The era of the interconnected movie universe


Joshua Williams,

Universal, Warner Brothers struggle to replicate success of Marvel

In 2008, Marvel Studios released “Iron Man,” the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which went on to gross over $585.2 million worldwide and received mostly positive reviews from movie critics and comic fans. With its witty sense of humor and action sequences, the film captures the true spirit of the comic book superhero.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige went on to construct a sequel and four more solo films that were connected in the same universe. Each standalone film had a decent script and well-structured story that introduced the origins of the following characters: Thor, Hulk and Captain America. They helped create the franchise known today as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What really set off the franchise was Marvel Cinematic Universe sixth installment: 2012’s “The Avengers.” The superhero crossover and team-up film grossed over $1.519 billion worldwide and audiences from around the world gave the film an A+, CinemaScore reported. The film became a game changer in cinema history.

The film was so successful it persuaded Warner Bros. and Universal Studios to create their own cinematic universes. However they didn’t quite get it right; they didn’t manage to put the pieces together properly.

Warner Bros. Studios brought the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) into live action films with iconic comic book characters. However, five films into the franchise, DC’s films have received a lot of mixed reviews and have not performed as well as Marvel’s at the box office. DC made ambitious choices and produced dark and gritty stories, but they tend to spend more time setting up future films rather than developing a good story.

In 2016, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the second film in the DCEU, focused on setting up a Justice League film and crammed important characters together, but didn’t provide each of them the development they deserved. Each character had a different story to follow which made the film all over the place and difficult to understand.

“If DC took baby steps then they wouldn’t have a problem,” said comic and film fan Billy Mueller of Castro Valley’s Crush Comics and Cards. It’s not just about being a Marvel or DC fan for fans like Mueller, it’s about quality. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe started from scratch and evolved into a large successful franchise. DC’s Extended Universe tried to take a shortcut and is now being brought down for it.

Universal Studios has also planned to create the Dark Universe by re- introducing Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy and all the classic Universal monsters. The studio had a version of the horror icons sharing time on the big screen. Like DC they are rushing ahead of themselves and made the first film, “The Mummy,” an introduction to the universe and without making a solid standalone movie.

For nine years, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has built its legacy producing 17 films, with nine more in various stages of production and has premiered nine different television series on ABC and Netflix. “The Mummy” and “Justice League,” the more recent Universal and Warner Bros. films, performed less than expected at the domestic box office, so it’s hard to see a bright future for those franchises.

Over two weeks ago, “Justice League” was projected to sail past the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, but fell short at the benchmark, according to It earned $122 million less than Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” had raked in just two weeks before.

In early June, the theatrical release of “The Mummy” earned a scant $80 million at the domestic box office and it debuted to disappointing reviews. Filmmakers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, who were the architects of the Dark Universe, left the project in November, leading entertainment reports to write unofficial eulogies for the entire project in their wake.

The key to making a successful franchise is to focus on one film at a time, see if it’s a box office hit and also if audiences want the story to continue. With a good director, script and actors, any studio production will be in the clear if they wish to make an ongoing interconnected movie series. Marvel Studios has used this successful film formula since “Iron Man,” so now it’s time for Warner Bros. and Universal to find a similar kind of formula to save the future of their universes.