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?

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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. I think they’re going to have a hard time getting people to care about the Sinister Six. It seems like a cool idea on paper, but outside of fanboys, I think giving them their own film is a sketchy idea.

    • I want a Marvel VS D.C. movie!

      • I want to win the lottery!

  2. Great insightful article. Not only is shared universe hurting the quality of the movies, its seems like hurts TV shows too like Agents of Shield.
    Seems like AOS will limp into Season 2.

  3. OK here is the problem ppl with Sony and Fox; they truely beleive that that they have shared universes. The reason why disney/marvel are doing so well is that first off they have a whole arsenal of grade-A superheroes to work with. Each one can stand alone, has their own villains, and friends, and loved ones. Its when you take thier worlds and put them togehter, thats what makes them shared.

    You can not call spider-man a shared universe or X-men either. Introducing new and more characters tothe franchise is not considered shared, its called expanding. Your expanding your universe, but honestly they were suppose to do that from the start. Lucky for Sony, and in some ways fox super heroes like spidey can stand alone without any cross-overs. In my opinion though if fox has a cross-over of x-men and FF they will ruin the film, and to be honest a lil more, since bryan singer came back on the scene I have a feeling x-men wont be with fox much longer. I can predict seeing them return to marvel sooner than we think.

    So for the love of comics stop calling x-men and spiderman a shared universe because they aren’t.

    • Well stated!!!! IMO there is the MCU and then you’ve got Sony & Fox’s version of Universe, when Marvel gets rights back, KEEP THEM!!!! And give fans what they want. All fan-boys & fan-girls (can’t leave the girls out now)is a cohesive story told with the ability to have stand alones to tide them over till the Team-ups. I’d love to see Spidey join the Avengers, or see Wolverine talking smack to Cap…

      @Superguy – I think you said it the best tho… There is only 1 real shared Universe right now and that was done by Marvel!!!

      As far as WB/DC they may be doing something right, I’m not sure… I have ALWAYS been a Marvel fan and have only really liked one character from DC and that was Batman…

      I don’t like the look of Quicksilver in DoFP, I’m really on the fence about the FF reboot, and while I did enjoy ASM (Haven’t seen ASM2 yet) I’m not sure a Sinister 6 film is what I’m looking forward to seeing yet…

      Just a few thoughts I felt like sharing…

    • I dont see any mention of them in the above article of having a shared universe. Only seperate items about the Avengers universe, the Spider-Man universe, the X-Men universe, and the (possible) JLA universe.4 seperate ones that have nothing to do with each other.If I am missing something, then please point it out. My old eyes are not what they used to be.

      The only place I even see them together in this article is the picture at the top, with IM, Xavier, and SM.

      • Seriously? The “Avengers” universe, as you call it, is actually the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is shared with most marvel. The Spider-man universe is being called shared because they are doing non-Spider-Man movies (that’s not really shared it’s just expanding the Spider-man universe. The X-Men Universe contains all the mutants and is definitely a shared universe. Not all mutants are X-Men. Ere was X-Factor, X-Force, the New Mutants, and a lot more, and mutants that aren’t associated to a team. And JL would be a DC shared universe. The only one that is kind of a stretch is Spider-Man, but they are doing non-Spider-Man, Spider-Man related movies. Are you really confused about this? There are 4 separate shared universes which are usually broken down into smaller universes.

    • Very accurate and intelligent points.

      One addendum, if I may. The other thing holding back Fox and Sony is that they don’t, in fact, own the characters they are making movies about, they are essentially licensing them from Marvel. This means that if they allow certain characters to go stagnant for too long, Marvel can fight to revoke the license and bring those characters back under the Marvel banner. This means Sony and Fox are obliged to keep actively working on these franchises (regardless of audience fatigue) in order to maintain their rights to continue to make their movies. This is why we are currently 2 films in on the second Spider-man franchise in 13 years, and why we’ve seen now 7 X-men films in 15 years. Sony and Fox are under mandate to use characters, even if they are not properly developed or the audience isn’t ready for them or risk losing them.

