Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

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sr shared movies header Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has become the model for episodic blockbuster storytelling in Hollywood – resulting in $6.3 billion in box office revenue (and counting). Of course, those numbers do not include revenue from Blu-ray/DVD sales, licensing, and retail merchandise, which have added millions more to the Disney coffer. There’s no doubt that Marvel Studios’ recent shared cinematic universe was a game-changer – weaving nine films  (so far), the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, and five one-shots into a single narrative web. In spite of a few hiccups, the ambitious project is paying off, raising interest (and box office profits) for any film bearing the Marvel Studios logo.

Not long after the shared universe approach drove record-breaking ticket sales for the first Avengers team-up, Sony and 20th Century Fox began work on longterm franchise plans of their own, in addition to Warner Bros., who hopes to expand on Man of Steel with Batman vs. Superman, a Justice League team-up, and subsequent spinoffs. However, now that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has become one of 2014′s most divisive blockbusters (primarily because of its shared universe stage-setting), it’s time to face a question that has lurked in the shadows: Are shared movie universes hurting superhero films?

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A History of Shared Universe Hiccups

Iron Man 2 Poster Cast Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

When it was first announced that Marvel Studios intended to develop a branching film project, centered on assembling of The Avengers, many fans were worried that quality execution would falter in the shadow of branding ambition – worry that became justified when Iron Man 2 hit theaters.

Director Jon Favreau has (reportedly) indicated behind closed doors that Marvel’s push to get The Avengers shared universe up and running negatively impacted the filmmaker’s original vision for Iron Man 2. Instead of a straightforward continuation of the Tony Stark storyline, Favreau was tasked with introducing key “Phase 1″ characters and narrative threads. As a result, without adequate time to develop, despite brief hints at something more distinct, Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko/Whiplash was turned into a hollow caricature – a one-note villain bent on revenge.

Often, superhero stories are only as good as their villains, and while Iron Man 2 helped set the stage for Marvel’s current success, it did so at the expense of an intriguing narrative about the conflict between two genius sons, from very different backgrounds, attempting to do right by their (deceased) fathers.

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Shared Universe Sacrifice

The Amazing Spider Man 2 Previews Trailers Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Sony (and director Marc Webb) faced a similar challenge with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – which, interestingly, also features a pair of abandoned sons investigating the legacies of their respective fathers. Unfortunately, the studio did not learn from Iron Man 2 criticisms - short-changing villains and supporting characters in favor of setting up their own Sinister Six “shared universe” plot.

No doubt, plenty of viewers still found value in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, especially in Spider-Action beats as well as the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy relationship; that said, in our recent interview with Webb, the director admitted that balancing the current story with future set-up was a major challenge – albeit a fun challenge:

It’s tricky but it’s fun. And we have a great team developing, and everybody gets sort of assigned a different thing. There’s some really exciting stuff coming out with the Sinister Six that I’m really enthused about. And Alex [Kurtzman] is working with them. And there are these great ideas from a bunch of people that are really smart, so I can spread the pressure out. But it’s not pressure, it’s fun! Are you kidding me? It’s very cool. (laughter) We sit around a room and we spitball and we talk about ideas. We do try to be careful about how we plan that out. And that is a little but of a puzzle sometimes.

No one is claiming that an intertwined franchise narrative should be easy to shape and that some sacrifices won’t need to be made, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a poignant example of shared universe threads hurting the overall quality of a standalone film experience. Many (not all) viewers that enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still felt that Electro and Green Goblin were underdeveloped and underserved by the narrative – with only two or three scenes to establish and then catalyze the characters into villainy. They are both interesting and effective antagonists, but they fall short of doing anything more than causing trouble for Spider-Man.

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Wasn’t There More to this Story?

amazing spider man 2 harry osborn Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Many moviegoers still hold Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 in high regard because the film not only upped the action quota, it invested heavily in its villain, showcasing Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus/Otto Octavius as more than a ruthless evildoer. Octavius was relatable, tragic, and (most importantly) reflected key aspects of his rival, Peter Parker. For all of the times we’ve heard Amazing Spider-Man series producers describe their villains as “complex,” the latest film rarely allows those complexities to be put on display.

The disconnect became even more obvious when it was revealed that key scenes (shown in trailers) featuring Electro, Harry and Norman Osborne, as well as Gwen Stacy were all cut from the film – stripping away layers of potential character development. Without question, plenty of movies use deleted scenes in pre-release marketing, but in this particular case, fans have become fixated on the missing scenes – since they seem to indicate that a different, and more nuanced, version of the film exists.

Jamie Foxx in The Amazing Spider Man 2 Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

At 142 minutes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is already a lengthy film – suggesting that Webb was, likely, tasked with pairing down the runtime. Based on the final product, it’s likely that the filmmaker was forced to reshape story in post-production, removing scenes that helped flesh-out his villains, while ensuring that shared universe threads were in place. For that reason, the “deleted” scenes have become a curiosity for disappointed viewers, leading to an online petition (this is the Internet after all) calling on Sony to release a Director’s Cut.

In a grand scheme, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could just be an awkward but necessary step in shared universe building (like Iron Man 2) – one that might be worthy of the hiccups when The Amazing Spider-Man 3 hits theaters. That said, with three, four, or five Sinister Six members still waiting to be revealed (depending on who you believe), and only two films left before the super villain team-up releases, Webb and his team still have a lot of characters and plot beats to introduce – meaning that new Amazing Spider-Man 3 characters might not be given any more attention than Electro and Green Goblin were allowed in Part 2. If that turns out to be the case, is a Sinister Six team-up really worth all the effort – especially if the alternative would have been straightforward (and self-contained) entries in the “untold story” of Spider-Man?

