State of the Cineverse, 2019

It’s been about two years since I last commented on cinematic universes. For all of those two years, there was always something happening, something still in progress. Now, we stand at a moment where there have been multiple endings, several shifting movements, and what is to come remains on the horizon. That makes for as good a time as any to add to my previous commentary! 🙂

So, how are things going for each of our cineverses?

Marvel Cinematic Universe
Going Strong!

Obviously leading the pack, we have Marvel Studios. They have successfully completed the third phase of the MCU, to critical acclaim and great financial success. They also left off on a note that makes the promise of more great movies to come. The exact details of that are waiting until their presentation at San Diego Comic-Con to be officially unveiled, but that is not much of a wait! 🙂

What is clear is that, having produced twenty-three movies already, they do not intend to slow down. There are several properties which fans are already expecting further development of, and several which have been rumored/confirmed to be in the works. Going forward, the movies seem to be dividing their attention between events on Earth and those in the cosmos. After Avengers: Endgame, they’re going to need to keep us interested, but I have full confidence in their ability to do so as they explore new corners of the Marvel universe and its heroes.

There is, however, one growing point against Marvel. That is, quite simply, how it is growing disconnected with itself. The movies aren’t masterpieces of continuity, and the TV shows are drifting gradually further away from the pivotal, Earth-shaking, cosmic-rupturing events seen on the big screen.

Inhumans was a huge misstep and a flop; Runaways lost me early on (and should not have been produced at all before they had access to mutants); Agent Carter had a lackluster second season that ended on a sour note, while the importance of the lead character’s romantic life on it may or may not have been negated by Endgame as well; even Agents of Shield seems to be off doing its own thing with zero regard for the events of the movies. Heck, Cloak and Dagger has more lingering connections with the Defenders-based Netflix shows than with the movies.

Speaking of, those have remained virtually unconnected to the main events of the movies from the beginning, even more so after the terrible events of the latest movies. And since Marvel is now on Netflix’s bad side, because Marvel is owned by Disney and Disney is fully gearing up to give them some serious competition, all of the shows are now effectively over. That might not be so bad, but several of them ended on cliffhangers, or semi-cliffhangers. It’ll be years before even the possibility of finishing those stories, or retelling them, even begins to develop again.

On the brighter side, the shows that Marvel is making for Disney’s online streaming service, which will probably be officially unveiled at Comic-Con after many months of teasing about them, will most likely be much more connected with the movies, perhaps even having some influence on events shown on the big screen, instead of the other way around. Now, that, too, could cut both ways, as everything in a cineverse can, but I am given to understand that these shows are resting in more cooperative hands than the previous shows have been.

And, though it may take some time, fans can eagerly, if also patiently, await the arrival of mutants, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four within the MCU. On which note:

Fox’s X-Men Universe
Done.

It is officially done and over with.

Though the Deadpool franchise may continue, with a large cult following, and I suppose it is possible, however unlikely, that the completed-but-unreleased New Mutants film may actually be released, it remains a fact: the era of Fox’s X-Men movies has come to an abrupt close. The saga that began with Fox’s first X-Men movie, two decades ago, is finished. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “complete,” as the merger of 20th Century Fox with Disney derailed and annihilated whatever plans there were for the future, leaving it forever unfinished and incomplete, but, still, “finished.” Whether or not New Mutants ever is released, there will be nothing more added to it ever again.

That’s especially sad to say considering the lackluster swan song that is Dark Phoenix. Whatever else they had in mind, we will never see it. That might still be a good thing, though, considering how well Marvel Studios generally does with its characters, and Fox’s atrocious continuity. I’ve said it before, and I say again, these aren’t a proper cinematic universe. They’re a series of stories very loosely connected just because the creators say they are.

I mean, they were caught entirely flat-footed by Marvel’s success and the scramble to pull some kind of cineverse out of thin air. In that light, I suppose one could say they did remarkably well with what they had to work with, and considering the task suddenly looming before them. They created a number of high-quality individual movies, and they branched out to develop the diversity within the franchise before I ever noticed. Not too shabby, really.

What I am most interested in, actually, is where this leaves the television shows Legion and The Gifted. The former never did quite appeal to me, but I’ve been very much enjoying the latter. Perhaps it will simply remain an offshoot of the franchise as a whole, with the main body of work being slowly integrated into the MCU.

…actually, no forget that bit. Apparently the entire thing is nixed. Legion is confirmed to be ending with its third season, and The Gifted will be another show that was canceled after ending on a semi-cliffhanger. That’s a shame, I think. I’d have loved to see where they took the characters.