  4. IM was released in 2008. The next film was made in 2010. It is clear that at the time Marvel didn’t intend to have an MCU. That’s why the first film is regarded as the best of the trilogy. By and large I agree that the main problem with the latest films have been the overuse of humour. The best example was found in IM3.

    On the other hand, the X Men have been really good. Last Stand was a mistake that Singer will try to fix. Let’s hope it works for the best. The only problem I see is the idiotic idea of making a cross-over with the bastardized version of the f4 Crap (with small letter). If they do that, I’m sure they will lose a great number of fans, me among them.

    Sony has made the mistake of using more villains in Spiderman than he can handle. Since he is the only superhero in that universe, Sony should have focused only on one villain at a time. This could have provided the characters with more background story which would have enriched the story. The way they are doing it now is just killing the franchise. By the way, in the minds of many people including myself, Peter Parker is the only Spiderman.

  5. I think that many of the Marvel Studios films could technically be better if they were not tied into the Avengers, but would we enjoy them as much? The inter connectivity is a huge draw in and of itself, and makes every story beat more interesting.

    The X-Men seem like a different case. They are always a large ensemble, by default.

    Spider-Man is somewhat problematic because the potential shared universe that they are building towards is not so much about a team of heroes, as villains or anti-heroes. The whole thing seems more contrived, and I suspect that the current Amazing Spider-Man films would be more successful without all of the hints and building blocks in them.

    WB/DC…there is no reason that they have to start with standalone films, or even give any character lots of screen time in the first Justice League film, as long as it is good, and as long as they leave the door open for more character development that is sensitive to audience response.

    More than anything, I think that it pays to have these stories well-thought-out in advance. You can pull of anything with good planning. But when they change agendas mid-stream and attempt to adapt a self-contained story into a shared universe tool, it can result in an under-realized mess.

  6. It is important to understand that for as long as I can remember, which is pretty long, the Marvel Universe comics have always crossed, everything is interrelated, which is what drew me to the franchise in the first place. It was not until some time later, around the death of Superman I believe, that DC decided to develop the universe in that fashion.

    • You’re so wrong. Marvel had absolutely the worst realisation of sharing universe in the comics back then. They simply put this or that character into the story of another character without explaining anything. They had so much loop holes that i facepalmed each time they did this.
      Its only after DC rebooted recently Marvel tried to do it more quality like DC does. At this point in DC everything is connected too much even, as you can’t read the story in one book series you need to peek up another ones to get full story.
      Its because of all the mess Marvel have done they got ridd off X-men. They can’t tie it to the other stories, X-men are too big too global on their own that they made Avengers’ problems looked like childs play. But the problem is that Marvel didn’t make it clean, they needed to make a full reboot and start over to make really shared universe. They didn’t and you still have the mess that is being put in your throat to except. I can’t, too much b******* writing. X-men should have stay on their own.

  7. Marvel is able to keep their shared movie properties going, at least as far as anything connected to the Avengers/ phase, because they keep introducing plot threads that will no doubt become bigger head on in your face story lines, creating another Avengers/ anyone else set of movies. The idea of introducing the Infinity Gems by way of the button scene during the Dark World credits, shows that anything to do with the Infinity Gems is a much more complicated story in itself, requiring more than just one or two movies to rectify.
    Also, with the admission by Chloe Bennet alias Skye that the Kree are involved, that opens up a whole new can or worms. This is how Marvel can have movies plotted all the way to 2028, by introducing continuing plotlines.
    I think the article authors are more or less creating a subject that, for me, doesn’t matter. I haven’t mentioned once yet when talking to friends, about too much happening to mess up the movies we are seeing. For whatever reason, not every film is going to be a sparkling gem, so why not just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    • don’t u feel tho that d.c has potential to be bigger than d.c as far ass the shared universes. excluding sony and fox dont u agree that d.c has more well known heroes than sony, fox, and marvel?

