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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 11:52am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

In theory, I have nothing against shared universes. However, I do believe that they should be "organic" rather than contrived.

Personally, I feel they should come about due to a sincere demand, e.g. a character or characters proves so popular in a long-running franchise, that a studio decides to give them a movie or TV spin-off. 

Nowadays, I feel that the shared universe concept is to studios what a bone is to a dog. They all want that slice of the pie, even if it doesn't happen organically. I'm reading that Universal's Dark Universe is, at best, in limbo - or, at worst, cancelled. Perhaps it's "tail wagging the dog" to decide you want a shared universe and then start churning out concepts/films. 

Some of the stuff I read defies belief, e.g. Sony's plans for a solo Mysterio movie and a solo Kraven film (I'd say both work better as opponents of Spider-Man). One hears rumours of other proposed shared universes, but it doesn't feel organic or credible, not always. It just feels like some studio head is saying, "We need a shared universe, throw some concepts out there, announce some release dates, get a film made - and let's combine it all." I'm not saying that happens EVERY time, but it feels that way.

I feel the DCEU rushed a "shared universe" into production. If we say that the MCU, for any faults it may have, built its house on a solid foundation, and took time, then the DCEU may well be the cowboy builders who rushed the house building - and built it on sand!

I think, and this is only my view as a regular cinemagoer, that the best thing for studios to do is to take it slowly. See what reception characters get. Or test the waters. But, as the Dark Universe appeared to do, it seems like they just announced a load of projects, gave us some release dates and hoped it would all work.

Is rushing a "shared universe" really the answer for any potential franchise? Again, I believe it'd be right to make films - or even a mini-shared universe - and then see what the reaction is. 

Also, I think that whilst "shared universes" can work, imitation, whilst the sincerest form of flattery, isn't always viable. Not everything needs a shared universe (was anyone ever actively lobbying for a Dark Universe?). I know that studios have been jumping on the bandwagon since year dot, and that there is understandably a temptation to get a slice of the pie, but maybe the MCU doesn't have to be a template for everything.

Thoughts?
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Jabari Lamar
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 2:44pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I agree.
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Charles Valderrama
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 3:18pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Not everything needs a shared universe.... right.... but it would've been great for DC to have a SOLID shared universe like Marvel... because that's how their comic book history is. Heroes interact; they team up, they are inspired by other heroes, etc. Never felt Marvel had to be the template WB uses to get their shared universe started but they certainly put the wrong people in charge. (It wasn't rushed because WB took a long time after Man Of Steel to produce the BvS and WW.) The less said about Justice League, the better. How they messed THAT up requires a special kind of stupid!! With what's been produced in the last 10 years, WB should never have messed JL up. Still, maybe other studios should stick to the basics and leave shared universes to Marvel.

-C!
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Mario Ribeiro
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 4:09pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Just another thing comics do better than movies. Shared universes... pfui!

Edited by Mario Ribeiro on 26 April 2018 at 4:11pm
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 4:32pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with beginning with the end in mind. If the end goal is a shared universe, it is not unwise to proceed from the beginning with that goal. You do have to be certain that what you're selling is something the consumer wants, however.

Universal's "Dark Universe" proceeded from a series of false assumptions. While it makes perfect sense that the Mummy, Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein's Monster could all inhabit the same onscreen reality, as they did years ago, Universal misjudged the public's appetite for such a franchise. Universal's original films of the thirties and forties represented the cutting edge of horror in their day. They do not represent what the current audience wants from its horror films. Today, it's slasher fare, torture porn, and other forms of brutality that titillates and amuses the average moviegoer. 

If Universal wasn't willing to hand its babies over to the butcher, or rather, turn them into butchers themselves, then what were the famous Universal Monsters and their franchise going to become? Adventure movies? Special FX extravaganzas? It hardly mattered. The public wasn't interested in any of it. No one cared that Kenneth Branagh's Henry Jekyll was filmdom's newest Nick Fury, inviting monsters to join his Universal Initiative. 

DC's errors are of a different sort. The public did want movies of these characters. The people DC hired to do them didn't. They wanted bizarre tribute versions to their own ugly, little predilections. What? Christopher Nolan got to do hi-i-i-izzzz... Now it's my turn!! I want to do mi-i-i-innnnne...! And the studio could not shovel enough money in their direction, getting in return, not studio-level, big budget super-hero adventure films, but rather twisted, ugly power fantasies disguised as mainstream fare. Half-indie, half-bloated budget extravaganzas, these films were utterly tone-deaf to the original intentions or feel of the characters. 

So terrified of creating a big-screen Super Friends episode was the studio that it opted instead for something between Wings of Desire, Platoon, and Saw, done by creators who hated everything the original characters stood for. Filmed by another director, even Wonder Woman would have been a torturous slog through misery had that script with it's death on the beach, death of the village, and death of everyone at the base during the finale been given the weight the script clearly wanted it to have and was denied.

