time and effort into providing cinematic versions to the famous comic book runs. Connecting each hero ultimately for an endgame event, that would allow for universe growth.  Marvel’s Kevin Feige understands how to bring mythology into a more expanded universe while fleshing out each character with their journey and allowing for creative control. The MCU not only worked but set a template for future studios to copy.

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Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal and Paramount studios have all tried bringing together universes to our screens. This year prime example of how not to build a universe seen in Universal’s Mummy reboot, which released to a strong negative response as many critics pointed fingers at the rushed world building. It was a slap in the face to audiences, who were expecting a one and done popcorn adventure, instead witnessed a glorified advert. It was set to establish a world of monsters, with connected stories but the laughable attempts to made audiences interested in their world were the most significant downfall. A standalone adventure would have been more reasonable, providing doubt on the whole cinematic universe craze.

Various studios are going through similar issues with the disastrous Batman v Superman and Amazing Spider-Man 2, all cramming too many cooks in the kitchen and not relying on the directorial vision. Both films rushed to introduce new characters for future projects, failing to focus on the structure and plot. Both Zack Synder and Marc Webb's vision felt at odds with the studio's ideas, resulting in a disappointing release.

Perhaps the shared universe idea is limiting creative vision? As it set unnecessary boundaries, in the past studios allowed directors to bring out original takes on iconic heroes. But nowadays are resurrected with rules ending up with excellent projects. Spider-Man (2002), Superman (1979) and recently Wonder Woman (2017) focused on the characters without rugged world building, but still broke records. Wonder Woman brought in a box office haul of $821.9 million, despite the mediocre reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Warner is now planning to focus on individual releases, which needs to be commended for allowing more creative freedom.

But the question still stands for studios, Do audiences need these modern cinematic universes while Marvel Studios and Universal Studios made it work is the hard sweat and pain worth it. Losing all creative control in progress, and restricting substantial projects. Perhaps, these big cooperate movie companies should focus on creating robust films. Throwing away the over complicated baggage, and continuity for great cinema. I love these connected universes but do miss the old, comic book adaptations with no studio meddling.

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