ByDena Pech, writer at
Award winning screenwriter. Storyteller. "What a man can't remember doesn't exist for him."
Dena Pech

Marvel Studios is a powerhouse, creating their shared universe with dominant success, spawning almost every studio clamoring for the same pattern. DC is doing their thing with their dark universe, while Universal is regenerating their monsters in hopes for the same result. Godzilla is about to fight King Kong, and the Men in Black are about to walk down 21 Jump Street.

Marvel has influenced many franchises to follow suit, but does it guarantee critical and financial success? Creatively, the idea of shared universes in film sounds appealing on the grand scale of things, but the scars it leaves tends to last as long as its success. Is the ruining other franchises for fans? Joss Whedon expressed his frustration whilst filming , while separate universes like and are not included in Marvel properties anymore. With the shared universe in mind, standalone movies are no longer single movies, but rather pieces of a giant puzzle.

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' [Credit: Marvel]
'Avengers: Age of Ultron' [Credit: Marvel]

Creative Differences

What comes with the shared universe is years of planning ahead — and Marvel has done a fantastic job — but the problem with planning comes when directors have visions of their own to incorporate in the intended movies. Directors have come and gone, and been replaced with others who are willing to comply with the studio guidelines.

Joss Whedon is a great storyteller; from having created Firefly to writing great material like Astonishing X-Men. He's directed Marvel's and its sequel Age of Ultron. Although having worked with Marvel studios, Whedon has encountered creative differences, which resulted in him cutting off all ties with the studio. any further involvement with the studio. He left on good terms, but the frustration of the creative clash cuts deep for the passionate director.

With plans to redeem Hawkeye's (Jeremy Renner) development from the first Avengers, Whedon wrote an entire sequence where we were introduced to Hawkeye's family. The studios weren't happy with the sequence. They forced Whedon to add a setup to future storylines in order to keep the sequence. Left with no choice but to make the movie more convoluted, Whedon complied, and Age of Ultron had Thor in a jacuzzi.

Thank you 'Age of Ultron,' for giving me character. [Credit: Marvel Studios]
Thank you 'Age of Ultron,' for giving me character. [Credit: Marvel Studios]

Whedon has made his own somewhat abrupt, albeit diplomatic exit, following a fraught and draining 'Age of Ultron' shoot which saw the director and studio clash to an extent they seemingly didn't on the first 'Avengers.' In particular, they split over the ratio of character writing to plot mechanics, where Whedon wanted more quiet beats like the Avengers' downtime at the farmhouse, and Marvel execs wanted more setup for 'Thor: Ragnarok' — hence Thor's strange cave subplot. — Emma Dibdin (Digital Spy)

The job to make a standalone Marvel movie got harder for Whedon. As the universe gets bigger, making a film for Marvel is going to get more and more difficult. challenging. With Marvel having a list of specific guidelines for directors to fulfill while making a film, staying true to their own style becomes a real challenge.. Age of Ultron was a good film, but it suffered from what Whedon described as the latter. It was enjoyable, yet forgettable. Selma director Ava DuVernay was offered , but she knew of what creative restrictions would be put on her, and therefore, declined the offer.

Don't leave me! I need another Director! [Credit: Marvel Studios]
Don't leave me! I need another Director! [Credit: Marvel Studios]

Joss Whedon isn't alone in his feelings of creative differences. Here is a list of some of the directors originally attached to direct movies as part of a shared universe:

  • Patty Jenkins — Thor: The Dark World (MCU)
  • Seth Grahame-Smith — The Flash (DCEU)
  • Rick Famuyiwa — The Flash (DCEU)
  • Edgar Wright — Ant-Man (MCU)
  • Michelle Maclaren — Wonder Woman (DCEU)
  • Tim Miller — Deadpool 2 (Fox Marvel)

Great Universe, Weak Standalone Movies

The positive aspect of shared universes is the idea of grand-scale tentpoles, and it's pleasing to see when they're done right. What shared universes suffer from are standalone films. None of the MCU movies are able to stand alone without setting up or referencing past storylines from other movies. With as the first MCU film, viewing it as a standalone film is easy to grasp. It still has setup for future movies, but it's forgivable.

Although fun and exciting to see characters and storylines unite in one major film like The Avengers, the standalone movies suffer because they're placement holders for what is really the goal of shared universes: the team-ups. A sequel like is really just a film setting up The Avengers.

I stand alone! [Credit: Marvel Studios]
I stand alone! [Credit: Marvel Studios]

Giving credit to , the film was the first Marvel film that felt like a standalone in a long time. Even though the film set up future storylines, the movie felt fresh. The thing that made Doctor Strange a standalone movie was the fact that it deviated from the physical aspect of action, and introduced a whole other side of the universe. The movie contains subtle references, (the obvious one being the Infinity Stone), but even with those Doctor Strange remains tolerable because of how the story utilized the stone in its story. It had a great climatic scene that didn't involve the destruction of cities.

Marvel Wants To Separate From Marvel

The MCU has won over audiences with their set of characters. For other property rights that belong to other studios (like the X-Men and Fantastic Four), Marvel is hoping to sway fans away from them. The rumor of not including X-Men characters in the upcoming video game is one example. Marvel's intention of only including their film-righted characters is one move to cement their MCU fans from other Marvel material.

'Marvel VS Capcom Infinite' is the next installment in the Marvel versus Capcom video game series. Now, the newest MVC title is rumored to be developing its cast of Marvel Characters from its own Cinematic Universe. What this means is that Marvel Characters that have been developed from outside of the entertainment’s corporation, i.e. 20th Century Fox, may not be included in the upcoming game. Losing Characters like, Storm, Magneto, Wolverine or Dr. Doom would be a big change to the fans of the last few games in the series. — Nicolas O. (Are You Gaming)

This may be our last fight, Bub. -Farewell... Hadoken! [Credit: IGN]
This may be our last fight, Bub. -Farewell... Hadoken! [Credit: IGN]

Marvel's intentions on doing this are to bring more attention to its cinematic universe. The actual comics are still intact, except the fact that issues of Fantastic Four are no longer being written. Poor Fantastic Four!

As for the X-Men, It's only a matter of time before Days of Future Past actually happens to them. As long as owns the movie rights to X-Men, Marvel will have to find a way to divide the affiliation with their name. With butting heads with the X-Men in the current issues, Marvel is bringing them to the forefront in the hopes of making audiences forget about the X-Men. Despite complicated licensing agreements, the Marvel banner will continue to shine before an X-Men film. Eventually, Marvel will only be known for the characters from its cinematic universe.

We are the MCU and Beyond. [Credit: Marvel Studios]
We are the MCU and Beyond. [Credit: Marvel Studios]


As we look further down the line, Fantastic Four and X-Men will no longer be associated with the Marvel name. Hardcore fans will be devastated as time moves on, while general audiences will dedicate their fandom to the characters in the MCU. Directors have their own unique vision, but if the shared universe follows a certain set of guidelines, creative differences will likely flood headlines more frequently. With a shared universe comes a shared storyline, and the quality of a standalone movie will no longer exist in big budget franchises. Other mediums, like video games, that consist of Marvel characters, will likely omit any character that isn't from the MCU. Let's hope the latter is wrong.

What are your thoughts on the MCU and shared universes in Hollywood?

(Sources: Variety, Deadline, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Film Junkee, Huffington Post, Digital Spy, Are You Gaming)


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