In the most recent issue of Doctor Strange, The Ancient One had an interesting speech. He tells Strange that “every punch has it’s price” and I believe we are starting to see that in film thanks to Marvel and the success of it’s Avengers universe.
Marvel Films did something we hadn’t seen before. It built a universe of characters in a series of films and television shows. It’s a pretty big feat but it was achieved with a plan and in many ways, organically. Let’s be honest, if Iron Man had failed at the box office, they would’ve made another go at a Marvel film but having it connect with Iron Man might have been a stretch.
Financially, it has done well because of two major factors:
- Marvel has become a brand of quality almost akin to Pixar. They have yet to make a bad movie. They have made a couple of not-so-great movies (Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron) but nothing terrible. Because of this, the audience has a certain assurance that their theatre dollars are not misspent on a film with the Marvel logo. Ant Man, for example, did well despite the fact that 90% of the audience had no idea who Ant-Man was beyond “He’s a Marvel character”.
- The films stand somewhat alone but make you want to see the connected ones. If you disliked Iron Man, you don’t really need to see it to enjoy Captain America. Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers are enjoyable by themselves. We are now getting closer to a point where this will be less and less true (Civil War for example) but at the moment, a lot of these films are stand alone. Marvel has managed to take these films and connect them in a way that you may not need to see the others but the end credit tags make you want to.
This has been great for us comic fans and a portion of the general public is now starting to realize what we saw in comics in the first place (to all of the cool kids from Bradford High School that looked down upon my reading comics, you’re welcome). But with this comes the price.
Every film company now wants their own Avengers franchise, their own shared world, to the point some of them don’t make sense. Take these recent examples.
Universal Monster Universe
Universal has been intent on relaunching their monster films (The Mummy, Wolf Man, Frankenstein, etc) as part of one cohesive universe. This started with the film Dracula Untold.
Unfortunately they didn’t really tell anybody about it at the time… not to mention the Dracula film wasn’t particularly good. Now, that doesn’t spell the end of the UMU but it doesn’t bode well. Apparently the rest of the films will have a modern setting because that’s what these monsters need. With this series we get new takes on Frankenstein (or The Bride of Frankenstein), Wolf Man (yet again) and The Mummy. The only one to show any real progress seems to be the reboot of The Mummy which may star Tom Cruise.
Up until November, I would have said this particular shared universe was going to be a non-starter, especially after the performance of Dracula Untold. That was before the Tom Cruise rumours started to appear around the web. If Cruise signs on, it suddenly brings a lot to the franchise. While he has had a few flops over the past few years, he is arguably one of the biggest stars in the world. He opens doors to box offices in places like China that other actors would not. He also doesn’t waste time on projects that he doesn’t think are viable. Cruise will take risks in terms of the movies he wants to do and once he signs on, he does his damnedest to make sure he isn’t wasting his time. And if he is involving himself with the UMU, there might actually be something here.
The Hasbro Universe
It was recently announced that Hasbro Studios and Paramount Studios were starting up their own shared Universe. The headline made sense as traditionally Transformers and G.I. Joe have shared the same universe and both franchises were set up at Paramount. Transformers has done phenomenally well at the box office but could use a good face lift before the next cinema outing and let’s be honest, if the idea of The Rock’s Roadblock standing on the shoulder of Optimus Prime with a gattling gun firing at Decepticons doesn’t make you smile, you probably shouldn’t be reading stuff on this website.
The problem is, that’s not what they are doing.
G.I. Joe will be the tent pole for the HMU, which makes sense. It’s two films in with the second one doing particularly well. The Joes will be joined by M.A.S.K. which I can also make sense of. M.A.S.K. could easily be an off shoot of G.I. Joe or at the very least, exist in the same universe with no problems to my suspension of disbelief. However, they are joined by Micronauts, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light and Rom the Space Knight.
I’d love to know a) what the thinking behind connecting these properties is and b) was anyone paying attention to what properties they were throwing into this shared universe or did they just pick toy lines out of a hat?
