James Gunn Cautions Against Hollywood's Shared Universe Trend
by Ethan Anderton
November 24, 2014
Ever since Marvel Studios created their cinematic universe, every other studio in Hollywood has been trying to build big franchises with the opportunity for similar crossover opportunities to build a shared universe on the big screen. However, those paying close attention to developing projects have already begun to grow tiresome of studios desperately trying to mimic Marvel's model. Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment is one thing since their comic book universe makes sense in that capacity, but there are plenty of other examples that just sound pointless. Now Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn volunteered his opinion on this growing trend, and he's got a smart perspective on things. More below!
Here's what Gunn posted on Facebook about haphazard plans for shared universes:
Listen, I love big ass shared universes in movies, as well as huge franchises. But I'm a little worried about the numerous shared universes being planned by the studios, without having a strong base film to grow from - or in some cases, NO base film to grow from. Star Wars had the original Star Wars, the Marvel Universe had the original Iron Man, the Dark Knight series had Batman Begins, even movies like Transformers and Twilight - these were movies audiences loved, and the audiences demanded more from these characters. But these days studios are trying to grow trees without a strong seed. Execs and producers and sometimes even directors are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them - making a great movie. And studios are trying to grow franchises from non-existent films or middling successes. It's like they aren't taking audiences into account at all anymore.
I know George Lucas, Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, etc, had ideas where their films would potentially lead in the face of success. But I don't think it ever got in the way of making that first movie count as if it was the last, of making it something wonderful that people would love whether it led to other films or not.
In short, I think this new business model is flawed. I think filmmakers and studios should be prepared for the big picture, but never, ever let it get in the way of making a single great film. Be a little more experimental and see what works as opposed to trying to force success. And mostly, remember that we as an industry exist to serve the audiences, to communicate with them - they have a voice in what we create as well. We are not here to dictate what they want to see, mostly because that's simply not possible.
Notice that Gunn isn't against the idea of shared universes (he wouldn't dare bite the hand that feeds him at Marvel), but merely making an initial film and planning it as if the films that follow are guarantees. There's a reason the scene at the end of Iron Man wasn't in the actual movie, and that's because there was no guarantee that it was going to be a hit. If Iron Man flopped, who knows how Marvel Studios would have proceeded, but the film didn't rely on setting up tons of future movies, nor did studios stake out dates way far in advance at that point as many are doing now.
Studios need to get wise to the fact that audiences aren't invested in The Avengers and the individual franchises following the heroes that make up the team just because they're all connected; that's just a bonus. Audiences love these films because they're all solid adventure films on their own and had a foundation before being thrown together into this shared universe. Universal's action adventure plans for their classic monsters series reboot, the developing Robin Hood world at Sony Pictures and likely Knights of the Round Table need to get one film under their belt before they start talking about multiple films. Thoughts?