Ever since the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hollywood executives seem to have it in their heads that shared universes are the next money-making strategy. With talks of Universal Monsters and Robin Hood shared universes, its clear that Hollywood is eager to attempt the same direction hat Marvel Studios is going in.
Still, many feel that shared universes don't make a good film, and that the idea puts quantity over quality. As it so happens, director James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy agrees with this criticism. Gunn wrote the following on his facebook profile:
CARTS BEFORE HORSES & HOLLYWOOD'S NEW LOVE OF 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, John 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.
Seems like James Gunn feels that a movie's quality should always come first, and that audiences should be seen as more than just dollar signs. Proper communication between studio heads and audiences is exactly what Hollywood is lacking.
Just this summer, Sony and producer Avi Arad attempted to stir up an Amazing Spider-Man shared universe in the second installment. This led to what many felt were rushed character arcs, two villains too many, and a slapdash attempt at teasing the Sinister Six film. Audiences were left unsatisfied, and the franchise is practically in shambles because of Sony and Avi Arad's financial ambitions. In many ways, executives think they know what audiences want. In actuality, they should be putting more focus into a film's quality to really satisfy moviegoers.
Well said Mr. Gunn, well said indeed.