Ever since The Avengers crushed the box office, ending its run in third place on the list of highest box office grossers, every other studio has now jumped on the Marvel Studios bandwagon, agreeing that -- at least for now -- it's all about showcasing an extended universe of characters throughout a series of films that are all connected in some way. This is what's popular right now -- call it "The Marvel Approach" -- and moreso than ever we felt the effects of this shift in planning this week via several announcements, all of which promoted some form of a shared universe.
First we had the big Wonder Woman announcement from Zack Snyder's Batman vs. Superman, revealing Gal Gadot as the choice to play the Amazonian warrior in the film. Not only is this a big deal since it's the first feature-film, live-action version of the character, but it also speaks to Warner Bros. and DC's plans to begin expanding their superhero universe beyond just Batman and Superman all within the same movie. We imagine other members of the Justice League will also pop up with small roles in the 2015 movie, and from there DC may take the reverse approach and launch solo films out of its superhero team-up movie, which is the opposite of what Marvel Studios has done, but still along those same lines of a shared universe.
Oh, but Hollywood was just getting started. Soon after the Wonder Woman announcement, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer dropped and tossed out some teasers of its own that ultimately made it less about the second film and more about what comes after. In an interesting move, the first full trailer for the sequel goes out of its way to set up a larger universe of villains that will almost certainly come together for a Sinister Six storyline in later Spider-Man movies. Not only that, but these storylines will probably introduce other characters (such as Venom) who could potentially spin off into their own movies. Essentially, the writing is on the wall, as they say.
Finally, not to be outdone by those pesky DC kids and that young punk Spider-Man, 20th Century Fox threw down its poker hand by going all in on the X-Men franchise, announcing another X-Men sequel for 2016 called X-Men: Apocalypse, and then introducing X-Men producer Simon Kinberg's three-year deal as the sort of creative ringleader that will help expand Fox's own superhero universe in a way that allows the X-Men and Fantastic Four to come together for a series of connected films.
Kinberg's deal seems similar to the one DC is setting up for David Goyer, both of which are trying to emulate the role Kevin Feige plays at Marvel -- a sort of ringleader for their circus of revolving superhero movies. Kinberg even admits as much in this Hollywood Reporter piece, saying, "I have a lot of ideas on how to built those brands and do what everybody is thinking of these days: Be like Marvel. I want to be able to build stories over multiple movies."
When I asked Feige prior to the Thor: The Dark World release about this shift in franchise thinking following The Avengers, he said:
Well, I don't have enough insight to know what's going on at the other studios, but from reading the same things you're probably reading, I'd say it's planning ahead. It's having the confidence and foresight to plan a bigger story, should you be so lucky to get there. That's a fine line, of course, because you can make mistakes that franchises have made before. You know, you have five really good ideas and you save three of them for the next movie, so you only put two of them in whatever the current movie is. Then the current movie isn't very good and you never get to make the next movie. That is something that's a cardinal sin as far as Marvel Studios is concerned. Any good idea we have, we put into the movie we're making now. Because we know if the movie we're making now isn't great, then we'll never make another movie. But we do know where we want to take things should we be so lucky to make another movie, and it would appear that other studios are beginning to do the same thing inspired by The Avengers.
On one hand, you roll your eyes at Hollywood frantically overdosing on another trend like kids in a store full of free candy, but at least The Avengers taught other studios to be more inventive when it comes to their big franchises. And it's not just superheroes, either. Universal is trying to do something similar with its Fast and Furious franchise, and will get back to doing it once it figures out how to resume following Paul Walker's tragic death. Universal is also at work utilizing its stable of classic monsters for some kind of shared monster universe, too.
It all comes down to investment. If you're a fan, the one thing you want most is a reason to fully invest yourself in a property. This week three major studios began pitching you on their future investments, with mixed results. Sure, today's mantra may go something like, "Be like Marvel!" -- but I have a feeling the one who is most successful won't just copy Marvel, but introduce something Marvel hasn't thought of yet.
Do any of them have a shot at that? What do you think?
MORE FROM AROUND THE WEB: