Monday’s Movie Musings: Are shared universes the future of cinema?

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Blame Marvel. That’s what film makers and fans alike will say one day, when it becomes impossible to get a film made without a developed universe and potential franchise attached to it.

It was recently announced that Sony are planning to green light a new Robin Hood film; not content with just telling the same story we’ve all heard before, this new literation would be a platform for a multi-film franchise, with possible sequels and spin-offs set within the same universe.

Little John: The Movie, Will Scarlett: The Movie, The Sheriff Of Nottingham: The Movie; all of these are possibilities as to where Sony could take the franchise, expanding and playing with an otherwise straight forward story. Whilst I love a good swashbuckler and the Robin Hood story (Prince of Thieves is the one for me), this idea is one that cries out awful, but signifies a new trend in modern day cinema.

This all began with the 2008 release of Iron Man. Not only was it responsible for resurrecting Robert Downey Jr’s career but it was a massive game changer in terms of our expectation of film. It marked the beginning of a whole world of meticulously thought out movies that would tie together nicely and make every comic book fan’s dreams a reality.

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I’ve never shown the Marvel films the same kind of love that other people have, but their business model is truly admirable. On the financial side it’s a resounding success with a total gross of over a billion pounds taken worldwide, but it’s the impression that the productions are being made for the fans that really makes Marvel stand out from other companies. The genre-bending studio have taken risks, like the most recent Guardians Of The Galaxy, but all of them have payed off due to the amount of talent that’s attached to the films.

Their success is enviable, so much so that other production companies are attempting to capture the same lightning in a bottle. Warner Brothers are the front runners in this regard and last week confirmed their slate of DC films through to 2020. In a post-Dark Knight world, their intentions to re-establishing their biggest property in a shared universe will see Batman, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman join forces in an eventual Justice League film.

However, whilst the structure and direction of Marvel’s universe seems well thought out, Warner Brothers seems to be more concerned in getting their hands on Avengers-type profits. It’s difficult to judge until the films are released, but the addition of Batman to what would have been Man Of Steel 2 in the now ‘Batman vs. Superman’ seems desperate and unnecessary. As well as their DC properties, it’s also worth noting that Warner Brothers have announced a Lego-Batman and Ninjago spin-off as well as a sequel to the highly successful Lego Movie; all to be released over the next few years.

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Warner Brothers aren’t the only studio that are effortlessly trying to create shared universes either; Sony has been building towards a Spider-Man universe, with talk of a Sinister Six, Spider-Woman and a solo Venom outing recently becoming muted after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 didn’t do as well as they would have liked. 20th Century Fox also continue to build on their X-Men universe, having brought the First Class and original team together in this years Days Of Future Past. With a sequel already planned for 2016, this seems to be another franchise that will keep growing. Universal have also turned their sights to re-booting their classic monster properties with the idea of creating a Marvel-type universe. The recent Dracula Untold appears to have been re-written because of this, and the film’s ending hints heavily to a sequel.

Despite the fact that shared universes have been predominantly restricted to comic-book films, it’s their success that has led to a demand for multiple film franchises. As this begins to drip into other genres and stories, could this mean the end of originality in cinema once and for all? Perhaps not, but with the Marvel machine mightier than ever, and whilst other production companies frantically try to catch up, we can expect our summers to become increasing populated with more sequels and spin-offs. Who knew that would even be possible?

Next Week: Is a Ghostbusters re-boot a good idea?

Image credits to http://www.scifinow.co.uk, http://www.blastr.com and http://www.manilovefilms.com

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