“Avengers: Endgame” has topped the box office worldwide becoming the highest grossing film of all time.
The Marvel Studios franchise bested “Avatar’s” $2.789 billion to make movie history. It took over ten years for the franchise to get to that level of success and it may never reach it again. In fact, it could all be down hill from here for other shared universes.
We’ve already seen multiple movie studios attempt to replicate Marvel’s success. The Dark Universe has been jump started numerous times, first with “Dracula Untold,” before moving to Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy.” Both were financial disappointments. “Dracula Untold” managed to just pass $56 million. Furthermore, “The Mummy’s” $400 million just wasn’t enough to reboot the universe. The characters and quality of storytelling couldn’t replicate the attention the Marvel properties garnered.
DC on the other hand has a set of tried and tested characters. Iconic heroes such as Batman and Wonder Woman should be easy to turn into a shared universe. The interconnection of a franchise like this can spell disaster though. The quality of one film could significantly impact another. The critical panning of “Batman Vs. Superman” significantly damaged the DC Extended Universe.
The major follow up to this, “Justice League,” consequently performed poorly, with the almost $230 million no where near the heights of the Marvel equivalent. Indeed, it even paled in comparison to many other DCEU franchises. The shared nature of a franchise is both a blessing and a curse. It can continue to solidify the worth of a franchise but the whole universe can be damaged by a misstep. Maintaining quality is difficult in the movie business and is near impossible over the 11 year period Marvel has done it for.
Shared Continuity Headache
Continuity is a key part of any shared universe. Fans notice when mistakes are made, thus limiting the creative options available. Once a story is told it’s canon for the rest of the universe. What’s more, this makes it far more difficult for new fans to enter the franchise. At this stage, it may be difficult for Marvel Studios to grow any more. Anyone who isn’t already on board with the universe would feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content. This will only increase with the new shows on Disney Plus.
Continuity doesn’t just include shared story lines. It also incorporates the general tone of a franchise. Marvel has done well to define the tone for each hero within the larger universe. “Guardians of the Galaxy” are a fun throwback adventure team, with classic music and retro themes. “Captain America” can be both a period piece and a spy thriller. The DCEU on the other hand has been less than consistent. It’s tone has been defined as dark and gritty. When that didn’t pay off it took it too far the other way, with Batman telling out of character jokes. Then the characters fell somewhere in between. Perhaps “Shazam” managed to get the right balance, but is it now too late?
There are too many components for a shared universe to ever fully work again. It’s a concept that is quickly becoming expected of franchises, but perhaps at the cost of both fans and creative quality. It really could all be down hill from now on.