Warning: The following contains spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story
Both Marvel and Lucasfilm have created immersive universes in which they claim "everything is connected," but Solo: A Star Wars Story and Rogue One have both highlighted how Lucasfilm is better than Marvel at incorporating TV canon. Solo is absolutely jam-packed with references to the TV shows - from a throwaway shout to the VCX-100 of Star Wars: Rebels fame (a ship that actually appeared in Rogue One), to the more dramatic closing scenes that revealed the villain behind the Crimson Dawn. In contrast, Marvel does its level-best to distance themselves from the TV shows.
Marvel's approach does make a sort of sense. The studio knows that more people watch the films than tune in to watch the TV shows. As a result, explicit tie-ins are difficult to handle; when he was filming Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon famously refused to include a Phil Coulson cameo, because most cinemagoers think Coulson's dead. But Solo sees Lucasfilm ditch that philosophy completely. When the film comes to a close, viewers learn that the leader of Crimson Dawn is a villain who was apparently killed off in The Phantom Menace. Only people who are familiar with the wider Star Wars universe would even be aware that Darth Maul has been alive and well in non-movie material for a decade.
- This Page: How Lucasfilm and Marvel Work
- Page 2: What's Actually Canon and Can it Last?
How Lucasfilm and Marvel Work
The fundamental reason for the difference is, at least in part, rooted in organizational structure. The way Lucasfilm works, everything is maintained from one central group, the Lucasfilm Story Group. The Story Group ensures continuity with every single project, from the films to the TV shows, from the comics to the New York Times bestselling novels. What's more, so far as the Lucasfilm Story Group is concerned, everything is equally canon. They don't get their continuity perfect, but the Story Group does strive to tell a consistent story across every single medium.
Probably the best example is Saw Gerrera, originally created by George Lucas for The Clone Wars animated series. Gerrera was played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One, and Whitaker went on to reprise the role as a voice-actor in Star Wars: Rebels. Tying all the threads together, the backstory of Gerrera's terrorist group has been explored in tie-in novels such as Beth Revis's Rebel Rising. Under the watchful eye of the Lucasfilm Story Group, there's a single consistent narrative running through several different channels.
But Marvel's organizational structure is different. In 2015, back-office politics at the House of Ideas led Disney to force a restructure. They pulled Marvel Studios out of the wider Marvel Entertainment group, with Kevin Feige placed in charge of the film division, reporting directly to Disney. Marvel's Creative Committee, which in theory could have served the same function as the Lucasfilm Story Group but in practice had just forced directors to toe the line, was shut down. As a result, while the Marvel movies and TV shows are ostensibly set in the same universe, they really don't intersect much. Technically, they're run by different Disney subsidiaries with no direct reporting lines or central oversight connecting them. And this can cause real issues.
Take the example of the cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War; Marvel TV's approach seems to simply be to ignore Thanos's finger-snap, to act as though it never happened. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made some references to the Black Order's attack on New York, but then studiously avoided the cliffhanger ending. Depending on how the finger-snap is resolved in Avengers 4, it may actually become the point where Marvel's shared universe finally breaks down. It's probably a good job that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s abbreviated sixth season won't release until after Avengers 4 has hit cinemas; if the finger-snap is averted through time-travel, as commonly theorized, then the shared continuity will be saved.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019