      • potential to be bigger than marvel. my bad had to correct that. basically i’m saying does d.c has more well known characters than sony, fox and marvel

  8. Ensemble shared universe films are fine, but it is best to start with solo films like Marvel has done. Few lesser characters can be introduced into ensemble films without solo introductions(like Hawkeye…let’s face it most people only know Hawkeye through the Avengers). Warner having to stick Batman, Wonder Woman and possible other characters into essentially the sequel to “The Man of Steel” doesn’t sound like a good idea. Sure Man of Steel had the origin story and all, but the Superman figure never got fully fleshed out in the first film: his relations, his world, etc. Now Warner is skipping through a lot of that to set up Justice League.

    Same with Spiderman: the new Spidey film sounds to suffer from Raimi’s third installment…way too many villains being tossed in for alternate reasons than to serve the story.

    In the end, as much as I enjoy a good superhero film, I have a feeling in the coming years (not that far off) people will burn out from Supes and men in tights. Sorry, but comic fans are not big enough of a base to make a $ 200,000,000 movie a box office success.

  9. the best thing about the idea of a shared universe is you don’t need one movie to explain everything about one character.
    By having a SU a movie series can use parts to explain things that may happen later on. Captain America 2 wouldn’t be what it was if it had to explain just how large of an organization SHEILD was.
    A SU also allows for a bad movie, or to introduce lesser known characters. Gaurdians of the Galaxy wouldnt be possible as a stand alone movie. People don’t know what to expect from it but they know what is possible, and that’s what makes it exicting. Its the possibilities.

  10. Columbia Pictures (which is owned by Sony) still has the movie rights to Punisher and Ghost Rider. Although the last movies sucked for both of them. If the studio wants to, they can put Spiderman, Punisher and Ghost Rider together in one movie. If done right, it could be good.

    • Marvel got those rights back. Sony forfeited them

  11. I just saw the Amazing Spider-Man 2 and I want to say this off the bat: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still hands up the best superhero movie so far this year, possibly up there with Avengers, Iron Man, and Spider-Man 2 as one of the best based on a Marvel character. And that’s why I wanted to go with that first because I feel like Sony (And Fox, although the jury is still out until after Days of Future Past comes out.) are trying their best to cram as much as they can into one movie hoping that they can set up future sequels down the road. That’s the problem. They have no patience. Marvel Studios, aka Disney, seems to have the patient. I bet that the same approach they have had with the MCU will be applied to Star Wars, and that excites me as a fan. Having sequels that matter, not just another movie with a number attached to it, trying to repeat the same thing before it. The MCU was brought together gradually, and it continues to build gradually, not all at once. Both villains (actually, all three) in AMS2 didn’t do anything that would really push the envelope further, when compared to what Marvel did with Loki, or Cap 2 did Hydra. Sometimes going all in is not the best way to approach things. That’s why I wish Disney would just buy the Spider-Man rights from Sony and let’s just get him into the MCU the right way. Same with X-Men. Getting altogether.

  12. If they are going to combine the continuity of the Spider-man movies and the MCU, now is the time. At the end of the movie, Spider-man quits being Spider-man for 5 months. During that time, the battle of New York takes place. Spider-man was not around to help. Settled. The reason none of the Avengers show up to help Spider-man in New York during the events of Spider-man 2? They all had more important things to worry about and since it was pre-New York, they weren’t yet the Avengers. Also, Spider-man not becoming an Avenger? it could be explained the same way it is in the comics. HE just isn’t good enough or ready yet to become an Avenger. I’m just saying. They don’t have to but if they do, now is as good a time as ever.

    • Eh, you don’t know your Marvel universe very well. Spidey was offered a spot in the Avenger’s, FF4, and The X-Men, he turned them all down because he has trust issues, is a loner and just feel’s/think’s he can accomplish more on his own.

      As for the shared universe, comic fan’s are all for it, that’s exactly how it is in the comic’s. Sure they all have their own series, but there are crossover’s and spin off’s all the time, its a huge part of the Marvel multiverse. You want more in depth on each villain, origin and say they do this in the comic’s ? No they don’t, you learn their origin’s and more about them in spin off’s, in the movie world that translates into more movies, duh, which is exactly what we and they want.