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Days of Self-Contained Storytelling Past

X Men Days of Future Past Full Cast Photo Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Of course, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t the only comic book film hoping to take advantage of a shared universe. Fox has been hard at work on the ambitious time-traveling epic, X-Men: Days of Future Past, uniting the First Class reboot cast with the heroes and villains from the original X-Men film trilogy, while also paving the way for an all-new entry in the series, Apocalypse. Reports indicate that Fox is investing heavily in the project – in the hopes of positioning the X-Men series – which typically does acceptable but not remarkable business at the box office – as a legitimate competitor in the superhero shared universe game.

Days of Future Past is rumored to be the most expensive comic book adaptation to date, but will epic visuals and an all-star cast of new and returning faces also result in an impactful film experience? The film is relying on interesting elements (time travel, cross-franchise character pairings, sentinels) but with over twenty main characters and two separate time periods, Fox may be running the risk of overstuffing their X-Men movie with spectacle – leaving little room for actual mutant drama.

X Men Wolverine poster header Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

After all, the series was rebooted in X-Men: First Class because most viewers found X-Men: The Last Stand to be a hollow production that relied on visual spectacle and vapid mutant cameos rather than developed characters set in an engaging story. Is there enough room to do anything interesting with a character like Quicksilver or Colossus, when Days of Future Past is tasked with exploring themes and fan-favorite mutants from First Class - as well as the original trilogy – all while centering the proceedings (once again) on Hugh Jackman’s scene-stealing Wolverine?

Days of Future Past may find a balance between its characters and the franchise-building plot elements; or it may, instead, be another example of over-reaching shared universe ambition.

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Characters Before Shared Universes

Meet The Guardians of the Galaxy Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Later this summer, Marvel Studios will release Guardians of the Galaxy which will branch-out from the core Avengers storyline – while containing key threads that contribute to the ongoing shared universe. At first, the prospect of launching an entire superhero team outside of the established Avengers narrative sounded like a risky endeavor – especially since the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books are a) set on a galactic playing field and b) do not share nearly the same level of brand recognition as A-listers like the Incredible Hulk and Captain America. Not to mention that two out of five Guardians will be entirely CGI creations – a talking raccoon and a tree that only says three words, “I am Groot.”

Nevertheless, Guardians of the Galaxy has become one of the most talked about summer films of 2014. Why? The trailer put the characters front and center – highlighting the ragtag group of likable troublemakers. We’ve still got a few months before the film hits theaters, but there’s reason to be optimistic that, in spite of requirements to tie Guardians of the Galaxy into The Avengers‘ Thanos arc, director James Gunn will do his zany heroes justice. The project allows for the best of both worlds: a film that functions as a self-contained space adventure full of intriguing (and diverse) characters – while also adding a few more bricks in the expansive cross-film narrative.

First Official Guardians of the Galaxy Cast Photo Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Still, Gunn faces similar challenges as Webb’s Sinister Six setup – with five Guardians, at least four antagonists, and the Nova Corps to introduce. For that reason, it’s certainly possible that the filmmaker will, in the end, have a difficult time balancing elements of his story. That said, despite ties to The Avengers 3, Gunn has indicated that he prioritized the standalone experience over setting up plot threads that will pay-off five years later. Each member of the team, and the villains, have a substantive role to play in the current film plot – intertwined motivations that bring the Guardians together (while allowing room for subtle contributions to the shared universe).

Until the film releases, there’s no guarantee that Gunn will deliver, but with claims that Rocket Raccoon is the “heart” of Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s hard to imagine the filmmaker sidelining character development in the interest of setting-up Marvel Phase 3 projects.

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Will DC do Justice to its Superhero League?

Batman vs Superman Script David Goyer Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Of course, the biggest question mark in the discussion of superhero shared universes is: can Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment successfully introduce their Justice League team over the course of two films? For months we’ve know that Batman vs. Superman would include appearances by several Justice League characters – though it remained unclear whether or not they’d be in costume or simply cameo as “human” alter egos. However, with the announcement that Zack Snyder will direct a Justice League film after Batman vs. Superman, fans have become concerned that the filmmakers are rushing their shared universe – in the interest of catching up with Marvel Studios.

Industry insiders have previously indicated that producing standalone films first, before the Justice League team-up, would make the most sense – with others arguing that, given the right story, it would be possible to introduce all of the characters in one (or two) films (then spin them into solo installments). We don’t know if Batman vs. Superman will utilize the Justice League roster in a meaningful way but, at this point, we expect the team-up film will arrive before a Wonder Woman (or Cyborg) spin-off.

Wonder Woman Batman Superman Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

Will the “backdoor pilot” approach to shared universe building hurt future DC superhero films and their respective central characters? Time will tell. After all, DC heroes are different from those in the Marvel universe, leaving room for different ways of bringing a character like Aquaman, for example, to the big screen.

With two full years before Batman vs. Superman hits theaters, it’s too early to say whether or not DC’s shared universe will, in the long run, hurt their superhero films. Nevertheless, like the other directors responsible for setting up an entire shared universe, Snyder is facing a tough challenge. Without a doubt, if any iconic Justice League heroes are short-changed in the process, fans will demonize the studio for rushing a team-up at the expense of quality character stories.

