This was bound to happen. Joss Whedon’s super smash The Avengers took in over a billion dollars at the box office in 2012, demolishing competition with five franchises coming together under one collective tent. Dating back to 2008, it was a gutsy move on the part of Marvel Studios, who played it smart, took their time, and wound up reaping the benefits that come with a shared superhero world. Now, the term “cinematic universe” has become a cultural staple, thrown around as frequently as “sequel” and “spinoff” with even more in the way of anticipation. It had been done before (Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith), but never as meticulously planned as Whedon and company.
As a result, shared movie universes have become the new fad in Hollywood. Regular standalone franchises are so 2010, and now studios are looking to intertwine everything they’ve got in hopes that they hit the next Marvel of toys, games, or whatever else. DC has already put this imitation act into play, with a solo flick (Man of Steel), a posse cut (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), and a gang of releases announced until 2020. Hell, they even copied Marvel’s cool little acronym (MCU) with one of their own (DCEU). But this list isn’t about the big dogs, nor the colossal canine also getting in on the fun (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), it’s about the upcoming franchises that you may not yet know about.
Here are Screen Rant’s 12 Cinematic Universes Currently in Development.
Arriving in theaters this July, the Ghostbusters reboot has already been subject to heated debate. Some find the previews fresh and hilarious, others are bashing their heads against a wall and crying out for the days of Bill Murray. Either way, Columbia Pictures could care less, and is commencing with an entire Ghostbusters multiverse; one that would begin with this Kristen Wiig-Melissa McCarthy iteration. In bypassing the hallowed originals, fans will certainly feel some type of way, but director Paul Feig offered some explanation to Entertainment Weekly as to why this was the case: “I love the first one so much I don’t want to do anything to ruin the memory of that. It just just felt like, let’s just restart it because we can have new dynamics.”
New is definitely the opportune word moving forward. After Feig’s all female outing, word of a Ghost Corps film produced by Drew Pearce and Channing Tatum (who would potentially star) broke, shortly followed the confirmation of four more Ghostbuster flicks in the near future. And worst of all, it doesn’t look like there’s gonna be Twister or breakdancing in any of them.
Don’t worry, 2012’s Battleship won’t be making the cut. Instead, the famous toy company has teamed with Paramount Pictures to rejuvenate G.I. Joe. while working in solo franchises for famed games Micronauts and Rom. In the wake of the wildly successful Transformers flicks, Hasbro will look to combine the efforts of the aforementioned brands (minus Transformers) and bring them into a universe where each coexist in action-packed glory. It’s a tough sell on a computer screen, but Paramount clearly takes it seriously enough to bring in heavy-hitting writers to help.
The pen men (and women) tapped to contribute include Michael Chabon (Spider-Man 2), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), Brian K. Vaughn (Lost), and Joe Robert Cole (The People v. O.J. Simpson). Headed up by Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), the stacked staff will have ample freedom to do as they see fit with toy lines like M.A.S.K. and Visionaries leading the charge. It's a crap-shoot as to whether any of them will hit big, but with talent like this, the odds aren’t bad.
G.I. Joe 3 is set to be the next Hasbro release.
10 King Arthur
Though they’ve already got DC heroes to rely on, Warner Bros. clearly wants another dog in the cinematic universe circle. What’s more, they’re reviving a franchise that opened to less-than-stellar response in 2011, on the back of tepid box office results. But that’s neither here nor there for the studio, who have tapped Guy Ritchie to direct not one but six (!) films about the famed Knights of the Round Table. Envisioned as a cross between Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, the Dark Ages saga will open with a King Arthur solo film before spiraling off into respective stories and group efforts.
All of which, will play out under the stylish eye of the stockpiled Ritchie. To be fair, the director has shown an ability to helm franchise fare before, but the ice under this one remains pretty thin. Not only will the studio be banking on a guy who just committed to Sherlock Holmes 3, the content itself will have to compete with the focus group writers and colossal starpower of Marvel and DC. Looks like we’ll just have to wait until March 2017 to find out.
