Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Not everything needs a shared universe, but since one company has basically been printing money by doing just that, everyone wants in on the action.

Let’s call it “The Marvel Syndrome.”

That’s not a knock against Marvel by any means, because I love that company. It’s the only publisher I read superhero books from on a regular basis – which, even as low as three or four titles, is still more than the competition. I don’t buy a single monthly DC title.

The Marvel movies have a plan that the studio laid out and is sticking to. Phase 1 started with IRON MAN, then THE INCREDIBLE HULK, IRON MAN 2, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and they all built towards THE AVENGERS.

The studio is currently in the middle of Phase 2 which started with IRON MAN 3, then moves on with THOR: THE DARK WORLD, then CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. All of those lead to THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, which comes out in May of 2015.

The studio built a long-term plan and now they have a shared cinematic universe. It feels very real and the studio, writers, directors and actors have worked very hard to make it feel that way. Every actor that signs on for a Marvel Studios movie, signs a contract that has something like 10 appearances. That basically covers three stand-alone character films, three AVENGERS movies and a handful of appearances for them to pop up in other Marvel movies. It makes it feel real and it’s a nice little surprise when one of the other characters appears on screen – even if it’s only for a second.

DC is haphazardly throwing together their own shared movie universe, but they’re not doing a very good job with it. Ben Affleck (who I actually think will be great in this role) is the new BATMAN, and he’s going head to head with SUPERMAN pretty soon. Of course that means that everything that happened in BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS never happened. Probably anyway. I’m not really sure how that will work. I am certain than in the eyes of Warner Brothers and the SUPERMAN VS. BATMAN movie, everyone is probably just pretending that GREEN LANTERN never happened. It’s kind of a mess over there and probably won’t be straightened out for a while.

Since Marvel has been successful with it, and since Warner Brothers/DC is trying to get it together, every other studio in town is trying to build their own shared universe.

The latest studio to throw out such an idea is Universal, and I kind of hate what they want to do.

Universal wants to resurrect all the classic monsters – The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, and the Bride of Frankenstein – and give them their own AVENGERS-style universe.

I love all the classic monsters and those characters are some of my favorite creations of all time. But they would be terrible now. The guy that is tasked with coming up with a plan for all of them is Roberto Orci and his writing partner Alex Kurtzman – two guys I have very, very little faith in. Let’s take a look at their recent track record:


As much as I liked the first STAR TREK reboot (and thought INTO DARKNESS was pretty good, save for the whole Khan thing), I don’t like what they do with the movies they write. They try too hard to make them bleak and serious, and it just becomes too much. The tone they use for every project is the same and I don’t get excited about anything they're involved with.

The lone bright spot on their resume is FRINGE, which I only saw the first season of. It was pretty good, but not good enough for me to keep going.

Devin Faraci wrote a good piece on this the other day and I encourage you to read it. Essentially, he says that what makes these monsters so special is the make-up, effects and the actors that inhabited them back when they first popped out. There’s no way Universal Studios, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman or any director (save for a few) would let those designs pass today. They’d have to be much scarier and pushed much, much farther.

By doing that, you kind of take away the soul of the characters. He also says that at this point in time, pretty much all of those characters are public domain. I could make a movie with Dracula, The Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster if I wanted to (and now I kinda do).

I’m all for new stories and new movies with those characters – they’re all-time classics that I would be happy to see again. I just don’t want Orci or Kurtzman anywhere near them. But if they do, if they absolutely have to be the guys to make this happen, I’d much rather they focus on trying to tell a good story with one character than worry too much about working them all in.

There’s a small chance that this plan could be great, but I won’t hold my breath.

After all there’s no way in hell that it could be better than the last time we saw all these monsters together in one place. No chance whatsoever.

Never forget.

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