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility, Right?

Guardians of the Galaxy The Avengers Team Up Header Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

While Marvel Studios has managed to increase interest (and box office returns) by incorporating all of their characters into a shared universe, it remains unclear if the same strategy will work for everyone else. In fact, thanks to middle-of-the-road reviews (and possible franchise fatigue), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has underperformed at the domestic box office. In the long run, Webb’s film will do fine (and earn Sony a solid profit) but the movie could be an early indicator that viewers might be averse to serialized film story lines (at least in certain cases).

What makes moviegoers accepting of shared universe stories in one franchise and not another? Answer: Not all shared universes are created equal – and only certain characters are even capable of carrying an entire universe. Even though the X-Men film brand has typically been lumped into a single series (with the exception of Wolverine spin-offs), the franchise is composed of a wide range of mutant heroes and villains.  The X-Men may be a sub-branch of Marvel Comics but there are still plenty of mutant stories to tell – stories that are completely separate from The Avengers movie universe.

Amazing Spider Man 3 Marc Webb Andrew Garfield Are Shared Movie Universes Hurting Superhero Films?

For that reason, if shared superhero universes in film and television are to continue, filmmakers need to find a more coordinated and nuanced way to build them. Cramming several characters into a single film might help the end goal of expanding an otherwise self-contained storyline, but if audiences are turned-off in the process, what’s the point?

Maybe was Sony overly ambitious in thinking that The Amazing Spider-Man, and his Sinister villains, are capable of maintaining their own shared universe – especially now that producer Avi Arad is stating that Peter Parker is the only Spider-Man they’ll depict onscreen. If characters like Miles Morales are truly off the live-action movie table, it’ll be very interesting to see how the studio intends to continue expanding this specific superhero universe – unless they just plan to reboot the franchise (again) after they complete Peter Parker’s “untold” story in The Amazing Spider-Man 4.

Maybe we should just prepare now for The Spectacular Spider-Man reboot?

[poll id="801"]

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More: 10 Real Crossovers That Would Make Great Shared Movie Universes

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TAGS: batman vs superman, guardians of the galaxy, justice league, Sinister Six, the amazing spider-man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 4, the avengers 2, venom, x-men, x-men apocalypse, x-men days of future past

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  1. Ideally, you would have each character have at least two-three movies before their big team-up film then do films for origins of new characters, then the next big crossover.

    Marvels plan is okay, but sometimes I feel the overdose is affecting each of the films in some way to not be the best they could be.

    Im interested in Dcs approach as it is a more direct escalation,
    Man of Steel < Batman v. Superman < Justice League

    Sony is taking on more than they can chew and trying to do too much and feeling forced to get as much as possible out of one character.

    And Fox is doing an okay job I guess with what they have, considering Wolverine Origins is the only flop so far, Im interested if DayOfFuturePast reboots the universe and they can refresh.

    • I’m personally a bit shook with what Sony will do with Spider-Man. I know he’s got a deep well to draw from, but seriously, I don’t think he has enough in the tank for anything close to the scale we’ll get from Marvel or could get from DC. My best bet, following a Venom movie (or following the Sinister Six, depending,) would be to try and work out a deal to have Spidey used in Marvels’ Universe. They split the profits 25% for Sony to 75% for Marvel (Sony really doesn’t give THAT much at first, and the deal can be reworked later,) put the Web-Head on a solid pedestal, and we all win. Spidey would work so well on a team, (he’s just cocky enough he can still play an awesome Lancer to the main hero, and still get his due.)

      DC has me worried, because I love these guys, but they’re really on thin ice. I lean more in favor of Man of Steel, but I recognize that story was rushed, and while I think it hit 8 out of 10 targets, you really want more if we’re talking team-up. Batman, you can more shoehorn in because the only way to NOT know his story is to have been under a rock for about half a century. Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Lex, and potentially John Stewart are going to need some serious fleshing out. Lex and Wonder Woman both deserve feature films on their own. Cyborg is going to need a lot of publicity. I don’t know if he could sell his own film, but a cameo in Supes vs. Bats, followed by a large part in a Luthor film could be just what he needs, and Stewart could well be a large part in both Luthor and Wonder Womans’ films.

      • I seem to have way more confidence in what Sony are doing with Spider-Man and WB are doing with the DC universe than anybody else on this site by the look of it. That kind of saddens me because it’s like people hate for the sake of hating or lack the ability to see the huge possibilities.

        • I wouldn’t go that far. I’m just cautiously optimistic. I would love for DC and all of these studios to succeed, and I recognize the potential for what DC in particular could do is huge.

          I’m just saying, you can’t deny that they seemed ready to rush into this. I’m glad they slowed down and they’re taking their time with Batman vs. Superman. That’s a good sign. I’m just nervous, and reception for Man of Steel being so shaky, you should understand why.

          You’re talking to a guy who wants to one day see a Red Hood and the Outlaws movie, or an Aquaman film. DC has to deliver in these next couple of films for those to be a reality.

        • I’ll stand by you Dazz. I understand the criticism with Spidey 2, but I like what they’re doing with their universe. And I’m super excited about DCs universe, and personally love the casting.

          • The positive is that because its all they have, characters that hadnt gotten shined upon will get screentime of their own, such as sinister six and venom, not to say marvel wouldnt have, but they wouldnt do it at the fast rate sony is since they are exploring their whole universe of characters, problem is the quality comes into question since its so fast tracked.