      The only complaint true Marvel fan’s should have is the movie maker’s tendencies to screw up the lore at whim as it fit’s their need’s.

  13. the reason why it won’t work is because that there can be many plot holes to it. Like iron man 3. Why didn’t captain america or shield saved Tony? Why didn’t tony call upon the hulk? Hell! he was in the damn movie!!!

    Also it restricts the director into telling the story he wants. I really wanted to see the demon in the bottle arc, but they didnt do it. Instead, AVENGERS SHOE HORN TIE-IN!!!!!!!

    IDK, i feel that with marvel now, there is just comedy and easter eggs. I hope that DC has a trick up their sleeves.

    • Will quote part of what I said above :

      As for the shared universe, comic fan’s are all for it, that’s exactly how it is in the comic’s. Sure they all have their own series, but there are crossover’s and spin off’s all the time, its a huge part of the Marvel multiverse. You want more in depth on each villain, origin and say they do this in the comic’s ? No they don’t, you learn their origin’s and more about them in spin off’s, in the movie world that translates into more movies, duh, which is exactly what we and they want.

      The only complaint true Marvel fan’s should have is the movie maker’s tendencies to screw up the lore at whim as it fit’s their need’s.

      Why don’t they help each other out all the time ? Simple, they have their own lives, their own conflict’s, their own region’s they live in, same as real life.

      Why don’t the state police, local police, FBI, HDB and secret service all help each other out ? Same reason’s, and like in the movies mirroring real life sometimes, they do coordinate and help each other out at need or when their cases converge.

    • I totally agree with you about putting the hulk in iron man 3. The mandarin was so stupid. They should have followed the comic. They could of had iron man and hulk work together to take him down. He’s one of iron man’s biggest villains and they make him a laughing stock. In my opinion iron man 3 is the second worst cinematic marvel movie. (I did like it better than the incredible hulk.) I don’t know why it’s so hard to make a good hulk movie but I hope they figure it out. Anyway if you want to know why Captain America or Thor didn’t help Tony go see their movies. All these movies take place around the same time.

      • Check out the Marvel One Shot “All Hail the King.”

        I just angry at how they used The Mandarin after I got hom and thought about it for a little while, once it actually hit me that they neutered the character, but All Hail The King changed my mind. That’s all I’ll say without spoiling it, if you care whether or not it’s spoiled. Point is, all is not lost.

  14. Yes marvels universe is extremely lame at this point using the same humor, weak villains and rare actual development of characters. Amazing spiderman 2 was a great film far better then captain america 2. Should they have put in more sure and I would have had no problem with it being a 3 hour movie but then you would have a ton of people saying it was a bit long so you just cant win with people because they love to complain. Hopefully DC can do a shared universe where they dont have to constantly reference each other that has gotten so annoying with marvel. Its like let them do their own thing and when they need to come together let them I mean thats how most cartoons do it and cartoons and comics are what we wish our movies could be like right?

  15. Disney and Sony need to come to an arrangement on how to include Spidey in the MCU, and perhaps Marvel needs to include a horror release in late Oct each year, add some low budget straight to DVD short films (40 -60 min long) and an some additional shows on ABC Family or Saturday morning to go with the two movie releases, the ABC shows and the Netflix events.

    FOX and WB should not copy Marvel, the shared universe approach isn’t for every studio.

  16. Wow. Disney really wants a monopoly of CBM huh?

  17. The big problem I have with Superhero action movies is the lack of cinematic tension. The fact that I know what’s going to happen before I buy my ticket spoils it for me and basically makes the visual effects the star of the show. I was okay with that in the beginning when there only were a couple of these movies every year but now that there are a half dozen or more of them every year the formula is growing old fast.I long for another Superhero flick like “Watchmen” which blurred the lines between good and evil and had a beginning, middle, climax and end. In Watchmen I didn’t know if a Superhero was going to be killed or not. The movie’s makers didn’t feel compelled to set up a sequel or another related movie. It doesn’t come out for a while but I’m sure that in Avengers Age of Ultron none of the Superheroes will meet their demise and after 2 hours of state of the art special effects, Ultron will lose…Ho Hum

