I know every single film website currently active is writing some kind of opinion piece about Batman vs Superman; the effect the movie will have, how it will hold up after huge drop after drop since its opening weekend, but, to be fair, it’s a pretty landmark movie.Not signed in
Anyway, this article isn’t really about that film specifically. It’s about films like it, namely huge franchise starters (because let’s be honest, this is the real beginning of the DCU) that serve to set up a whole cinematic universe in the near future, because, of all the (many) criticisms I’ve heard of this movie, the one that comes up the most is the forced inclusion of other heroes, attempts to ready audiences for the upcoming DC cinematic universe.
This trend did not begin with Batman vs Superman, oh no, Hollywood have had their beady little eyes on interconnected universes for all their franchises ever since Marvel Studios perfected the model back in 2008. It doesn’t matter if it’s superheroes, YA novels or even classic movie monsters (yes, that’s actually happening) Hollywood’s been trying to create a cinematic universe for basically any property they own.Not signed in
In a perfect world, this would work out fine for everyone, but unfortunately instead of Hollywood using the model successfully, what we get is a million "franchise starters", high budget films that only serve to set up the universe, full of easter eggs and cameos, but severely lacking in an interesting story, or really anything to get general moviegoers at all interested in the franchise the studio tries to start up.
This type of film may just seem like a slightly irritating side effect of the MCU’s success, but it is actually incredibly bad for everyone involved in the film-making process; the audience, the studios and the movie-going market on the whole. It seems like a winning formula for creating huge franchises, but it may be one of the worst, and most damaging, trends in modern cinema.
To begin with, as previously said, this model of pre-planning a universe through one “set-up” film is bad for audiences because it gives them a poor final product, a simultaneously unfinished and overproduced mess of a movie, stuffed full of sequel bait but severely lacking in actual compelling plot.
There are multiple instances of this happening in recent cinema. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a film that was designed to set up Sony’s "spider-verse", ended up being so poorly received due to its overuse of set-up, that it caused Sony to have to give Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios.
Talking of Marvel Studios, no matter how much everyone loves the MCU, multiple criticisms (especially in terms of Age of Ultron) are made concerning the huge chunks of the films devoted to setting up the next three sequels, tv shows or ensemble films.
The list doesn’t stop here, as other superhero movies, and even YA films, such as HG: Mocking Jay Part 1, have been lauded for spending way too long setting up the next installments. It is one of the worst trends in modern cinema, makes movies less fun to experience and ultimately makes people less excited for whatever next installment has been teased.
With this audience distaste comes problems for the studios releasing these films as, due to poor reception (because of the abundance of set-up), these films don’t perform very well. A combination of extremely high budgets (because, theoretically, these films are setting up a billion dollar franchise) and poor word of mouth doom these films to stay far away from profitability.Not signed in
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was one of 2014’s biggest disappointments, making an underwhelming 700m worldwide on a budget estimated to be over 300m, because everyone was tired of the huge amount of franchise set-up. Age of Ultron, although it didn’t bomb, performed 200m below its predecessor due to worse critical reception, once again because of its need to cram in constant references to upcoming films (which, apparently, was watching Chris Hemsworth getting electrocuted in a bath).
People aren’t going to enjoy your film if it’s just set up for the sequel, and if people don’t like it, they aren’t going to watch it. This problem doesn’t just extend to movie studios, it affects the whole movie-going marketplace. Because, every time one of these cinematic universes falls flat (as it did with Spiderman, Dracula Untold and Green Lantern, just to name a few) audiences become less invested in following them on the whole. Why get involved if nothings going to come of it? They may even start ignoring the ones they like, such as FOX’s X:Men, the Harry Potter universe, or, heaven forbid, the MCU.
Instead of making this cinematic universe model new and exciting, they’re turning it into a gimmick. These films aren’t just doing damage to themselves, they’re making the concept of cinematic universes seem less engaging to anyone who sees them, robbing Hollywood of one of their (currently) most profitable franchise models. In trying to expand the number of cinematic universes these films are actually killing the ones that do work. They are more than redundant, they are dangerous.
I know for all the billion dollar studio-heads reading (and I know there are many) it's hard to hear, as, hypothetically this is the perfect way to get an interconnected universe out of any property. But everytime you put one of these “franchise starters” into production you are hurting the audience, you’re hurting the cinematic marketplace, and, worst of all, you’re hurting yourselves. These franchise starters are bad for everyone, and studios need to figure this out before we lose cinematic universes entirely.
What do you think of preplanning franchises? Do you agree with my points? Talk about it in the comments below, and, if you enjoyed this article, follow us on Twitter (@boxofficebreak1).