        • I’m with you, Dazz.

        • +1

    • Also Ill say there will never be perfect spiderman film because I believe spiderman would work best as a tv series.

  2. Why all the Iron Man 2 hate? That was the best of all 3 Iron Man films.

    But the people at Sony don’t know what they are doing and the guys at Warner Bros. are in la la land (Wonder Woman should have a movie ASAP). I think Fox will do things the right way, but I’m still waiting in more Origins movies…and Deadpool.

    • I think iron Man 2 is mostly fantastic. It sags for 15 minutes in the middle after the house party scene but clips along in the final third. Sam Rockwell holds it all together. Actually turns out iron man 3 is the best one. True story. Would love to see extended cuts of all the MCU movies at some stage.

      • Welcome aboard, I’ve been saying IM3 was the best one since last April, finally nice to see someone else who feels the same.

        • I agree. IM3 is a very good movie. I didn`t have a problem with the Mandarin twist, that earned the movie so much hate.

          • I agree that IM3 is a solid flick and doesn’t deserve all of the hate that it got, but I just want to know what about IM2 was possibly better than the original? To me the original Iron Man is head and shoulders above all other MCU films besides possibly Cap2.

          • When I heard Mandarin was gonna be in IM3, I thought it was too early to bring him in front and center. When I learned he was fake, my first thought was “decoy”, and I’m still of the opinion the real Mandarin is still waiting in the shadows. Personally I’ve always thought if the were going to do Mandarin right it was going to have to be done after they did Dr. Strange (and opened up more fully the magic/mysticism apsects of the universe).

      • hahahaha….Nooooooo. Geez Iron Man 3 was weak and rode the waves of the Avengers. I’m a Shane Black fan and somehow that movie suceeded in being my least favorite Marvel movie and Shane Black film. They should go back to basics. You watch the first Iron Man, you feel the strength of what they’re making versus Iron Man 3. The Mandarin part bothered me but he belonged to a different era. Now……sigh…YOU HAVE 40+ BLEEPING IRON MAN ARMORS FLUSHED OUT AND DON’T SHOW THEM DOING THEIR RESPECTIVE JOBS!? hahaha they became cinematic kleenex for the end to be disposed of… They could have had Gemini in low orbit showing Tony trying to overcome space and New York or Red Snapper running rescue HECK show him stopping a prison riot (psst he had a suit for it.)There wasn’t a surprise with House Party, we knew. the funny thing is Ive only seen Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man 3 once. They’re similar in disapointment.

    • Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks IM2 doesn’t deserve the hate it gets.

    • I think Ive watched Ironman 2 the most of the marvel films besides cap 1. Its not better than Im 1 but its more watchable, its definitely better than 3 though.

      • People don’t like IM2? It’s the first one I saw in theaters, and while I understand not EVERYONE could have liked it, I’ve never heard anything overtly negative against it, myself.

    • Iron Man 2 is an Iron Man movie that has Tony Stark in the Iron Man suit for about 20 minutes out of 2 hours. And in those 20 minutes, there is a big chunk that is taken by the disgusting party scene and also suffered from the Marvel “villain-itis”. Whiplash was not engaging as a villain and was way too hollow. Iron Man 3 just suffered from messy storytelling. There were a lot of plot holes. I’m not going to complain about the “most controversial twist” in history because I’m not really attached to the character unlike Thor or Hulk. Also, and forgive me for mentioning it again, the plot holes were too big to overlook. Character decisions were terrible. So, the real villain to Iron Man in Iron Man 3 wasn’t the Mandarin, it was the writing. By the way, the whole Extremis storyline was just vomit. The writers just didn’t establish the rules for it and it is a law in screenwriting to establish rules when you have a complicated plot point (in horror movies it would be the supernatural rules, ghosts and such). The first Iron Man was more contained and really gave us an entertaining experience where the other two were dreadful. Iron Man 1 didn’t have a satisfying villain either but the storytelling was tight resulting in a big payoff (critically and box-office wise). I have to say that Iron Man 1 is the only Marvel origin story that set the standards for The Avengers all the while the other three were disappointing in some aspects. Iron Man 3 was fine by me, Iron Man 2 was the dreadful experience I previously mentioned and Iron Man 1 was the most entertaining story wise and character wise. It’s the more solid film.

  3. Shared is not bad. Yes “Amazing Spiderman 2″ couldve developed Green Goblin better but aside for the one scene at the end, i didnt feel like it was wasting too much time setting up a sequel (like Iron Man 2 did)

    that said, i think now that studios are planning multiple movies, they can plan out what to put in each movie better. This isn’t like Spiderman 3, where 3 villains were needed because the studio didnt know if they were going to have a chance to put them in Spiderman 4. Shared universes give multiple people creative input. Letting many film makers and writers work together instead of having everything rest on a single persons shoulders.

    The movies aren’t always perfect. but we havent seen a Daredevil or Green Lantern bummer comic book movie in a while. They are starting to take these movies seriously.

    • The only scene in Iron Man 2 that was connected to the other films in the MCU was the ending. The Amazing Spider-man 2 was just a ridiculous set up for the sinister six.

      • Seems like a lot happened in Peter’s life from what I saw

  4. …..sigh….another useless article on Screen Rant. What a surprise. Put this turd in your SC originals category. it IS not news.