Unfortunately, once they'd committed to this "vision," they had to try to maintain the same characters and actors even as they began to experiment with tone and humor. So far, none of their experiments has been completely successful and only one has been genuinely entertaining. 

It would be nice if grand intentions could be counted on to net grand results, but that's not often the case. Marvel began with the intentions of making an Avengers movie and cast its films appropriately, keeping the tone light enough that they could go darker or lighter as the material called for. Starting out dark, foul, and sadistic gave DC far less room to maneuver. "B-B-But we didn't want people to think we were gonna give 'em cartoons..." Congrats. Mission accomplished. Those films are NOT cartoons. They're also no damn good whatsoever. 

Are there more would-be universes out there? Haven't there just been these three vying for the public's movie-going dollar? Alien, Blade Runner, the Terminator, Saw, Freddy, and Jason all build on their pre-existing film successes in hopes of more, but they're not exactly tentpoles to burgeoning cinematic universes, are they? They're just franchises, cranking out one more at a time.

So, one smashing success, one disappointing non-starter, and one ongoing failure. Cinematic universes as a commercial concept still have a pretty fair batting average. It isn't time yet to call the whole thing off and let Marvel be the only kid allowed in the pool. 

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David Miller
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 6:40pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

The mania for shared universes reminds me of the time Kroger bought out the local grocery, and responded to local affection for the landmark by replacing the enormous, garish neon sign of the store's name with an enormous, garish neon sign with the neighborhood's name. Nobody was attached to enormous, garish signs as a matter of principal, they liked that particular sign. Likewise, the mass audience for shared-universe storytelling doesn't appear to be particular attached to it as a storytelling mechanism. 
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 27 April 2018 at 6:31am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

WB / DC could have built a shared universe very easily.

Start with Superman to kick of the "Heroic Age", then Batman, WW (set in the past as the 2017 WW was), The Flash, Green Lantern and then, take a big risk and go for Martian Manhunter. Next up -- The Justice League.
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John Popa
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Posted: 27 April 2018 at 9:02am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

It reminds me a bit of the glut of super hero universes in the 90's. Whereas continuity in Marvel and DC was mostly a happy accident that people put together over the years, groups like Malibu's Ultraverse announced that they had a master crossover plan and it was linked and plotted and devised so that everything would payoff and come together and we'd all be in on the ground floor and all our obsession over details would be paid off in grand fashion.

In the end, it still wasn't very good and if people weren't interested in it individually, they didn't care about how it mattered collectively either.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 27 April 2018 at 3:36pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

When I started thinking about guest appearances and crossovers, I noted that DC didn't have very many at all. Maybe once or twice a year in the Flash, between Green Lantern and Jay Garrick.

Meanwhile, at Marvel, when I look at the coming books, I had trouble finding a month when there WASN'T a guest spot in some book. There was no doubt it was a shared universe... and for Marvel, that worked. Note that I'm not talking about team-up books such as Marvel Two-In-One or Marvel Team-Up. I mean the usual single star (or team) books - every week seemed to have a crossover somewhere.

A shared universe isn't disturbing... but it's got to be handled right. I'm not sure DC knows how to do it.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 7:32am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

 Brian Hague wrote:
So, one smashing success, one disappointing non-starter, and one ongoing failure. Cinematic universes as a commercial concept still have a pretty fair batting average. It isn't time yet to call the whole thing off and let Marvel be the only kid allowed in the pool.

Fair point (is the Dark Universe officially "dead" as I often read different things?). Is there a particular shared universe you envisage or want, Brian?
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Jack Bohn
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 9:17am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Stephen King's Gunslinger was adapted to launch some movie/TV franchise; wasn't it sold as uniting all of King's works?

Is a series of spinoffs different from a Universe? Star Trek never took advantage of its TNG/Deep Space Nine/Voyager setting (on TV and in the movies, anyway). I've seen fans proposing an anthology series, set on different ships, and even different eras, but I'm not sure it wouldn't just be multiplying costs for sets and casts, if most stories could fit on a ship, as the original "continuing anthology" format. (I would say the producers of Trek have poisoned this well with stories that break out of "anthology" and into "continuity" shoved where they don't fit with Enterprise, the Abrams movies, and Discovery.) (It would be funny if they are now developing their own Octopussy/Never Say Never Again situation.)

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 11:12am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Jack, I think we should never say "never again" to potential Never Say Never Again scenarios. I do think the head-to-head competition between the two Bonds helped both films at the box office, just as I believe both the serious and the comedic takes on Dracula won when Frank Langella's battled George Hamilton's at the multiplex.

I don't think it applies when the two movies are too similar in tone or concept as when two asteroid movies or two volcano movies fight it out. In those cases, audiences do seem to go "either/or." But Tarantino's Trek vs. another Trek could yield some interesting comparisons audiences might want to make for themselves. On the other hand, Trek is a dicey proposition all by itself in this more Star Wars-oriented time. 

