Views By Jake – Cinematic Universes

Cinematic Universe Craze: What studios can’t grasp except Marvel

There is a current trend in Hollywood these days when it comes to the movies produced, Where this craze stems from is from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Before Marvel were the powerhouse they are today, they were a small company, struggling to keep afloat and had to sell the movie rights of their comic book characters to other studios to avoid bankruptcy. There is probably more to it than that but for now, that is the general gist of it.

Over time, some of the comic book properties had returned to Marvel and here’s why.

The studios that own the movie rights to a Marvel Superhero franchise must produce a film within a given alloted time and failure to do so would cause the rights of said franchise to revert to Marvel. The rights for the various Marvel characters passed from studio to studio eventually settling with the studios we know today.

Before the MCU came into being, Sony for a while not only had the rights to Spiderman, but also to Thor before the rights reversion occured. Ghost Rider was also in the hands of Columbia Pictures but later reverted to Marvel in 2013.

Universal had in the past possessed the film rights to the Hulk but no longer do so. However even though the Hulk film rights are tied to Marvel these days, Universal has the right to refuse distribution of any future standalone Hulk projects.

Fox of course currently owns the X Men and Fantastic Four franchises respectively, with the X Men franchise being the more successful of the two. As long as Fox continues to make these movies, good or bad, they will retain the rights to these franchises.

But going back to 2008, Marvel still had a number of characters in their possession, characters that most people were not familiar with. Sure most were familiar with the Webhead, The First Family and the X Men, but who was familiar with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow etc? Not many were except for a niche audience, or if one happened to play a game or watch a series that featured the characters in question, mostly in Spiderman titles.

Marvel took a huge gamble with Iron Man which paid off, along with kickstarting a cinematic universe which while done before with early monster movies and The Star Trek franchise . What was done simply popularise or repopularise this film making and thanks to Marvel’s success, other studios are now attempting the same with other franchises, comic book or otherwise.

In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with attempting this kind of project, You can create stories for people to be invested in and follow as well as make good money in the process. This is risky because the brand has to be strong and the audience have to like what is put in front of them and want more.

The biggest problem with cinematic universe franchises is not wanting to do them, but rather the motivation behind them and sadly, money is usually the deciding factor. The logic goes “It works well with Marvel, Why can’t it work for us?”

There is also a bad habit these days for Studios to announce sequels and spin offs to films BEFORE the film has even been seen yet.

Sony, Paramount and Warner Bros are guilty of this with previous projects, namely The Amazing Spiderman 2 (Which I liked), Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice (Which I didn’t like) and Terminator Genisys (Somewhere in between). There was a claim that Lionsgate were planning 7 films after their first Power Rangers film, however that claim has recently been debunked.

A lot of studios are trying to construct a cinematic universe or rashly announce several film projects before the first one has ever seen the light of day. What many studios fail to realise is this.

Say what you will about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they at least attempt to build a story with their movies, be they superficial or masterful. Marvel’s focus whether you agree or not have a goal and it’s not just a business deal though that is the case, They have focused on building their cinematic universe from the ground up so that they can tell the stories they want to tell with the characters they have.

They have built their cinematic universe slowly and steadily and while Iron Man 2 was a blatant advertisment for the Avengers and a mistep, the other films,  good or bad, have at least focused on the story first before setting up the next movie. There are hints, but the films are not commercials for themselves (with the exception of Iron Man 2), The stories and characters come first.

Marvel films have had a mixed to generally positive response, some films worked, some didn’t, and some were somewhere between. Marvel fans and casual movie goers don’t say Marvel cranks out a cinematic masterpiece everytime. Even Age of Ultron has a polarising response AMONG the Marvel fans, some love it, some hate it. I myself thought it was better than the first Avengers. I personally think it is the third best film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, albeit a little overstuffed.

Marvel may of had it’s ups and downs but it does try to give the audience decent stories, while at the same time entertaining them with riveting action and good humour. Iron Man, Captain America First Avenger and the Avengers were fine but the rest of phase 1 was pretty much dispensible.

The point is, Marvel has a focus, a goal to work toward and are interested in drawing people in not just for money and business, but to give a universe that people are going to be invested in and possibly inspire people to create films of their own.

Another point to consider is that the reason Marvel can get away with release dates 5 years into the future in this present age is because they are already an established franchise and built their franchise slowly.

Too many studios (Yes, even Sony with the Amazing Spiderman 2) are rushing into the cinematic universe formula, either without a plan, constructing a plan before even considering audience reception, or have no overseer like Kevin Feige. Say what you will about Kevin Feige, whether you think that he is a hack or a genius, the man knows what he is doing. Marvel has an overseer with a plan to keep the filmmakers in check, whether you agree with Marvel’s business deals or not.

Dawn of Justice, Terminator Genisys and the Amazing Spiderman 2 did not build a cinematic universe franchise slowly. If they did, the studios who own the rights to the movies wouldn’t cancel future film releases or reshuffle them. With the defensible exception of the Amazing Spiderman 2, They all have Iron Man 2 syndrome namely advertisement first and story later.

Sony made a costly mistake with ASM2 and Paramount and Warner Bros followed suit with their projects. You’d think after what happened with ASM2 that studios would not be so arrogant and brazen to announce future projects before their most recent project would be released.

You can’t get away with advertising future films in the movie you released. You can give a hint, but you cannot use a film as a launchpad, because if the film is a failure, you either have to really work to salvage it or completely reboot and start anew. The latter happened with the Green Lantern movie, which was actually Warner Bros’ SECOND attempt at making a cinematic universe (The first being with Batman and Robin and the scrapped movie Superman Lives), the movie itself bombed and was savaged by critics and fans alike, causing DC to start again from scratch.

In the case of Dawn of Justice, it has caused Warner to take a step back, but not reboot and a few changes they have made may be for the better, like giving Ben Affleck more creative control and making him an executive producer, not merely in name, but actually in function.

Studios don’t really seem to get why Marvel is successful and Captain America Civil War had passed the $1 billion mark recently with no trouble.

They can by all means make a cinematic universe, it’s their prerogative, but they need to understand WHY Marvel is able to make their cinematic universe work and not by trying to replicate them.

This is something for studios to learn and consider.



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