With around 30 feature length films the Kaiju film franchise, featuring Godzilla, is one of the largest franchises of all time. It is closely followed by the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) at 23, with many more films to follow. A franchise, at least for the context of this piece (barring the Kaiju franchise), is a series of films set in the same universe so perhaps a more accurate term is Shared Cinematic Universe. With the MCU making billions of dollars at the box office, many movie studios have decided to embark on similar projects, though it has proven more difficult than they realised. Perhaps the most famous of these attempts comes from Marvels main competitor – DC – who “launched” their universe with Man of Steel in 2013 and have since followed it up with 5 other films. To start with, the films in this franchise, the DC Extended Universe (or DCEU) were met with criticism, but with the recent success of both Aquaman and Shazam! it seems as though the tide may finally be turning.
Universal Studios attempted to launch their cinematic universe with The Mummy in 2017, which featured a cameo from Dr Jekyll as well as references to the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein’s Monster. Interestingly, they had previously rebooted The Mummy with Brendan Fraser in 1999, which led to a whole trilogy. It also wasn’t the first time they had attempted a “Monsterverse” as they had succeeded in doing this with 87 films from 1923 to 1960. Universal had created a cinematic universe in a time when the industry wasn’t really expecting it, but when the industry finally did expect it, they could not deliver. 2017’s The Mummy remains, thus far, the only film in the “Dark Universe” Series.
Direct sequels (and prequels) are also a lucrative way of franchising, after all, if you have a solid film already, it’s easier to build on that instead of create new stories from scratch. Currently the 11 Star Wars films have made £4000 million whilst the 8 Harry Potter films made around half that. The horror genre has seen it’s fair share of franchising too, proving that it can happen anywhere. There are 8 Nightmare on Elm Street titles while the Friday the 13th franchise is sitting at 11 and the Saw films are about to start on their 9th. It would seem that pumping out film after film is an easy process, and one that is guaranteed to make easy money. While that can be true, it is also a great way of producing films that are not particularly well received.
You simply cannot make film after film and care only about the money you make. The MCU has succeeded, in part, because they took their time crafting characters and stories that the audience would care about. It certainly helps that they have plenty of comic books to draw from, but they took those characters and made them their own, instead of relying purely on the comics’ appeal. This is where the DCEU and Dark Universe, among other factors, went wrong. They went in with the intention of creating a shared universe, cramming in moments that would “pay off later” but in doing so forgot to come up with a good plot for the films. Iron Man and Captain America aren’t set ups for the 21 films that followed, they are self contained stories that only mention the possibility of something bigger at the very end. If your film has characters we don’t grow to care about, and that isn’t remotely concerned with its own plot, then the audience will not care. Do not assume that you can set up a future without putting in some groundwork first.
Supposedly, the general public has grown tired of sequels, but deep down I don’t think that’s the case. In my opinion, the general public are actually tired of the standard of sequel they receive, as well as the lack of time between their releases. We have received a new instalment of Star Wars every Christmas since 2015, and at least 2 superhero films per year since 2008. I believe that if there was a larger gap between franchises releases, then the general public might complain a little bit less. I am as hyped as anybody for the release of Rise of Skywalker and the footage from the D23Expo has been on my mind consistently. This will be a finale for the ages, and the second one this year after Avengers Endgame, and I cannot wait to see how it plays out. However even I, an avid lover of film and these franchises specifically, could do with a little bit of time to relax.
Until Next Time…