    • It didn’t claim to be news. Did you actually read it? Excellent, well-written and thought out article.

    • …sigh…another useless comment on an article on Screen Rant. What a surprise. It IS not contributing to this discussion.

      And you should learn to capitalize the RIGHT word if your trying to emphasize something.

      • Fair enough. If i am going to be a jerk, i should at least capitalize the right words. My bad SR.

    • You are free to leave at any given time. ;)

  5. No

  6. I don’t think it matters either way.

    Spandex sells!

  7. The game has changed. TV is now a viable option for telling longer stories. The movies can pull the talent and budgets needed for spectacle. So long as both are doing well, no problem. When Superman does a shared universe with Hulk, the shark has been jumped.

    • I don’t know… Superman vs Hulk would be kinda cool…

      • It is, but that is a shark jump in the leather jacket.

    • Bat-mite is right. Arrow and Flash could incorporate into the films better than Agents of Shield ever has. Granted, Cap 2 saved the show’s collective butt, and possibly gave Cobie Smulders a second series to charm on, but Marvel on XD and Netflix still loses to Justice League Unlimited reruns on a regular basis. I look forward to Amell and Guston(sp?) in the JL film if their respective shows last 2 more years because of how hard DC/WB has worked on developing their characters and “universes”.

      -CJ.

      • Well, if they’re going New 52, Green Arrow did attempt to join the Justice League, (and later was placed on Justice League International.)

        I personally wouldn’t have a problem with Amell hopping to the Silver Screen. I think he can pull it off, the problem would be humanizing him more. Arrow has Oliver and his Vigilante persona acting like Batman with arrows, and while at his base he just is that, the fact he acted more like Bruce Wayne and less like Batman while in Costume was likely part of the appeal that helped to make him so popular.

        It would be odd unless their was some character change in the actual show that explained why he acted like such a smartass, but then you run the risk of alienating what made Arrow so great. He’s going to be a tough one if they want him on the League permanently.

  8. No, he says three words, “I am Groot.”

    • Ugh, I don’t know why I even said “one word.” Thanks for catching that typo. Fixed.

  9. This is why I’m totally ok with DC keeping its various properties separate. As cool as it would be to merge Arrow/Flash with the MoS universe and see Amell and Gustin standing next to Cavill and co., do we really want to risk it hurting the property and potentially introducing huge continuity errors into both universes? They’re both great by themselves.

  10. “Can Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment successfully introduce their Justice League team over the course of two films?”

    ABSOLUTELY NOT!

    The only successful shared universe belongs to Marvel Studios. Even other studios that have Marvel properties, (Sony, Fox) can’t get it right, clearly. TASM 2 was bad, & the X-MEN movies are just terrible.

    As far as WB/DC goes, well, too little, too late in their convoluted mess of Batman & Superman retreads, (not to mention their only non-Batman or non-Superman effort Green Lantern…YIKES!). They will never be able to get BvS or JL right with the talent they have assembled both in front of AND behind the camera. In spite of the rabid fanfare, the promise of great things to come & the faux build up to this Justice League movie, they are in serious trouble and haven’t got a clue on how to make a satisfying movie to both comic book fans and non-comic book fans (something Marvel has absolutely mastered at btw).

    Marvel Studios set the bar in this genre & they continue to be the only ones that can meet or exceed it. That is just the way it is, IN REALITY. Fans and regular movie goers go to superhero movies produced by other studios expecting to be entertained like they are with Marvel Studios movies & constantly walk away disappointed (Man of Steel anyone?).

    Marvel Studios and only Marvel Studios has made the successful move in attracting fans of ALL kinds. They are the best, continue to be the best, & there is nobody on the horizon that is even close to them.

    • you’re kissing Marvel’s ass dude?

      • He may be, but it’s still a valid point about expectation.

        Marvel started this shared universe model, yes Fox and Sony breathed the life back into the CBM genre with Singer’s X and Rami’s Spidey.

        One of the general comments you’ll see on a Marvel centric article are Marvel Haters complaining about the tone of the MCU, how it’s all fluffy and cheesey and slightly comedic where as DC is all serious and grim and emo etc.

        But that’s been the point, Marvel has aimed squarely at families, mom, pop and there YOUNG kids.

        We’re talking 5-12(ish)here. The peril is not too perilous, the violence is not too violent, there’s very little if any blood, the language is kept clean to maintain the PG-13 rating (it’s language not violence that’s the biggest difference between PG-13 and R) and you’ve got that vibrant colour palette.

        And because Marvel have been cranking these things out like a chav chasing benefits (UK joke) there’s that market saturation and Joe Public assume that any CBM is going to be a Marvel-esc experience and can (not does) lead to misplaced expectations.

        I think this is one of the reasons behind CA2:WS almost universal acclaim…. because it’s a different tone, it’s the first Marvel movie aimed at a young ADULT not KID.

        And this is what I mean about the ratings, CA2 is darker, more violent, more perilous than any Marvel product before it, only MoS and TDK are in that same tonal area and they’re all PG-13 cause there’s no language so although it’s obviously aimed at a different audience, the family with the young kiddies, if they CHOOSE too can bring the kids too so it’s a win win.

        But I do think that Marvel has EARNED that tonal change because of the previous movies.

        Yes I am aware that parents CAN take their young un’s in too an R but lets face it, they probably SHOULDN’T.

