By my last count, we have at least half a dozen distinct cinematic universes out there. Marvel’s MCU, DC’s DCEU, Arrowverse, and the animated movie universe, Fox’s X-Men, Sony’s Spider-Man (which will no longer have Spider-Man in it) as well as their ongoing plans for a Valiant universe, and Universal’s Dark Universe, altogether make for seven cineverses. Two of them, both from Sony, have yet to be properly launched, but I’m still counting them for the moment. So, eight, right?
Seven of them center around comic book superheroes, and the eighth hails from a studio that doesn’t have any comic book superheroes to use.
There are other “cinematic universes” at various stages of development, but from what I can see, they don’t really count. Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, these are all just regular series, really, though Transformers seems to be gaining an unusual longevity. And the odd crossover between 21 Jump Street and Men in Black is just that: a crossover. Not a cineverse. Heck, even Star Wars is just expanding the backstories with Rogue One and the plans for Han Solo and Boba Fett.
Yet, even these pretenders are dominated by superhero adventures.
Thus, my surprise and delight at the introduction of new cineverse, one that really is a cineverse, and it’s not based on superheroes. It’s a bit more akin to the Dark Universe, based around classic, famous monsters, and humans’ experience with such.
From the partnership of Warner Bros, Legendary Pictures, and Toho, I present: the MonsterVerse!
It begins a few years ago, with the release of the newest Godzilla. After that success, of course, people immediately started talking about sequels. This opened the door for the studio to get rights to some of Godzilla’s classic foes, including Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah, from his original Japanese owners, Toho. Thus, most obviously, the next movie up for release is Godzilla: King of the Monsters, in 2019.
This year, however, audiences were pleasantly surprised to find that Kong: Skull Island is set in the same continuity (and entirely independent of the King Kong remake, thankfully). I imagine it probably takes place before the events of Godzilla, as the giant lizard is not yet famous, but they’re sort of assembling this cineverse as they go. After King of the Monsters, the aptly-titled Godzilla vs Kong comes a year later in 2020.
The last time these two titans shared the big screen was back in 1962. There was no such thing as real continuity among monster movies – or any movies, really – back then. Most additions to a franchise were just neat little things, not really connected to its predecessors or successors. The audience had not yet grown accustomed to ongoing series that had any cohesion. Heck, there were even two versions, one where the Japanese audience saw Godzilla win, and one where the American audience saw King Kong win.
Now Warner is doing much like Universal is: bringing back the classic monsters in a specific, connected cineverse. It’s no sure thing, though I hear audiences love Skull Island, but it’s an interesting idea. Unlike the monsters of the Dark Universe, the MonsterVerse monsters haven’t been duplicated by countless movies and studios, and they aren’t specifically famous for being the villains that mankind overcomes, and we can form a wordless connection with giant beasts – just ask anyone who has a pet – so there’s a solid emotional ground to build on.
However, while I can’t speak for Skull Island just yet, I did feel that Godzilla needed to be a little less about the people and a little more about the monsters, especially Godzilla himself. If they can manage that moving forward, then the sky’s the limit. If not, then they could be nice movies, but still B-level. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it could be so much more.
And then there’s the story. How are they going to bring all these monsters together, and how will they proceed in the future if they’re successful?
So, there’s no guarantees, but I am feeling pretty excited. If I’m honest, though, that has less to do with the MonsterVerse itself, and more to do with the shift in subject matter. This is the first cineverse we’re getting that does not feature superheroes from a studio that has superheroes galore to work with. What this tells me: the audience is growing accustomed to the format. We’re getting used to multiple properties being connected. Shifting from superheroes to monsters is just the start. Who knows what else, what other stories, could be told this way?
Action movies, spy thrillers, war movies, murder mysteries, heartfelt dramas, horror stories, romantic comedies, period pieces, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy adventures, each of these genres and more could house cineverses within them. Imagine seeing the ongoing adventures of normal action heroes who know each other. Imagine seeing couples interacting across several love stories, letting us see how previous couples are doing, or seeing supporting characters come into lead roles of their own. Imagine the epic of interconnected space sagas or fantasy adventures.
I still appreciate standalone movies and franchises, but the cineverse could well take our beloved stories to ever higher, more entertaining levels.
And it all begins with supermen and monsters. 🙂
Cool, isn’t it?