Looking back, it is kind of funny to remember doubting Marvel Studios and their ability to put together what they refer to as their “cinematic universe” akin to that of their comic book universe, in which characters appear in each other’s story lines all the time and epic mash ups of comic book characters and teams are done on the reg.
But comics books are cheaper to make than blockbuster movies, so their idea of making a string of movies that all fed into each other and would culminate with “The Avengers” seemed like a classic “more than they can chew” type of situation. Just because “Iron Man” was a surprise success doesn’t mean people would actually go see Thor movies. Really, some people were likely laughing to themselves, thinking there was no way this was going to work, creatively or financially.
Jump cut to May 7th, 2012, inside the offices of Marvel and Disney (who had since come on as a financial backer), look behind those closed doors, and you know what you would have seen? Employees all doing back flips and partying and getting down, as “Marvel’s The Avengers” (official title) had a record setting opening weekend of $207 million. That’s just three days of box office. In just one country. To say that Marvel’s plan worked is an understatement. The fans ate it up and came back for seconds. And thirds. And so on. And the critics didn’t hate it. Most of them didn’t anyway.
$1.5 BILLION dollars later and “The Avengers Effect” was underway, in which other studios saw what Marvel (and Disney) accomplished, and quickly decided that THIS was the way to go. Warner Brothers, having the DC comics to draw from (Marvel’s biggest rival in the biz), decided to take their successful “Man of Steel” Superman reboot, which had started production WELL before “Marvel’s The Avengers” kicked everyone’s asses at the box office, and retrofit it into their “Justice League” build up. But of course Warner Brothers can’t really do this right, so they just threw Batman in the Superman sequel and turned it into Batman vs. Superman (no official title released as of yet for this one), with what is reportedly an extended Wonder Woman cameo. Then somehow they are going to make this work with their (now successful) Green Arrow CW show a la Smallville, which they are trying to use to springboard a Flash tv show (because THAT’S what the people are clamoring for), and it really doesn’t seem nearly as cohesive or thought out as Marvel’s approach.
It would be one thing if only Warner Brothers got into this franchise film arms race with Marvel/Disney, but Universal is also getting in on the world-building, cinematic build up deal with the Spider-Man movies, using “The Amazing Spider-Man” sequels to lead up to a villain-centric Sinister Six movie, teaming up a bunch of villains spread out over several movies into movie. Like a bad guy version of “Marvel’s The Avengers.” Which could be neat. But it ain’t making $1.5 billion worldwide, that’s fo’ sho’.
I also could have sworn that I saw an article a little while ago about some sort of Jack Ryan multi-movie thing, with Chris Pine in one sequel and someone like Tom Hardy in the other, leading up to a movie with the two of them, maybe it was Jack Ryan? Could have been something else? Must have been something else because I just spent QUITE awhile searching the interwebz for this story and I couldn’t find it, so I may have dreamed it up or hallucinated it or something, but still it seems VERY plausible in this day and age.
And you know who else is getting in on this action? 20th Century Fox, that’s who, because they got them those X-Men rights. And ComicBookMovie.com pulled some choice bits from a Bryan Singer interview with Total Film magazine, and in it Bryan Singer went into a little more detail to his tweet from several months back in which he revealed he would be making the next X-Men movie in addition to the one he directed which is coming out this summer. And in his tweet, he revealed that “X-Men: Days of Future Past” will lead into “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which comic book nerds immediately knew could only be done properly in movie form as long as they got the Days of Future Past stuff in there first.
And in this interview, Bryan Singer envisions a long line of X-Men movies that will now exist in this universe they are creating cinematically, movies which Singer calls “in-between-quels.” For instance, some movies will take place in the 80s, which makes them sequels to “X-Men: First Class” but also prequels to “X-Men” through “X-Men: The Last Stand?” Singer seems to be tickled pink by the idea of introducing younger versions of characters established already (something done quite well actually in “X-Men: First Class“), and obviously as long as these movies make money, Fox will be more than happy to keep funding them. So welcome to the newly expanded “X-Men” cinematic universe.
This trend will continue, and it will extend beyond comic book movies. Remember “Freddy vs Jason?” There were actually people on the internets (of ALL places) lobbying hard for a “Freddy vs Jason vs Ash” movie. You know, Ash? From “Evil Dead?” Cause THAT makes fucking sense. But people wanted to see it, and they want to see Batman vs Superman now, and they want more Avengers movies, and it is only a matter of time before we get “Robocop vs Terminator” and “GI Joes and The Transformers.”
Is this a bad thing? Are we going to get curmudgeonly with this stuff? Am I getting too old for this shit? Maybe I should welcome the possibility of one day getting a “James Bond Meets Watchmen Babies on the Planet of the Apes” trilogy, or a movie smashing together characters from “Star Wars,” “Batman,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The Lord of the Rings” and American History? (actually, “The Lego Movie” did just that and it was awesome.)
Or maybe we need more movies like “Inception,” defiantly singular, without any prequels or sequels in sight (though of course in Hollywood, you really can never say never, know what I mean?). We can still have big, loud blockbusters that have a little bit of thought to them outside of “how do I turn this one movie into FIVE movies?” I don’t need the endings of my films to be cliffhangers that set up future films, just so those can set up their own future films, and so on and so on, until people actually stop paying money for these.
But a $207 million dollar opening weekend? Over a $1 billion worldwide? That is way too tempting. And that is evidence that this is actually an approach the people will want. Or will they? Maybe it will take a few studios fucking up the formula to get people to rebel against the idea. So many questions which will all be answered with time. In the meanwhile, we get to enjoy our fill of Thor sidequels and Captain America postquels and Hulk thrice-reboot-quels and a possibly ridiculous Batman vs Superman movie (give it a title already, guys, GAWD!) and a bunch of other crapola designed not to be lasting pieces of art, pop cultural or otherwise, but instead are created simply to sell you the next movie. Don’t you think that’s kind of fucked up? Maybe you should. Or maybe I’m just totes old. And I’ll accept that if that is the case. Just so you know. But I am also a guy who likes his summer movies and I’d hate to see a summer filled to the gills with nothing but sequels, prequels and requels of all the movies that are also coming out that same summer. Cause that’s just too damn much.