I suppose I should have factored SW into the cinematic universe equation. It does seem to be doing well with an array of different premises and headline characters all operating under the same storytelling umbrella. And Disney does seem to be successful in expanding its reach.

Robbie, I don't have any viable ideas for a new cinematic universe. Audiences keep turning a blind eye to Victorian copyright-free characters, so a "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" type of adventure-verse starring Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Dracula doesn't seem commercially promising. I myself would enjoy seeing a series of Oz movies in which the characters spin off and headline feature films of their own. Start with a "Visitors From Oz" premise in which the Tin Man and Scarecrow cross over into Kansas and hang out with Dorothy in our world and from there, give them their own films (the Scarecrow on the other side of the world in a magical Asian fantasyland ala' Ruth Plumley Thompson; the Tin Man seeking to reconcile with the Munchkin girl he lost his body for), as well as ones for the Lion (animal-themed, ala' The Jungle Book) and Tik-Tok (gotta work in the giant robot with the pounding hammer), maybe bringing it all together for an Avengers-style "Army of Oz" movie in which Glinda calls together her far-flung forces to defend the land against the depredations of a Thanos-level Nome King...

Unfortunately, audiences haven't shown much interest in Oz lately and the characters don't lend themselves well to headliner status, especially if we CGI them into existence. One of the masterstrokes Marvel had going for it was the early casting of extremely charismatic, good-looking stars to embody their heroes. DC's films don't have that level of star power or likeability. Ben Affleck's fine, but he's no Robert Downey Jr. Henry Cavill does a fine job as a remote, self-tortured Superman, but who wants to hang out with the guy? 

Oz characters wouldn't have masks you could remove to give the stars face-time and the franchise is permanently tattooed with the label "kiddie-fare." As much as I would like it, it probably wouldn't fly. 

There just aren't that many existing franchises out there with the advantages Marvel has; good-looking young heroes, multiple headliners and realms for them to play in; special effects potential and scale varying from small to epic... DC is one of the few, and they've squandered their riches by crawling up Brian Singer's ass and living there. Who else is out there? Hanna-Barbera maybe? I'd go see a Space Ghost movie, but like Judge Dredd, NOT removing the mask is a key element of the character; one I don't imagine the studio would have any use for. Maybe a Jonny Quest movie and a Herculoids extravaganza. Man, would I like to see a Herculoids movie...! There's some potential there, if we can once again put the whole "kid's stuff" perception behind us. 

The Krofft Universe, maybe? Sure, Rebecca Jansen would be there on opening day for "The Bugaloos" on the big screen, but would anyone else? Can we do a major Pufnstuf movie where the guy is a LOT more fearsome and dragon-like? Would Angelina Jolie come on board as a sexy Witchie-Poo? Again, it would be hard for the characters to take their giant foam heads off and just look good, Tiger Beat-style, for those all important close-ups.


Edited by Brian Hague on 28 April 2018 at 11:19am
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 11:33am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Brian H. - it almost sounds as if you're looking at Phillip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe, where a huge number of pulp heroes are all in the same world - universal conservation, y'know.

I would hit that movie so fast it would make the projectionist's nose bleed.

Here's a little more on the idea:
http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp.htm
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 1:31pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Shared universes are not the problem.
That everyone wants a shared universe NOW, is the problem.

No one is prepared to put in the years that Marvel did to build their franchise.
Their films went
2008 - Iron Man, Incredible Hulk
2009 - nothing (!)
2010 - Iron Man 2 (!!)
2011 - Thor, Captain America

Two films in the first year test the water
Nothing in the second year and then a sequel to one of the first two films.
In the first three years, just three characters appear, and then the background history is filled in via Thor and Captain America before the big team up.
Five years

DC just rushed and rushed as quick as they could and you could see that rush to the detriment of the actual main thrust of plot.

I'm not going to talk about the Mummy, because that doesn't deserve it.

The Godzilla/Kong universe does seem to be taking its time and may actually work
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 2:09pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

That's a good point, James, one I hadn't considered.

I do feel IDW tried to rush their shared universe into existence (M.A.S.K., Action Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers). Each of those properties on their own is appealing. I was a huge fan of them decades ago, and I will read them now. And the attempt/art was commendable.

But it felt rushed and a tad contrived. 10 out of 10 for effort, but it was too cluttered. 

I don't mind properties sharing a universe, e.g. Spider-Man suddenly showing up in a Transformers comic. But with the IDW storyline, it felt redundant, within the context of the storyline, to have several organisations devoted to the protection of the world. It felt a tad crowded.
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 29 April 2018 at 4:14pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

I also felt IDW rushed things Robbie, but with Micronauts & ROM. They had barely got out of the gate & WHAM! Major crossover. I bailed.

Marvel used to do it right in comics - just have characters meet in each otherís comics. The mega crossover was OK once in a while (and if it is self contained) but the annual event thing that hits months of the normal issues as well? Well thatís just frustrating
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