  18. Of course it isn’t hurting superhero films. In fact, its quite the contrary as its raised the bar on superhero films substantially. Having a shared universe adds more realism and connectivity which allows for larger, more thought out storylines. I can’t think of a single negative aspect to having a shared universe in films. As Marvel has clearly shown, as long as the overall universe is properly handled, it adds significant weight to the individual films. Superhero films have gotten significantly better over the last 10 years and this is largely due to Marvel’s overall approach to making these films. Without a shared universe, the Marvel films wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good and Avangers wouldn’t have existed, at least not in a form that was anywhere even close to what we ultimately got. The main reason Avengers was so amazing is becasue most of the superhero’s had individual films. It allowed the writers to develop the main backstory of the characters in the individual films, which allows the writer and director of the big team up film to mainly focus on the story. Avangers wouldn’t have been half as good as it was without the individual films. Justice League will prove that unequivocally.

  19. If they would just let the writers and directors take their time with everything instead of rushing everything their movies could be classics. And get some decent writers too. The publishers sacrifice so much for merchandise when honestly they could have both a good movie and merchandise money if they just took their time instead of rushing everything and making a crap movie. sigh

  20. ugh. What hurt Amazing Spider-Man 2 was Amazing Spider-Man 2. I’m one of those 5 people in the world who actually liked the first ASM, and I’ve never been a fan of the Ultimates universe. I was looking forward to the next one until the first shots of Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillan surfaced. Just one look at that not-so-epic combover and I had this feeling they were going over-the-top campy on this one. Giamatti’s casting (love the actor) as the Rhino (wait…what?) was the second clue, compiled with his comments about “hamming it up.” Then I saw it, and I gave it a personal score of a B- (with a friend giving it a C+). Campy is not the way to go with these characters, even in Spider-Man’s universe. There were a billion things wrong in ASM2, saved only by the presence of Emma Stone.

    But it does carry the Marvel name, and people are expecting more. That was the genie in the bottle they opened the moment Nick Fury appeared after the credits in Iron Man. A lot of people get the “fanboy” crack for wanting to see ALL of Marvel’s properties back at Marvel, but that’s because: a. Marvel cares about their product, and b. the notion that the Cinematic Universe can’t grow any larger without them there. I don’t care what moviehouses produce these films, or who gets what share of the money. Once you put together the Avengers (something those of us older guys never thought we’d see in and of itself), the next step is the larger universe. You can’t tell me Disney, Sony, and Fox can’t come to some creative financial solutions. And if you’re NOT gonna try, boy is putting an X-Men promo in the middle of your Spider-Man credits sending the wrong signal.

    Yes, you want to tell a story that holds its own, on its own (again…ASM2 could have benefited from a Joss Whedon-type supervision there. Instead, Sony FEELS like it’s trying to cash in on this craze). But Avengers showed what can happen when you tell a good story while staying generally true to the characters and their histories–you bring in people who have never picked up an Iron Man comic in their life AND you don’t tick off the hardcore readers who grew up with these characters. And then everyone’s happy and the studio makes lots of money that we were glad to fork over. I’m not sure overall, but you could have Spider-Man swing into a Civil War arc with the Avengers for 25% of the grosses and still have made more than ASM2 has so far.

  21. The only comparison to be made is between Marvel and Sony (I have not seen FOX’s attempt at a shared universe since DOFP is linking it all together and hasn’t been released in the US yet… and we won’t see WB’s shared universe for a few years).

    So, basically, this article is Marvel/Disney Vs. Sony with a Marvel character.

    The MCU had their TASM2 “universe building” moment with Iron Man 2, but other than that, they’ve course corrected and created stand alone films that can connect together when you step back and look at it all as a whole. The reason this works is because the “General Public” doesn’t enjoy the same genre of film. I have friends who like Iron Man and Captain America films, but would never watch the fantastical style Thor 2. Some people like the Incredible Hulk because it is in the monster film genre. The Winter Soldier was a political thriller. Iron Man 3 was an action film. The Avengers was an alien invasion film. Guardians looks like a space opera. All of these films fall under the superhero science fiction combined with a different film genre.