Another Warner Bros. offshoot, this time in conjunction with Legendary Pictures, who brought Godzilla back from the dead in 2014. The reboot did well both critically and commercially, opening up the floodgates for the studio to pursue any direction they so chose. Naturally, with the double-whammy of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy landing the same year, Legendary took the bait and began planning their magnum opus in response. Word of mouth, Comic Con slivers, and the eventual studio confirmation revealed that King Kong would be the next beast burdened onscreen, under the subtitle Skull Island.
Intended as a standalone effort from Peter Jackson’s 2005 version, Island will delve into Kong’s origins, all the while setting in motion the eventual showdown between him and Godzilla. Stakes don’t come much higher (or larger) than that, and Legendary is intending to sculpt a standalone series for both behemoths while having them come together in world-wrecking fashion every few years. How the awkwardly matched Kong and ‘Zilla are supposed to duke it out is unclear, but the studio clearly feels they can provide logical answers when the time comes.
8 21 Jump Street
The brilliant closing credits in 22 Jump Street (2014) ended the film on a satirical high note. By sprinting through twenty something sequels in the span of a few minutes, the tongue-in-cheek series solidified its status as some of the sharpest comedies around. Which makes things even tougher for writing/directing duo Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, who intend to produce two more sequels and a Jump Street/Men In Black crossover!?! It’s a gamble to say the least, clashing two wildly different worlds into a smorgasbord of aliens and adolescence - not exactly what fans of either franchise were anticipating.
As larger cogs in the Jump Street brand, Columbia Pictures has also green lit a female-oriented entry under the reins of Lizzie Molyneux, Paul Downs, Lucia Aniello and Wendy Molyneux. Taking the prize for most outlandish universe on the list, Lord has since discussed the rationale behind such decision-making: “Talking about it, developing it with Jonah and Channing and Rodney [Rothman] and the studio, we can’t just do the ‘hey, it’s the same thing again’ schtick because we did that already.” Especially if what Lord said was true about post-credit sequels being canon. That’s one strange universe to be living in.
7 Valiant Comics
In response to Spider-Man being snatched out from under them (oh Marvel), Sony bought the rights to five Valiant Comic properties instead. Charging full speed ahead, the rambunctious studio announced five films immediately, each correlated with the next under the intention of crafting a superhero universe a la Avengers or Justice League. Leading off with Bloodshot, about a shape shifting former soldier with healing abilities, Sony will take the conventional route by introducing each hero in a solo outing before uniting them in a mack-daddy movie set to make a bundle - hopefully. Though the formula is sound, other studios have had the benefit of well known heroes behind them.
Valiant, on the other hand, is made up of underground dudes like Toyo Harada and posses like Harbinger, with planned franchises linking up in the epic Harbinger Wars. Somehow, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as something like Civil War. Fortunately, the involvement of John Wick (2014) duo David Leitch and Chad Stahelski will ensure this thing is at least in creatively capable hands.
Bloodshot is set for release some time next year.
6 American International Pictures
Was anyone really anticipating this one? With all due respect, American International Pictures has never (ever) been the cream of the crop when it come to quality. The resident trafficker in 50s camp, AIP thrived through Atomic Age outings like She-Creature (1956) and Teenage Caveman (1958); stuff that sported better titles than true stories. In fact, here are a few others just because they’re worth a laugh: Reform School Girl (1957), The Brain Eaters (1958), and the wonderfully lowbrow gem Viking Woman And The Sea Serpent (1957). Cheesy filmmaking at it's finest, and amazingly retained in what the studio now intends to be a shared universe of insanity.
Who gave the okay on this, is regrettably unknown. What we do know, however, is that AIP and Cinedigm hired Jeff Katz (Snakes on a Plane) to script ten interconnected remakes, including the previously mentioned films with flicks like The Day The World Ended (1955) and The Cool And The Crazy (1958). Aside from confirming that Katz has way too much time on his hands, the dizzying logic behind this cinematic franchise will have to be seen to be believed.
5 Robin Hood
Robin Hood has a disadvantage going into the shared universe game. For one, his story has already been told many times on film, with varying success. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly for this particular situation, there aren’t many characters outside of Robin Hood that can carry their own movie. A Friar Tuck spinoff is tear-inducing from both the boredom and sheer hilarity of it's premise, as is a Little John solo outing. Do fans really care what these sidekicks were up to before they joined forces with Robin Hood? Sony seemingly thinks so, as the studio intends to do Sherwood Forest Avengers-style with a flurry of cinematic adventures.
“The plan is to make a series of movies focusing on the outlaw archer and his band of Merry Men: Little John, Friar Tuck, and Will Scarlett. One could say they were the superhero team of England’s Middle Ages,” so says one Hollywood Reporter article. Yikes. Perhaps such a pitch would be exciting if it were, oh, I don’t know, England’s Middle Ages? As it stands, the supposed blend of Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious currently seems too outlandish to support.
A shootoff of Paramount’s Hasbro division, Transformers is in the unique situation of breaking away from a cinematic franchise by starting it's own cinematic franchise. That’s a lot of continuity to keep up with, especially when the guy in charge has a reputation for blowing everything up. But good old Michael Bay, the bringer of all things Bay-hem, has only decided to helm one more installment, while the studio will move ahead with multiple sequels and a pack of spinoff projects. Because, for whatever reason, Paramount decided it was crucial that fans get to see the origins of Bumble Bee.
No joke, that’s one of the films slated for release in 2018. Hasbro really has their eye on the monetary prize here, with ten movies reportedly set to bear the Transformers name within the next dozen years. Officially set to begin with Transformers 5 next year, and carrying on through to solo projects and a supposed trip to Cybertron, this oversaturated serving seems a little extreme. But hey, as long as the moolah keeps moving on in.
The LEGO Movie was a smashing success in 2014, surprising everyone with its wit and warm-hearted whimsy. It was one of many wins for Warner Bros., who immediately saw the potential in their little yellow blocks and commissioned a whole batch of sequels and spinoffs to follow. The results? A cinematic universe that pulls directly from the heroes of other franchises. It's a brilliant move, particularly The LEGO Batman Movie, which has the benefit of piggybacking Batfleck in Dawn of Justice. The studio even gets to churn out their takes on The Joker, Batgirl, and Commissioner Gordon to boot. Universe extensions continue with The LEGO Ninjago Movie and The Billion Brick Race, only adding to the infinite possibilities established in the original picture.
And of course, the eventual LEGO Movie 2, helmed by series masterminds Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. The duo, when they weren’t busy reinventing Jump Street, provided a landscape perfectly catered to the shared world concept. As such, this may be one of the only list entries that logically backs it's intent to intertwine tales. It should be a fun time.
“Our first shot at unlocking the whole Hanna-Barbera Universe.” Those were the words that studio execs used when debuting Scooby-Doo footage at Comic-Con earlier this year. Titled S.C.O.O.B., this new animated iteration finds the famous Mystery Machine gang as the gateway to something much bigger down the line. Sure enough, that 'something' is a Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe that would integrate all of the iconic duo’s famous creations; from Yogi Bear and The Flintstones to The Jetsons and Johnny Quest. It's a silly premise that could work in the right hands, but it also raises some questions as to the accessibility of a “shared universe.”
Does placing Scooby and Yogi in the same world really benefit either character? Or is it merely wasted upon something so outlandish that it's more of a marketing gimmick? Either way, it'll make a bundle on it's way to rejuvenating the Hanna-Barbera brand. Maybe it's just best to sit back and enjoy these characters as they come tumbling through the revolving door of daffiness.
1 Universal Monsters
As the inventor of the cinematic universe, Universal Pictures gets an all-time pass. Early flicks like House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) broke new ground in onscreen combinations, providing viewers with prehistoric geek-outs over which monster was truly the best. So, it seems almost fitting that the studio dust off these relics of the past and refurbish them in the Age of the Extended Universe. One that got a potential jumpstart start in 2013 with Dracula Untold. It wasn’t exactly the rousing success that Universal intended, though it introduced Charles Dance’s master vampire character with the telling final words, “let the games begin.” As such, Universal has allowed enough room to axe the underwhelming intro if they so desired.
The studio isn’t wasting any time with this plan. Reboots of The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and The Creature From The Black Lagoon have all been confirmed, with Egypt’s ultimate evil set to hit the big screen next summer. Starring Tom Cruise as a Navy SEAL caught in the demonic dust of the undead Pharaoh, it’ll be a tell tale sign as to whether the series can hang with the younger cats. Cinematic universes just aren’t as exclusive as they used to be.
Can you think of any other cinematic universes on the horizon? Let us know in the comments!