        • I am a fan of CBM in general and I do not care who makes them. Marvel has been leading the pack with their Avengers shared universe and to date my favorite CBM is Cap 2. Another reason I think Marvel is doing well is because they are introducing characters that have not been saturated on the big screen. I am tired of seeing Superman, Batman and Spiderman reboots. Batman has always been one of my favorite superheroes growing up but enough is enough. I like seeing Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow and so forth. I would also like to see Wonder Woman and Aquaman along with other lesser known (Big screen wise) super heroes in stand alone films.
          Shared universes can work as seen by Marvel but they need to be developed and thought out ahead of time. I think DC’s biggest problem right now is people are tired of Superman and Batman. How many times are you going to tell the same story with different (sometimes completely different twists) before people just quit going to see them altogether? I actually waited until MoS came out on DVD before I saw it and was just not impressed. JMOHO.

    • I’ve seen the outline for new Superman/Batman film….

      The ANSWER IS YES THEY CAN.

      If it gets shot the way the story is outlined, you’re introduced to all the Superheros via a news report on the growth of super powered heroes and villains. So Wonder-woman is shown briefly and not exactly IN the movie, but is IN the movie. Same with the others that have been mentioned as being cast.

      The movie itself is about Superman trying to bring down the dangerous vigilante The Batman, only for him to befriend him and join forces by the end of the movie.

      The end completely sets up the JL.

      Of course it’s just an outline, they have to flesh it out. Right now it looks like a real winner.

  11. Nah, I don’t think they are affecting things at all. Many people are following Marvel’s blueprint, which has been stellar. However, I think each group needs to find their own path in terms of a shared universe. Hell, shared universes don’t need to be for superhero movies strictly.
    Let’s bring together Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr., Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael B. Jordan, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hardy, Jeremy Renner, Gerard Butler, Mila Kunis, and Brooklyn Decker together for a huge film that will unite characters and stories from four different films.
    The first will be a comedy, starring RDJ, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Jamie Foxx, JGL, Michael B. Jordan, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Emma Stone, Jennifer Aniston, and Jason Segel with a cameo from Gene Wilder. It’s purpose? Introducing us into this world (which is a tad bit of an exaggerated version of our own world, think Seinfeld). Directed by Joss Whedon, in the style of Tropic Thunder, basically about egotistical Hollywood stars.
    The second will be a through and through action film, starring Denzel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Sean Bean, and Gary Oldman with a cameo from Harrison Ford. This will be directed by Ben Affleck, basically a mix of American Hustle and The Town stylistically.
    The third will be a thriller starring Matt Damon, Amy Adams, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Jessica Biel with a cameo from Robert De Niro. Directed by Paul Greengrass, in the vein of The Bourne Ultimatum.
    The fourth will be a political drama starring Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Gerard Butler, Tom Hiddleston, Rachel Weisz, Brooklyn Decker with a cameo from Al Pacino. Directed by Christopher Nolan.
    The aforementioned film that basically wraps up ‘Phase 1′ will be directed by Martin Scorsese.

    • Right now, Marvel’s been a template to follow, and who knows, maybe this will work.
      Ben Kendrick, what do you think of this whole idea/scenario?

    • sounds like the ravings of a mad man

      • Thanks for the thoughts, pal. Trying for hypothetical discussion.

  12. It definitely feels like all these movies (especially sequels now) ARE just setting up for the next part of an arc or for another character to show up instead of just the superhero its supposed to be about. I feel like there is no “end goal” in sight for these movies. Instead of just focusing on how something is going to connect to another movie or whatever I’d like a somewhat linear story with a clear ending in mind, with maybe a setup for something AFTER that story is done.

    Don’t get me wrong I love the entertainment of seeing all these characters appear or be alluded to throughout these different movies but I kind of want a somewhat more “traditional” story.

    • I don’t know…I felt Man of Steel felt pretty good as a linear story, that simply let you know there was more to come with the ending. Nothing in the film was much of a teaser, except maybe the satellite near the end, and even the Lexcorp building didn’t mess with anything. It was totally expected.

  13. It sounds to me like rushing to scrape together a shared universe is the only thing hurting these franchises. If Spider-Man, X-Men, and DC can get them off the ground they should do just fine.

    • Yeah. They dropped the ball for years and now, all of sudden, the scramble to put that stuff together in no time. Quality has to suffer.

      Speaking of quality: you guys should watch the Half in the Bag-Review of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 over at Red Letter Media. It’s hilarious.

    • DC already made one. Animated, but still shared. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League all came together and went apart and back again. Now it’s live action’s turn. Marvel is following DC here.

      • There was a Marvel animated universe going at that same time though, with the same X-men and Fantastic Four from their shows crossing over in Spiderman’s show from time to time. However it is funny how similar the DCAU is appearing to DC’s cinematic universe, with a crossover with Superman and Batman and then Justice League.

  14. It isn’t always a bad thing though, the shared universe. It can also lead to better developed characters. This is because X-Men: Days of Future Past was one of the only films to get the shared universe scene right, by spending a respectable amount of time on each character in the film.

    Despite there being possibly 20 or so main mutants in the film, the cuts do an impressive job of showcasing colossus, quicksilver, beast and others like Havok for a long enough running time that you really connect. Fifteen increments in this case, was a true gift in disguise. Fifteen minutes is all it takes to really feel the nitty gritty in a character like Quicksilver, because they choose the best moments.

