Starting in 2008, Marvel Studios effectively changed the game in regards to cinematic universes. Nearly a decade after “Iron Man,” Universal Studios will release their first shared universe film. In this contribution, we take a look at the Marvel formula and what Universal could learn from in regards to a successful Monsters Universe on film.
Marvel Studios has effectively revolutionized franchise film making. This actually isn’t the first time that the idea of a “shared universe” has come to life. Really, if you think about the original Star Wars trilogy and how the canon extends to prequels, comics, and now soon-to-be-released spin-offs, it’s arguable that George Lucas beat Marvel to the idea some 35 years ago. But Marvel has certainly done it on a different scale, to the point that every year brings on a new “MCU” film that’s virtually guaranteed to make $700 million or more.
This, to some degree, is what Universal is attempting to do with its forthcoming Monster Universe (which perhaps we’ll call the UMU). As noted by Screen Rant, the UMU will consist of a series of reboots of classic monster characters that Universal has dabbled with before, but the idea of them existing in a shared universe is somewhat new [in regards to the MCU model]. And naturally, if Universal wants this idea to be a major success, they’ll probably be using the MCU as a model. So below are a few ideas for what Universal could (and should) borrow from Marvel.
Start With A Sure Favorite
We’ll never know how well the MCU would have done if it had been rolled out in a different order, but it’s a safe bet that they couldn’t have done much better than starting with Robert Downey Jr.’s lovable Tony Stark. At the time, the actor was well known and respected, but in need of something of a comeback, and no one quite saw his version of Stark coming. Charismatic, relatable, heroic and absurd all at once, he absolutely carried the MCU’s first film and gave fans someone to adore moving forward.
Duplicating Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is a tall order, but Universal should put its best foot forward in the first UMU film. And we’ve known for a while now that Tom Cruise will be playing “Tyler Colt”, the lead in the reboot of The Mummy. Presumably, he’s in line to appear in future monster films as well (if this is truly a shared universe meant to imitate the MCU’s style), so getting his character right will be crucial. Cruise is a legitimate box office heavyweight, so it seems Universal may be off to a good start.
Have A Man In Charge
One of the reasons the MCU has thrived is due to a man at the top who has had an overarching vision that he’s helped bring to life through numerous creative collaborators. Universal is a broader entity than Marvel Studios, in a sense, so the presence of a sort of CEO, if you will, for the UMU, is less of a given.
For Marvel, it’s Kevin Feige, who’s pretty much been holding the reins the whole time. He’s the head of Marvel Studios and certainly appears to be the brains behind the operation (other than Stan Lee, of course, who’s responsible for the original creation of many of the Marvel heroes). For Universal, the leaders appear to be producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. It will be crucial for the studio to keep these two involved and give them some level of authority if a cohesive shared universe is to be developed.
Part of the brilliance of the MCU is that it’s not just about the movies—it covers multiple areas of entertainment, including, most notably, the gaming industry. Marvel has released games for consoles, online, on mobile devices, and on casino sites making use of licensed content for themes. This gives fans more things to enjoy, but it’s also an effective form of advertisement for the MCU films and shows.
This is one area in which the UMU could make a surprise impact that could be pretty far-reaching. As of now, it’s hard to find noteworthy, modern games based on Universal’s monsters. Actually one of the few you can find is a slot game based on the last Mummy franchise, hosted on Gala’s casino platform and somewhat similar to the aforementioned licensed MCU casino games. A larger selection spreading to different mediums and incorporating characters as they’re introduced in films could help to drastically expand Universal’s scope with this project.
Make The Heroes Count
These are debatable statements, but here’s how things have shaken out for Marvel and DC. Marvel is known for its heroes, but has produced relatively weak and forgettable cinematic villains; DC is thought by many to have superior villains, but has produced bland heroes. Universal, in a way, could be the first to nail both sides of the equation. But the monsters are basically known quantities that should be pretty spectacular with modern effects. That means Universal has to focus on making the heroes interesting, different, and relatable to balance things out and compete with the likes of Marvel and DC.
This is a guest post. For anyone that may have ideas, thoughts, or wish to share their views on the Universal Monsters, classic and modern, be sure to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be sure to get back to you.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)