    Sony is making one type of film. The superhero film. And since this was their first film after the decision to create their own universe, so I’ll give them the Iron Man 2 pass. But if TASM3, Venom, and the Sinister Six all seem like they are shoehorning enormous plot points for future films…I say be done with the shared universe! Reboot it James Bond style…no more origin story, just give us a new Spider-Man every so often fighting villains and saving New York City. BOO-YAH. Screw it. Just do that.

    Sony…play with the genre and try to make some interesting films. Marvel/Disney keep doing what you are doing. It seems to be working. WB/DC just make an awesome Snyder trilogy and don’t focus on too much more. If it works, then bring in another director to do another trilogy with the focus on some of the other characters (AQUA MAN!). And I hope the new Fox X-Men film doesn’t go Origins:Wolverine/The Last Stand style.

  22. Winter Soldier was the best Marvel film. It was more down to Earth on the action. Plus, guess what, the government is watching us for some stupid reason. Our government is screwed up right now, seriously.

  23. I think Sony’s “Sinister Six” problem is that they need to flesh out the villains more if they want to have Spidey’s villains as a main pillar of the shared universe. The repeated criticisms of “Amazing Spiderman 2″ were that Harry and Electro weren’t given enough background or their motivations were unclear. Sony really needs to take the time to develop their villains if that’s what they’re banking on. But again all I can think about is the Sony execs saying “Spiderman will not be second fiddle to anyone” (When asked if they’d do a Spidey crossover with Marvel) and we’re back to Spiderman movies with too little depth to their supporting cast of baddies.

  24. First off, I just want to say that I loved ASM2 for the most part.

    My biggest concern is that it was supposed to set up a universe for Spidey, but I felt like it did a bad job of that. Peter has no friends right now, Harry hates him, Gwen is dead, no MJ yet, Flash is gone, Dr. Conners is in jail, Eddie is no where, Uncle Ben is dead, and Daily Bugle isn’t set up yet. Who is Peter Parker going to relate with besides Aunt May.

    Unless Electro is set up to be in the Sinister Six, they really didn’t do much to create a universe for the Sinister Six. Rhino was just tacked on anyways. Should of just done a whole Goblin Movie and just had Rhino be a bad guy that Spidey just fights throughout the movie.

    Anyways, I don’t mind the shared universe thing, but I think Spider-Man should be the only one not needing it unless they bring in a Clone Wars or Miles thing in. Or a Maximum Carnage story line where he can team up with Venom.

  25. Nice lengthy article. I can only speak for myself but I really am getting a little bit tired of all the superhero stuff (“shared universes” in general). Not just two or three years ago I was eagerly anticipating the release of every superhero blockbuster. Nowadays I don’t even bother seeing them in cinemas anymore (I even skip some of them entirely).

    Some of it probably has to do with age (I’m approaching the 28 mark), but I’m sure the stories and “world-building” are to blame as well.

    This is all very subjective but I just want a single story with the 3 basic acts (setup, confrontation, resolution) when I go to the movies. When the movie is over, I really want it to be over. Don’t give me some “end credits scene” to make me want to see the next one, I don’t. I want to be able to say “now that was a good movie” and be done with it, without saying “oh my, have you seen that, what does it mean, what are they going to do next?”. Sure if the studios want some extra money they can create prequels, sequels and whatnot, but I want those to be separate stand-alone stories as well.

    Am I the only one that really doesn’t get any joy out of a superhero mentioning a thing that happened in another movie? Are we supposed to applaud that kind of lazy writing? I don’t get it at all, who likes those things? “Oh my God Thor mentioned something that happened in The Avengers!” … so what? Really. So what?

    Ah well, there are plenty of good movies out there, it’s just sad to see the superhero genre take a dive after Nolan’s dark knight trilogy. I do hope in a couple of years time people will be saying “what were we thinking with those ‘shared universes’?”

