The blessing and curse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Iron Man. What a film! A wonderful performance from RDJ and a great yarn in its own right. It stood alone as a shining beacon of what a Marvel movie could be. And success found it (even beating Batman Begins for box office dollars in the same year).

Iron Man movie poster  Images may be subject to copyright

Iron Man movie poster

Images may be subject to copyright

So many wonderful and beloved movies and TV shows have been successfully spun out from this film into what we now know as The Marvel Cinematic Universe. We're covered until 2020!

   The MCU Phase Three plan  Images may be subject to copyright

 

The MCU Phase Three plan

Images may be subject to copyright

This gives so many people joy. They know that they're gonna get their quality superhero movie fix three times a year now. It's almost like a cinematic soap opera. On top of that there's the quality of TV shows like Daredevil and Agent Carter (I'm not a huge fan of Agents of Shield - it's improving but still off the pace in my opinion).

I count myself as one of the big fans of the MCU. But I do also see the problems. 

 

As a kid, I was deeply in love with Spider-Man: The Animated series and the phenomenal X-Men animated series. I like so many before (and after) me, was hooked on the characters and desperately wanted to learn more.

   Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series  Images may be subject to copyright

 

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series

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There is such a deep history of stories for the classic comic book characters that it's hugely daunting trying to find an easy-access point.

*I'm gonna mention now that I am a huge fan of long-form storytelling. You kinda have to be in you want to read Manga stories with over 800 issues (for example One Piece) 

However, every Spider-Man or X-Men story I read had little notes throughout it explaining that "X happened in Uncanny X-Men issue 137" (for example). I didn't have the money to get all the comics I needed to fill in the complete story! It was unfathomably annoying and I basically rage-quit Marvel. 

I see this truncated story-arch system of Marvel's comics starting to rear its ugly head in the MCU. No better example of this is Avengers: Age of Ultron. But The Dark World suffered from it as well.

A:AoU was never going to please everyone to begin with thanks to the success of the first Avengers movie. But specifically A:AoU was trying to serve so many other masters that if forgot the number one rule of the blockbuster movie... Tell an exciting story.

They might as well have had, "Previously on Avengers..." before the movie and a sizzle reel of highlights from The Avengers, Dark World and Winter Soldier to catch everyone up and give context to large portions of the movie.

Please Marvel, before you go too far down this route...

Turn back!  Before it's too late!

Let your stories stand on their own and maybe give little nods to the larger universe you're building.

Guardians of The Galaxy was awesome and it had to excessive "required watching" for people to understand it. 

Antman, for all its shortcomings, was a good stand-alone story. In many ways it harkened back to the Phase One movie model. A time when the connective tissue wasn't so overt. Agent Coulson popping in for a scene or two; Fury coming in to chastise RDJ. We didn't need more. Although I will admit that we all wanted more. I guess it's a case of "careful what you wish for" or "too much of a good thing".

 

 

The other down side of the MCU is something that angers me infinitely more that what Marvel are doing...

There are so many wannabes and out-and-out frauds; all of them trying to cash in on this notion of a shared cinematic universe where they have no reason besides the big promises of gold falling from consumer pockets! I imagine many-a producer having the Scrooge McDuck daydream.

DC movies are building the "shared universe", but from the rumours, there isn't going to be as much cross-pollination compared to the MCU movies.

Already I think I prefer this style. It plays more like an anthology series, but still gets a lot of the "required watching" out of the way. 

Its not a perfect solution, but at least it's something a little different to the MCU. Time will tell which was the better option.  On my podcast, Imaginarium Of The Masses, I will fan-fic the shit out of this topic at a later date.

 

Now we come to the most aggregious "shared universe" flaunters. 

The Ghostbuster reboot is apparently being tooled to have some form of expanded universe... NO! Please don't. This movie needn't have been made in the first place. No matter how good this movie may be, having some much of the original cast in it is simply gonna remind the original fans that they aren't watching the movie they had dreamed of.

My apprehension and early (unreasonable) hatred for this movie has nothing to do with the all-female cast, or Paul Feig directing it or anything so simple.

I firmly believe that Hollywood should learn to leave some things in the past. Back to The Future for example. Or Gremlins. Or Goonies. 

And why a shared universe?!  

Men In Black crossing over with 21 jump Street? Really? Get MiB back on the ack first and then maybe... Maybe.

 

Now, a movie that should have a shared universe is The Matrix. 

This has so much potential and, even after 2/3 of a bad movie trilogy, people still think fondly of the Matrix brand.

 

Think back to the first Matrix, "...the peak of your civilisation". What if there were multiple Matrix Hubs for each Nation.

Western society, they Matrix is based off turn-of-the-century society.

Japan could maybe be based off feudal Japan history etc... 

 

But I digress - and will go deeper into this on a forthcoming Inaginarium of The Masses episode - part of my own "cinematic shared universe".