Micronauts I can kind of see as they exist in the Microverse, so they could be under Roadblock’s boot. How you connect them to G.I. Joe beyond that… good luck. The same goes for Visionaries. If you aren’t familiar with them, I don’t blame you.
The Visionaries lasted one wave of toys and a short lived cartoon series. Essentially, they were on a different planet that used to have technology but for some reason it all stopped working and they had to go back to being knights and use magic. Each knight had a hologram of an animal or something that they could magically turn into… or astral project.. or something. The toys were pretty cool but expensive to make, hence why it didn’t last long.
Rom the Space Knight was exactly that, a space knight. He was a cyborg from another planet that fought an alien race called the Dire Wraiths. The character’s history is pretty interesting as it was a toy developed by board game makers Parker Brothers. Park Brothers wanted to promote the toy so they licensed the character to Marvel comics. The comic took off, lasting for years and becoming such a part of the Marvel universe that when the license lapsed, it has now left some sizable holes in the Marvel galactic frontier.
Now I can see how easily you could link Visionaries and Rom together. Or you could put the Visionaries in G.I. Joe’s Earth in the past. That’s doable (Cobra is looking for lost Visionary technology or something) which makes it also linkable to M.A.S.K. How do you link all of these franchises into one cohesive universe? What evil could threaten all of these characters that would facilitate some sort of team-up?
To be honest, there is an incredibly easy answer: Unicron.
Unicron is the Transformers‘ evil god. He eats planets and destroys worlds without any problem. He is like Galactus but a robot. It’s a simple threat but it’s a way to unite all of these universes against a common enemy. The post credit scenes of these films could be epic previews of what is to come when everyone teams up to take this evil giant robot down.
The problem? For whatever reason, Transformers are not sharing this universe.
To which I say, WHY THE HELL NOT?
Hasbro and Paramount are currently developing a slew of spin-offs and films for Transformers but in my humble opinion, they are completely missing the forest for the trees. Transformers are your linchpin. They are a series of films that, no matter how terrible I think they are, have made a ton of money. From a writer’s stand point, they are also a linchpin in terms of the rest of the properties. Rom the Space Knight? Optimus Prime has heard legends of him. Visionaries? Bumblebee spent a vacation on their planet. Micronauts… er… Perciptor has seen them… or something. At any rate, the Transformers are galactic beings that live on Earth which makes connecting the dots a lot easier.
As a fan (as previously mentioned) of Transformers, I have a heavy dislike for the Bayformers but I can say to you that if some one told me they were teaming up with G.I. Joe and these other properties to fight Unicron, I would be in the theatre opening weekend no matter how bad the trailers looked.
So why not connect the huge Transformers franchise to the decent sized G.I. Joe franchise to give the other more unknown films the rub?
DC Film Universe
This one is well into motion and almost everything they do baffles me. If it were a conversation, I believe it would go something like this:
WB: We’ve got a pretty succesful movie in Man of Steel.
ME: Yup, it’s a good start to building up the DCU in film.
WB: So we should do a sequel to that movie.
ME: Completely agree.
WB: So let’s add another Justice Leaguer so we can start working towards a Justice League movie. We want Avengers Money!
ME: Okay, maybe you’re jumping the gun a little but I can see where you’re coming from. And by doing it this way, you make it a little different than how Marvel is doing things.
WB: Awesome! So we’ll use Batman!
ME:… well we’ve had a lot of Batman over the last few years but a cameo isn’t a bad id…
WB: He’ll costar! It’ll be Superman vs Batman!
ME: Wait… that might be going a little fast…
WB: And we’ll throw in a medium sized part for Wonder Woman!
WB: And Aquaman will be in it to! And Lex Luthor! LEX LUTHOR WITH HAIR! He won’t be the Lex Luthor but Lex Luthor Jr because that makes sense! And Doomsday! Maybe Cyborg! Do you think people will sit through a six hour super hero movie? What am I saying? OF COURSE THEY WILL!