    And it does not serve characters to always have long screen time. Take for example the film American Pie, in which there is a large roster of characters yet its the very thing which makes it a success. The shared universe has many characters, yet since they get a respectable 15 minutes each, it does its job well. Most audiences are feeling that with X-Men, even if origin stories are not explored.

    • They gave each mutant their moment? Looked like another wolverine and friends film where he hogged the runtime.

  15. Is it hurting some films? Yes. Spidey 2 is a prime example of that, despite how much I enjoyed it. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. Without a pre-developed, shared universe, we would never have gotten a Guardians of the Galaxy film. Period. In of story. Those guys would have been left in the shadows for the rest of eternity. It’s because of the universe Marvel has established, that they got the greenlight to film a picture staring trees and racoons.

    When it works, it works. But not all studios should be following the same route.

  16. The only thing that can hurt comic book movies is bad scripts, bad directors and bad actors. If the story and cast is great that is all that matters for me, having more comic book characters are the equivalent to having more great actors. I just hope they continue to improve their quality like CAP 2 did from CAP 1 because movies like The Dark Knight or Iron Man aren’t just great comic book movies. They are great movies period!

  17. Great article Ben. I love the idea of shared universes but not every film studio is created equally. Greed is fueling all of this at the end of the day. Sometimes you’ve gotta stay in your own lane and shared universes isn’t the right thing for every studio. Maybe just developing separate franchises organically is the way to go for certain studios?

  18. The thing with Marvel Studios though is they had time. They had freedom to do/use what they want. They have structure. It looked like a gamble in the beginning with Iron Man but after the first Avengers it paid off handsomely.
    The other studios just flat out want the similar success Marve Studious currently has and jumps on that bandwagon quickly. Haven’t seen DoFP yet, but 20th Century Fox sort of had a head start with rebooting the franchise with First Class and then rebooting its universe with DoFP to have their foot partially on the door for a shared universe.
    Sony, on the other hand, just crammed everything in ASM2 JUST so they can have their foot in the shared universe (personally don’t like ASM2, the Gwen part’s the only that kept me in) door. So they pulled an IM2. Shame that Peter is the only focus, would’ve been so excited for a Ben Reilly/Kane/Miles/etc-spinoffs for a different (and maybe darker) take on the Friendly Neighborhood web slinger. But with a Spiderverse comic miniseries coming in November, Avi Arad and his team might reconsider their “Peter Parker-only” mindset.
    I don’t have a problem with shared universes for CBMs, just as long as they deliver and frankly, entertain.

  19. ASM2 was not bad because of a shared universe. The idea of a shared Spider-Man universe doesn’t even make sense and I will be surprised if a true Sinister Six movie really gets made. Sure the Sinister Six may be in ASM3, but I can’t see them spinning off their own franchise. ASM2 was bad because of a bad script and a focus on the sequel rather than on the present movie, but that can be said for lots of bad movies. Take The Golden Compass or Eragon for example.

  20. Sony, Marvel, FOX whoever is in charge, intertwine all the universes for all I care. Whatever you do, stop being old people and HIRE ACTORS OF COLOR. Quit sticking with one demographic. If you do act like old people, at least be as cool as STAN LEE and JACK KIRBY, they at least thought progressively for the period of time they were in. Cause lets keep it real, if superheroes where a reality on Earth today, Caucasian males wouldnt be the only humans donning suits…

    • I think they’re doing fine with diversity.

      The new Fantastic Four has a black man playing the Human Torch.
      Cyborg/Victor Stone has been cast.
      The Falcon from Captain America.
      DC is talking to The Rock for a role of some sort.
      John Diggle and Bronze Tiger of Arrow should count.
      I believe there was talk of a War Machine/Iron Patriot movie, meaning Rhodes will get his own solo stuff to do.

      There’s more diversity now, but for the teams and characters they’re using, it’s not an easy thing to just make one of these guys black. Green Lantern would be a good push for DC though, and War Machine and Falcon, I think can have a big impact later on down the road for Marvel (maybe as Avengers East Coast, or something?)

      • I think racism is a major player in the game today. “It’s not easy making one of these guys black”??? That doesnt even make any sense. The easy thing to do would be to create some new diverse characters. More Asians, Africans, Native Americans,Hispanics, Indian.. everyone. Im not settling for some sidekick bs either. I wanna see a black A list hero..nuff said

        • Either A. You’re butt hurt that no black hero has been given the spotlight, or B. you don’t even know what you’re talking about. Why do they think they have to change the race of a character? Because there aren’t any A-list heroes that are of different races. That’s all there is too it. These characters were created in a day where white and Caucasian was the norm for superheroes, and those were the ones that stuck with people. Who do you even have within the Marvel ranks that you’d consider to be A-list? Storm? Luke Cage? Black Panther? One is Halle Berry, one is soon to be cast, and the other is down the pipleine. Cool your jets, they’re on the way.

      • You do realize all the characters you mentioned are black. White and black does not
        Equal diversity.

        • It’s a step in the right direction, and I could see what he was getting at anyway.

          I’ll be the first to admit there aren’t a lot of Asian, Latino, or Native American characters.

          Then again, what do you want? They just aren’t that popular. At best, they’re are sidekicks like Aquagirl (pretty sure she’s of Latin descent,) Raven Red (Native American,) or relative unknowns like the new Toyman or Mr.Unknown (Asian.)

