Hello, fellow moviegoers!
For today's article, I decided to pose and discuss a question that has been on my mind a lot lately. That question involves the idea of cinematic universes. Cinematic universes have become a dime a dozen anymore. This modern trend all started when Marvel decided to have Samuel L. Jackson show up at the end of Iron Man and ask about the Avengers Initiative. Now, it seems like every other week there is an announcement about some new cinematic universe that is in the works. But are there too many cinematic universes? Is a cinematic universe really the best way to tell these stories? Here's what I think.
First, I'd like to discuss what a "cinematic universe" is exactly. If you're not super up-to-date in film news, then chances are you have no idea what they are. So, to put it simply, a cinematic universe is a series of films that take place in the same world, but they aren't necessarily prequels or sequels to one another. One of the earliest examples of this was the "Universal Monsters", a series of monster movies put out by Universal that featured many of the same cast and recurring characters. This included films such as Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and more. The modern form of cinematic universe, however, features more interwoven films, rather than loosely tied together films with the same cast.
There are several good examples of a modern cinematic universe done right. Oddly enough, the two most successful examples are both Disney properties. Those would be the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars films. The Marvel Cinematic universe, or MCU, features all of the films put out by Marvel Studios since 2008. That includes Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and much more. The MCU has become incredibly successful, having grossed over $11 billion total throughout 15 films, and they still have dozens more in the works. The Star Wars franchise is new to the world of cinematic universes. What was once just a series of films, became a universe when Disney started canonizing TV shows and comics and creating other films that stray away from the main Skywalker Saga (i.e. Rogue One and the upcoming Han Solo movie). Both the Star Wars films and the MCU are prime examples of how to handle a cinematic universe well.
There are several examples of cinematic universes that have been less than well handled, and there are plenty of cinematic universes that don't need to happen at all. The most recent cinematic universe to get started is Universal's Dark Universe, which began with The Mummy a few weeks ago. Universal is trying to create a new cinematic universe based on the same monsters and characters they did back in the 30s-50s. While that may sound like a good idea on paper, I'm beginning to think that these characters would work best in individual movies. The world they set up in The Mummy was interesting enough, but I'm afraid they're going to focus too much on that, and not enough on the actual characters.
On many occasions, cinematic universes have attempted to launch and then failed miserably. For example, the Dark Universe, which I mentioned above, was supposed to begin with 2014's Dracula Untold. However, that film was neither well received or a box office hit, so they scrapped it and restarted with The Mummy. The same exact thing happened with DC before they officially got the DC Extended Universe up and going. The DCEU was supposed to begin with 2011's Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds. However, similar to Dracula Untold, it was a failure, so they tried again with Man of Steel two years later.
In my opinion, a cinematic universe is not the ideal way to make a series of movies. If it works, it works really well, as you can tell with Marvel and Star Wars. However, it's really difficult to start one successfully. Studios get too caught up in the universe and don't focus on the themes and characters. Plus, half the time, the property isn't prime for a cinematic universe anyway (I'm sorry, Dan Aykroyd, but a Ghostbusters cinematic universe is an awful idea). There are certain properties that cinematic universes work well for, but when a cinematic universe fails, it fails hard. The DCEU barely survived 2016, and they're lucky Wonder Woman was amazing, otherwise, they would be in a lot of trouble right about now.
So are there too many cinematic universes? Right now? No. However, studios are constantly trying to make them work and failing at them. If they do end up going through with some of these ideas, there undoubtedly will be too many. A more traditional sequel/prequel series style is a much safer, and often more effective way to handle a series. Cinematic universes are just too risky, and I don't understand why major studios keep green-lighting them.
What do you think? Are you a fan of the cinematic universe, or do you prefer more traditional sequels for a franchise? Let me know by commenting on this post! Also, if you enjoyed this article, share it on Facebook and Twitter. It really helps! Don't forget, I post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so check back then for more movie reviews and other miscellaneous movie thoughts!
Follow Me for Updates!