ME: Okay I think we need to bring it back a little bit…
WB: JUSTICE LEAGUE! EVERYONE ABOARD THE JUSTICE LEAGUE MONEY TRAIN! WOO WOO!
ME: Okay, if you are intent on doing the Justice League movie… before the Justice League movie, are you going to include the tv shows like The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl. They’re all doing well and already have great fan followings. It could bring you more people to the theaters and you don’t have to bother establishing them as characters because you’ve already done that.
WB:… fuck those guys.
WB: We’ll need a new Flash for sure… not sure about Green Arrow. Why would anyone root for an archer in a superhero movie? But if we do put him in, we’ll recast him.
WB: Well you see tv audiences and movie audiences er… *mumbles* that is to say *mumbles* … oh hey maybe we can cast Channing Tatum as Dirty Harry… got a great idea, gotta go.
ME: But wait, your other idea is a mess and is only half done…
WB: ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM! * runs out of the room with his arms stretched out like an airplane *
ME: For fuck’s sake.
I honestly feel like that’s their thinking. DC’s television shows are better then Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and are probably the best comic book tv shows out there. Why wouldn’t you use them to get a good fan base going? And why would you even try to cram that much stuff into one film? Note, I’m not even touching on what I think are questionable casting choices. I left Suicide Squad out of this because, despite the Batman cameo, I have a feeling it will kind of stand on it’s own two feet and if the Justice League film dies on the vine, Suicide Squad might still survive.
And just to spotlight how bad this looks, I am the one member of Geek Hard that really liked Man of Steel. I enjoyed the crap out of that film and was looking forward to a sequel but this… this looks like a mess.
This is a little out of left field as details about the female lead Ghostbusters are sketchy. What I am suggesting might come to pass or they might even do me a few better, but for now we are going on the concept that the new Ghostbusters film is a reboot and the original Ghostbusters film did not occur in the same universe.
Which is a mistake.
Now before anyone out there feels that I dislike the idea of the new Ghostbusters film because it’s a female driven cast, I can assure you that’s not the case. In fact, I rather like the cast and I feel that they can do something really different with the film and the characters as opposed to it just being a simple gender swap. I think this is actually a better idea than using the original cast who are kind of done. Without Harold Ramis and Bill Murray (who was the hold out until the video game), a new film of the old Ghostbusters would be sad and missing two very key components. Using a new cast, a new story and a new take on the Ghostbusters is a great way to go.
Why does it have to be a reboot? Why does the original film had to have not taken place? Why can’t we have an all female edition of Ghostbusters in the same universe? They could be bootleg Ghostbusters, ripping off the originals for fun and profit or the Ghostbusters could have turned into a franchise like Venkman predicted in the first film. None of these ideas negate an all female Ghostbuster squad nor do you even need any interaction from the original cast. Making it a reboot just seems like a way out for a lazy writer who can’t connect the dots on a two dot picture.
Imagine the spin-offs you could do. Ghosts have become problems all over the planet, forcing Ghostbusters franchises to show up everywhere. You can have this all female Ghostbuster squad and subsequent sequels. You leave the door open for the remaining original Ghostbusters to do another film or cameos or smaller parts. You can do a group of rookies that are taking over the original Ghostbusters New York stomping grounds. Ghosts take over Beijing and an all star squad of Ghostbusters from around the world are assembled to trap them (the added bonus of filming in China and opening up to that lucrative box office market). Jackie Chan as a Ghostbuster! You could have a great run with all of these new takes on the same concept without having to ignore the original.
As I said, this is going on the fact they’ve called it a reboot. Honestly, part of me thinks it might be a smokescreen. All of the remaining Ghostbusters are making cameo appearances in the new film, supposedly as other characters but I wonder if that’s the truth or just a surprise for when I’m in the theater.
But hey, what do I know, I could be completely off the mark on all of these. Let me hear your take. What do you think of these “Shared World” ideas?
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!