The giants of Hollywood. The corporate heavy hitters in film production. Three of them in a mad scramble to copy Marvel’s success with the Avengers, using the Justice League, the X-Men, and Spider-Man. But what can another heavy hitter do when they don’t have the copyrights to any superheroes?
Such is the plight if Universal Studios.
Out of everyone who was caught flat-footed by Avengers, Universal must surely be in the worst position of them all. No superheroes, and not a chance of being able to buy them now that Marvel’s success with said superheroes has made them all but priceless. (as in, their names are all attached to several golden zeroes following large, green dollar signs)
So, multibillion dollar question: how do they get in on the Avengers action, without having any actual Avengers?
Paradoxically, they managed to think outside the box while simultaneously using their same old tricks.
Universal is very well known for subscribing to rampant sequelmania and reboots. Examples: the ongoing sequels for Fast and the Furious, the fairly recent Bourne Legacy, the film adaptation of the purely-musical Les Miserables, the sequel-reboot Jurassic World, Despicable Me 2, Riddick, Pitch Perfect 2, and upcoming prequels and sequels for Pacific Rim, Snow White and the Huntsman, and King Kong. And that’s all in the 2010’s alone.
So they’re reaching way back through yester-decades for something, anything that has superpowerful characters in their own movies who then show up in the same movie together. Having been in the business for nearly a century now (impressive!), they have a fairly long history they can reach through. But to get something they can run on the same platform as The Avengers? That’s a tough one. And they went virtually back to the very beginning, to the 1930’s and 40’s, though also touching the 50’s and 60’s. I can see what they were thinking, as they do have a series of similar franchises, already spanning decades, easy to form connections between them, and, in fact, they already did make a film which featured these characters in the same film.
Namely: House of Frankenstein.
Yep, they are rebooting their old monster movies, beginning with Dracula Untold. They have plans for rebooting the monsters of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man. Depending on how it goes, I wonder if there are any other monsters they have and I’ve forgotten, but the plan involves bringing them together in a horror movie version of Avengers.
This “Monster Cinematic Universe” just strikes me a terrible, terrible idea.
Not only are they not really creating anything new, but the old monster movies were made for a different audience. We can enjoy them partially because they’re so bad from our perspective. Now they’re redoing them? How will they appeal to our modern audience?
And they’re trying to set these movies in their own, distinct universe, despite how all of these monsters are now in the public domain. We all know which superhero movies are, or will be, connected to which universe, but these monsters movies will be trying to set themselves apart from all the other monster movies, which have no connection to each other.
That’s an uphill battle, made all the more daunting by how they’ll be competing with both monsters and superheroes.
Oh, and these are movies based on the villains. Which I believe I’ve mentioned at least three times now. And since all the previous monster movies involve them losing instead of winning, I can’t help but wonder how they intend for us to invest ourselves in a bunch of losers who happen to be super-strong (and lose anyway).
There is potential, though. This idea could work to support itself, and we’ll probably eat it all up, but I fear it will, at best, be a regular meal, instead of a magnificent feast with all of our favorite foods.
At the very least, if they reboot a hero like Van Helsing, it could add that “hero” element we love in our movies.
But out of everyone trying to copycat the MCU, Universal strikes me as the most doomed. Toss in the endless sequelmania and other reboots in with this massive and very expensive effort in the middle of an economic crisis, and Universal may actually be in some serious trouble. This could be what it looks like when you see a veritable titan of Hollywood digging their own grave.
I mean, Universal has played a major role in our cinematic culture from the beginning. They have weathered several crises which shook the world! They are a big part of how Hollywood became a household term! They led the way with vision and daring! But how many big companies have gone down in flames in recent years? It’s not so difficult to crash and burn, when you have the misfortune of making mistakes at the worst possible moment.
I could be completely wrong, as has happened a number of times, but they seem to be so far behind the race here that even DC and Warner Bros are faaaaar ahead of them. They, at least, have actual superheroes, and, really, we crave them right now. Warner and DC can always turn their mistakes around and come straight back into the lead, side by side with Marvel, if they just play their cards right.
Universal, by contrast, is trying to force its way into a race it is ill-prepared for, and that could have disastrous consequences, even for them.