    (Out of curiosity: you guys could do the same poll on the website every 4 months or so to see if the general opinion changes over time. Question: “Do you want shared universes or not?” with the simple “yes” or “no” options.)

    That ends my rant. Cheers

  26. I have been reading comics for a long time and when ever, and im talking quite a while ago, a comic happened to be turned into a movie, it was a great event to see that happen. Of course, those movies were basically Superman and Batman, which was ok, because we had never seen anything like it before. Technology was more advanced and it gave us a better more realistic look at the comics we loved to read, well most of us that read comics.
    To this date, I still get thrilled with being able to see all of this happen and to get to go and see the comics come to life. And , I can still gloat to who ever I’m with and point out to that person, “hey did you catch that?” Something that was said connecting one or tow other things that you would never see happen before.
    I say this because I still have the love of feeling that way when I go tot he theater. But those that don’t feel that way, have become incredibly jaded. Maybe they never really felt it the same way I and some others do. So what is a character mentions something that is a connecting piece to another film, why get all huffed up about it. I still think its awesome that we are able to have all this. Those that don’t understand it may not have gone thru it a long time ago or just don’t care about it.
    Shared Universes are a lot of fun, and too many people are putting so many negative spins on it, like its causing a new plague or something. Believe me, its not.
    I saw Amazing Spiderman 2 yesterday, I was ready for a movie that didn’t have a lot of human story or “too” many villains in it. God, the way some of the people in here were reacting to it you’d think there were more villains and heroes than you would count on two hands. I thought it was well balanced between human interaction and the action sequences. As a matter of fact, I wished there was more action fighting scenes. And Garfield really “owned” the parker character in this film. He felt it and it worked, not like Maguire in the first series of movies.
    I don’t think shared universes are a bad thing, I think it just opens up so many different storylines that are so ready to be told now.
    Everyone should just relax and be glad that we can see this stuff now. Think of the people in the fifties how al they had were the adventures of Superman on TV. They were blown away by that. and when Batman played two nights a week in a row, Everyone went Bat crazy.
    Now we have all this coming to us, and all some of you can do out there is complain about it. Some don’t realize when they have it so good.

    • I don’t think I ever read any superhero comics back in the day, so I don’t share your appreciation for the fact that stories you know and love are coming to life. I can fully understand it though. Personally I didn’t even know there were comics about Superman and Batman together (or any team-up for that matter) until news started coming out about these new ‘shared universes’. So I’ve never really longed for those stories or had any interest in them.
      I can only speak as a general movie-goer and lover, not as a comic-book connaisseur, but since I don’t know these shared stories I could care less about the references spread all throughout the superhero movies lately. I also think the way they mention the other movies are at times incredibly lame, Sometimes I wonder if they just put them in there so the younger, more excited audience can go like “oh my God yes, that did happen in The Avengers oh my God!!!” (a scene where some guy says “I saw you on TV in New York” comes to mind. A simple reference with no meaning whatsoever and they were playing it out like it was the ‘shiznit’.)

      It’s subjective, but I would take a well made one-of story over a part-of-something-bigger movie any day. I believe more thought and craft go into the separate stories since they really do have to stand on their own. If it isn’t any good then it’s a sh*tty movie, end of story. If a comic-book movie nowadays isn’t any good then you hear people say “yeah okay it wasn’t pretty good on it’s own, but they had to introduce character x, or they did a good job setting up the events of the next movie”, etc.

      I’m not angry about the fact that everyone is trying to setup universes these days. It’s just that superhero universes are all the rage today and studios are eager to cash in while I would rather see a couple of good single movies instead of a whole bunch of -be it loosely- interconnected stories.

      So while I do understand what you are saying, I don’t agree with it, but that’s okay, right? :)

      • I don’t think referencing other characters tying their universes together is necessarily sophomoric or catering to the “younger” audiences. I think people are just used to movies completely ignoring major events in the next installment and it takes aware from the immersion aspect, of feeling like you’re transported to this world where things have happened and it influences the future.

