The next expanded movie universes for Hollywood
The precarious gamble Marvel Studios took when they green-lit their shared universe has certainly paid hearty dividends. But when The Avengers etched itself into the record books with the highest-grossing opening weekend ever, it wasn’t just the moviegoers who took notice.
The cataclysmic success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has piqued the interest of other studio executives, who are all now looking to find the next interconnected movie franchise. Sure, DC Comics has already begun releasing movies for a cinematic universe of their own, and Star Wars is starting to branch out with tie-in movies like Rogue One, as well as individual films for Han Solo and Boba Fett. But there are even more crossover films with even less cachet lying ahead and set to hit screens in the coming years.
Marvel may be credited with sparking the new shared universe trend, but it’s actually a century-old template that Universal popularised with their monster properties. (See The Mummy, Dracula, Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Van Helsing, and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.) Recent forgettable films such as I, Frankenstein and Dracula Untold were meant to kick-start a string of movies centred around the iconic Universal movie monsters, but weak returns on both films caused a course-correction for the studio. Universal has doubled down on the crossover notion and is now attempting to reinvigorate their plans by enlisting some star power. Tom Cruise stars in The Mummy, which will be the first instalment of the rebooted monster franchise. Now Universal is hoping The Mummy will score some monstrous profits and be a boon to their subsequent films, which will include Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man, Russell Crowe as Doctor Jekyll and possibly Scarlett Johansson in The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Paramount and Hasbro have plans for a shared universe based on Hasbro’s line of toy properties, and it’s said to tap into the existing franchises of Transformers and G.I. Joe. Like a little brother desperate to catch up, DC Comics has rushed the Justice League franchise into development to get up to speed with Marvel, and although their movies have received tepid-at-best reviews, the revenues are still generous enough to warrant more films from DC. So in that vein, don’t expect the sour reviews of the Transformers series and past G.I. Joe instalments to convince Hasbro to improve the quality of these movies, either. As long as the toy sales remain auspicious, the studio will continue to roll out more films.
Warner Brothers received healthy box-office numbers and critical acclaim for The LEGO Movie, which was riddled with a sprawling array of characters and prompted the inevitable establishment of a movie universe. Akin to the Transformers properties, Lego’s toy sales were also boosted by the success of The LEGO Movie, but perhaps this toy universe can set itself a tier above Hasbro by continuing a streak of films that champion quality over spectacle. The next film in line, The LEGO Batman Movie, should give us an indication of the future success of the franchise.
Upcoming film Logan has already been announced as Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal as fan-favourite mutant Wolverine, as well as a closing chapter for the current X-Men timeline. But spin-off characters joining up for a new team called X-Force has already been foreshadowed. It’s still uncertain whether these threads will ultimately be tied together, but the X-Men proprietors have at least planted the seeds of these characters (Psylocke from Apocalypse, Cable from Deadpool 2, X-23 from Logan) in other movies should they decide to propel forward with cashing-in on a shared universe.
The proposal was to have 23 Jump Street become a crossover with the Men In Black series. Even though this idea has since been debunked, it still deserves a mention because it serves as a warning sign that studios are so anxious to get their beaks wet on any potential crossover profits that they will field any ideas, no matter how inane. Prepare for cinemas to be inundated with movie universes for the foreseeable future.