Does it sometimes seem like everything in Hollywood regarding blockbusters is becoming a franchise or some kind of shared universe? Well that’s because, for the most part, it really is. Studios turning these recognizable IP’s into franchises and shared universes makes sense from a financial standpoint. We’ve seen how much success Marvel has achieved by connecting their films into a shared universe. We’ve also seen other studios try and fail at replicating the comic book studio colossal, like Sony Pictures with The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The reality is that not every studio can be like Marvel, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t made to one day be just as successful. For example, when you hear that Warner Bros is kicking off their DC extended universe with Batman v Superman, it makes complete sense because they’re built like Marvel with a plethora of rich characters. Even outside of comic book films are franchises like Fast & Furious, which intends on expanding its universe with spin-off films. That makes sense because we’ve grown to love those films and its characters like Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Elsewhere, Lucasfilm is giving us one Star Wars film every year in an expanded universe, because its what fans want. We have faith in the studio to rise to the challenge and meet demands in both quantity and quality. Back to Warner Bros, and how they’re introducing spin-off films to expand the Harry Potter universe, starting with Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. It makes sense because the series ended strong, and audiences welcome more installments.
Properties like the ones I just mentioned have overtime become moneymakers, because they weren’t rushed by studios trying to create something cheap. Franchises and cinematic universes can be good for Hollywood, but too much of a good thing sometimes isn’t. Here are several examples of what I mean.
The news regarding Paramount and Hasbro planning a second shared universe with their IP’s is nauseating. Their plan (according to Collider) is to create an interconnected series of films with properties like G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), and ROM. Their process involves cooking up ideas for connected films by attempting to replicate their reportedly satisfied results from a previous writer’s room, which focused on a future Transformers shared universe. As impressive as the ensemble of writers are for Transformers, Paramount still has nothing to show from their brainstorming. Now they plan to create a second shared universe with unknown properties like Visionaries and M.A.S.K. by creating a new writers room. Until their Transformers shared universe is a success, and audiences buy into it, they shouldn’t be multiplying universes.
Universal may have the right ideas for expanding properties (i.e. Fast and Furious), but a planned monsters shared universe isn’t one of them. This universe will reportedly feature characters like The Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Invisible Man, and Van Helsing. Their idea is to have monsters appear in each other’s separate films before coming together in an Avengers-style tie-in film. As much as I love the work of hired on writers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, the task they’ve been handed by Universal is impossible. I say this because the recent failures of some of these character’s reboot attempts. Films like I, Frankenstein, Dracula Untold, and separately Victor Frankenstein have all failed at the box office. Nobody is asking for this shared universe, at least not right now.
I don’t even want to revisit the idea of Lionsgate claiming “Hunger Games will live on and on” through prequels, mainly because of its declining box office numbers. Meanwhile Legendary plans a King Kong and Godzilla shared universe. The outlook on that idea remains to be seen. Fans are certainly clamoring for a Kong vs Godzilla, and hopefully the studio earns a shared universe by making the next installments great.
The point I’m trying to make here is that every studio desperately wants to replicate that money making formula that Marvel has perfected. Some will try hard and possibly have something going for them, while others will fail because they haven’t earned it, or they tried selling audiences big on a small IP. It’s concerning for me what these failures could mean for Hollywood. One, big budget films with original stories will lose their funding, and get abandoned by the studios because they can’t afford anymore risks. Two, audiences will soon get fatigued of every soon-to-be popcorn flick being connected, rather than one complete standalone story. Their fatigue could spread to other shared universes that are actually good. Hollywood will soon overdose on franchises and shared universes, but right now it seems these studios just can’t get enough of turning anything into one in hopes of major profits.