        Ever read The Panther by Nelson Demille? It’s about an Anti-Terrorism Task Force operating in Yemen. I turn the page and I see a character from a different series of novels from the same author. What? Mind blown! Why? Not (only) because the child in me thinks it’s fun for some reason, but the idea that characters exist in the same world adds layers to the story. Seeing the effects of world changing events in a different story is just plain awesome.

        Another example that comes to mind is the movie Collateral starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. There’s an early scene where Tom Cruise (a hitman) receives a briefcase from Jason Statham. Everyone is wondering if it’s the same character from The Transporter (never confirmed), not because we expect a crossover, but seeing real world relationships and effects between seperate films makes the world feel more complete and adds a sense of realism.

        I do agree that using entire films to help set up a universe is a waste of an opportunity to tell a good story but I don’t mind short references (a scene where some guy says “I saw you on TV in New York” comes to mind.) to add to our immersion into this living, breathing world where the last movie still exists and it influences the future, like in the real world

      • Its certainly ok to disagree totally. and while I am a little older I have gone back and read a lot of older stuff because I’m reading a lot of the new 52 stuff and making some comparisons between then and now.
        I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not a kid but as a 30′s adult I still love going to the movies and hearing those little dropped Easter eggs in there. Sure the fan boys really get into it but I do too. for me it enhances the enjoyment of the movie. Like I said before, this shared universe thing has never really happened like this before its new and different and its fun. and for all the movies I’ve seen in my life, I think mostly I have enjoyed pretty much all of them. Even Iron Man 2 had some redeeming qualities and I love seeing any iron man armor in action and seeing and hearing stark put out the zingers is a lot of fun.

        these are comic book movies don’t expect to see like a Doctor Zhivago or something like that. Its meant to be fun and exciting and imaginative.
        So you don’t have to agree with me but you also don’t have to be so down on it that it bothers you that much. For me, I’m still a kid and an adult wrapped up into one.

  27. I would have agreed with this if I did not read this article.
    http://archiveofourown.org/works/1617119

    This dude’s theories gave me goosebumps regarding the future of TASM movies. For example:
    - Emma Stone will play Mary Jane to counter Gwen’s death. It’s by design all along. And the very reason they removed Shailene Woodley’s scenes as Mary Jane.
    - Rhino(implied) AND Electro(poof) were defeated. They won’t return at all because the goal was to introduce as many villains as possible instead of recycling them.
    - Flash fights Toxic and Carnage and finally gets intiated as Agent Venom of the Avengers by the end of the movie.
    - Dock Ock(TASM3) and Carnage(Venom) survived to join Sinister Six. And superheroes join forces to defeat them in the movie.
    - Harry will redeem himself in the end by saving Peter and preventing MJ’s death from Norman Osborn.

  28. People are ungreatfull sacks of poop.
    As a kid I never thought I would ever see superheroe movies of this calibur. I never thought a movie like Avengers or Spiderman could be made.
    I thank Marvel, Sony, Fox and DC for al their work.
    Not all of the movies ar topnotch, but I am just glad that we have the chance of actually watching them.
    Stop bitching and be greatfull!

    • That is all of it in a nutshell. Who would have ever thought that we are seeing things in the movies that we would never had dreamed of before. So I agree with your statement entirely.

      Everyone should just sit back and enjoy the ride.

  29. Too much emphasis is being placed in most of these films about fitting it into the ‘universe’ that the focus is always on the next film after the one you are watching. It takes away from just enjoying what you are watching because the attention is on what is going to happen down the line. Also the re-watch value is low because you cant really enjoy a stand alone film as it is supposed to fit into a larger structure.

    • I don’t quite agree there. I don sit there thinking about how its going to connect to the next movie at all. that doesn’t usually crop up until the end of the movie where Im looking for something like that. Or unless there is a Easter egg planted in the movie and you happen to catch it.
      As for the re-watch value, I don’t believe that at all either. The Iron Man movies or the Incredible Hulk or the Two Thor movies all stand on their own. Sure there are connections somewhere down he way, and if by some chance a person hadn’t seen either the first film or a related film, if they like the one they just watched, then they will make sure to go and catch the others. But Every connected universe film can more than hold its own as a singular piece.

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