          At best, you have the makings for a questionable Teen Titans movie, (and that’s a long shot,) or maybe if they wanted to swing for the fences in diversity they could do a Batman Inc./Club of Heroes movie, but again that’s a long shot, when we haven’t even gotten a proper introduction to the newest Batman.

  21. Bad scripts and designs hurt superhero films…

  22. Obviously cinematic universes are hurting superhero movies. MCU has basically turned the genre into glorified extended trailers for upcoming installments. Devoid of things like proper character development and plot. The ONLY good movie connected to a cinematic universe is The Winter Soldier, and even that would have been even stronger had it cut out the expletive Marvel fluff surrounding it.

  23. i don’t think that the shared universe is hurting superhero movies i just think that the craming of too many villains into a story is hurting certain movies like ASM2 was like too half movies spiderman versus electro then spiderman versus the green goblin look i love spiderman and i tHink he can be in a good movie with multiple villains but he should fight them at the same time not splitting the movie into separate battles they should have less but more epic battles like i love action but if you look at the avengers movie there was loads of action but it was contained into four or five scenes not just thrown in everywhere and anywhere..the dialogue shouldn’t just be time filler it should be clear and decisive plot development and character building..i think the christopher nolan batman trilogies this this brilliantly..i think going forward these movies need to concentrate on a standalone movie format with winks to future and past story lines without involving it too much into the story until the end and then expand on it like marvel has been doing with the mid and post credit button scenes.

  24. i too think that iron man 2 is wrongly criticised. i thought sam rockwell was class and truly detestable as justin hammer.he was class and he’s interactions with ivan vanko where truly memorable and even though i agree that mickey rourke should’ve been given more screen time and character development but saying that the time he was given he did really well in and he was a fierce villain and true threat to not only iron man but also war machine i thought he was a classic misunderstood genius that felt under appreciated by the world and he portrayed he’s rage brilliantly.the only thing that disappointed me was the casting of don cheadle as james rhodes he is a fine actor but too much of a straight man for the rule he lacks terence howards flair like i’m sure i’m not the only one who thinks this but i was truly disappointed by terence howard pulling out of the mcu because if war machine replaces iron man in the avenges line up i think he would’ve been better suited(pun intended) to step into robert downey jrs iron boots.

  25. It’s not so much Universe fatigue admit is character fatigue. The Spider-Man Universe IS Spider-Man. His secondary characters just aren’t interesting enough to sustain a film on their own. X-Men is better off but Fox treats it like The Wolverine Universe. If they want to avoid the problems Spider-Man is looking at they need to utilize some other characters more prominently.

  26. IMO I don’t think anyone has delivered a shared movie universe except Marvel/Disney with the Avengers (and the respective cast members).

    To qualify you have to start out with a movie about a single character (or single team) and in a future movie have them “team up” with a established individual or team that also has ‘had’ their own movies.

    Simply adding more characters (without first establishing them in their own movies) does not qualify as a “shared movie universe” and that is all that is happening in X-Men, Spidey, and Superman right now. Some might point to Batman joining Superman as being established prior but you have to remember Batman is a reboot. Even if FF joined X-men you have to take into account FF is a reboot and therefore has no prior movie backstory established.

    If Christian Bale would have remained Batman and we still had his storyline valid then Superman vs. Batman would have been the first shared universe outside of Avengers.

    • Actually, what you’re describing is a strategy on how to open up a shared universe which is the one that Marvel used. Introduce 4 main characters with their single movies and then make a team up to show that they are in the same world. But, it’s not necessarily the pattern that all of them have to follow. Although I don’t agree on calling The Amazing Spiderman franchise a shared universe, because it is not, Fox seems to be doing it right. Fantastic Four doesn’t have to be established in order to join X-Men in one movie. They don’t even need their own solo movie but that is what Fox is doing. DCU created Man of Steel and in its sequel, they will show that other many superheroes live inside of the same world that Superman lives in, hence the shared universe. Warner Bros. will probably then give SOME characters their own origin movie or follow their adventures and heroics after Justice League. Just because Marvel decided to introduce their superheroes first (and let’s face it, they were not as well known back then as the Justice League or X-Men/Fantastic Four have ever been) but if you want to get technical then, Marvel doesn’t have a shared universe outside of Avengers because we never see the other superheroes in the other’s solo bout.

  27. Their only bad for weak hero movies. they dont have to jump on the bandwagon. Im happy with Spiderman just being a franchise. The Marvel shared universe was planned years in advance. We the fans just a great or at least good film representation of our favorites. fan service aint that bad either cough FOX….cough…..WB….cough. And it stops lazy writing of killing off all the villians

  28. I always see the X-Men films as universe franchise. But Spider-Man just a franchise even with a Sinister Six film on the way. That’s just Spidey going off against more than 2 or 3 villains as usual. That’s like any solo franchise aslong as each sequel makes money.

    Of-course Marvel Studios & DC are doing their thing of building their universes where different heroes cross each other to team up. Anyways, I think expections have changed & always raise higher.

  29. Shared universes are basically good things, but alot depends on the writing. I do not feel shared universe references damaged Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3, but I feel weak writing did. And that is coming from a guy who basically loves Iron Man! As far as the Justice League stuff goes, DC/Warner needs to move on ahead with Green Lantern 2, starting up exactly where GL #1 left off. They need to get Martian Manhunter, Atom, maybe Hawkman up and running. They need a Flash movie. And Green lantern and Flash MUST be Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. Shared universes definitely worked well for Avengers #1.