So, it would seem that Deadpool will be the last lingering thread of Fox’s X-Men universe to continue into the future, albeit with some very careful brand management so Disney’s child-friendly image doesn’t get too sullied. As for the rest, may it rest in peace. We shall enjoy the legacy for many years to come, I hope.

Which brings us to our last little errant Marvel property… well, outside Namor the Sub-Mariner which remains imprisoned over at Universal Studios.

Sony’s Marvel Universe
Old Idea, New Idea

We all cheered, with wild abandonment and enthusiasm, when Spider-Man finally came home to Marvel Studios. We have loved each and every appearance of the web-slinging teenage superhero, portrayed by Tom Holland, in two solo movies and three shared movies. It would be a crying shame, probably met by outrage, if that were to come to an unfavorable end.

Unfortunately, while Spider may live with one foot at Marvel, the other remains locked in place on Sony’s side of the threshold. They had success with the original trilogy they produced, though the third has been widely panned as being far inferior to the first two. And they had some success again with the amazing-themed reboot, but not nearly enough to warrant its continuation. Thus, scrapping the plan for a Spider-Man cineverse (thank goodness!) and hitching themselves onto Marvel’s coattails. That has proven thus far successful.

However, that does not mean Sony has completely given up on the idea of creating a cineverse around characters which are typically associated with Spider-Man. While they have officially scrapped plans for the Spider-verse, and even a Spider-verse that would be lacking Spider-Man, and a movie starring Black Cat and Silver Sable, they officially launched “Sony’s Marvel Universe,” or “Sony’s MU,” with the antihero film Venom.

Obviously inspired by the success of Deadpool, for instance, Sony is crafting a decidedly darker cineverse, focused on villains, antiheroes, and the like. That could work well for them, using such characters as Venom, Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, Nightwatch, and the Sinister Six, with expressed interest in Black Cat, Silver Sable, Silk, Jackpot, and even Mysterio. If successful, it would make for an entirely new kind of cineverse, plumbing the darker, bloodier corners of the Marvel universe. But, then again, that might lead to a lack of diversity, which is a short-coming of many of the cineverses to date.

But if the public eats it up the way it ate up Venom, then 2020 could be the year Sony finally entered into the race seriously, in their own right.

Just as long as they leave Spider-Man with Marvel, I will have no complaints! 😉

DC Extended Universe
Receiving New Life!

Aquaman and Shazam were not only successful, they were a much-needed breath of fresh air! Here’s hoping Zack Snyder’s influence is forever banished!

Snyder’s friend, James Gunn, is much better, and he’s apparently being given license to renew/redo the Suicide Squad franchise. It was a great leap forward at the time, but it’s been surpassed by all the other movies since, with arguable exception of Justice League.

I’m not sure what to make of Birds of Prey, but I am looking forward to the next Wonder Woman, and I’m sure they’ll revisit their more critically-acclaimed successes in the future. They have a lot of plans in development, just waiting for the right hands to sculpt them into masterpieces. And hopefully very distinct masterpieces, rather than clone copies, a’la the cookie-cutter approach.

I am happy to say that I have more hope for the DCEU than I did a few years ago. 🙂

Arrowverse
Fading, On Life Support

Arrow is ending, with its final season being only eight episodes long, just long enough to get them to the climactic crossover event.

Most of the shows have become copies of each other, both in texture and in plot. Several shows featured villains joining together within one season. Then, the next season, Arrow and The Flash both looked towards the future, and the daughters of the lead protagonists.

Overall, the drama, comedy, and action have all decreased into realms of mind-numbing camp factors. This is why I dropped all of the shows from my weekly commentaries.

Not to mention how the shows all relied on each other way too much, so you couldn’t miss anything if you wanted to know what was going on during the annual crossovers, and my excitement for the future of the Arrowverse is next to nil. It’s a huge letdown after the excitement, and variety, of the early days, the first two seasons of Arrow, and the development which followed the debut of The Flash.

I’m partially hoping this one goes under fairly soon, as dwindling audience numbers would indicate it would. Then again, the CW has been much more loyal to its shows than, say, the infamous Fox, and that has yielded some very satisfying conclusions for some surprisingly good shows that just happened to have weaker seasons to work through. The difference being, they’d have to turn an entire cineverse around to accomplish that this time. That’s a much bigger task, consuming years’ worth of time and effort.

For once, I am not holding out much hope.

DC Animated Original Movies
…eh?

I consider it a strange irony that DC has produced as many or more of these occasionally-connected animated films as Marvel has produced full-length features, yet they, who produced Cineverse Zero (the pivotal DC Animated Universe), have failed to create any sort of actual cohesion among them. A number of them, that I have seen, have been complete duds, thoroughly rushed retellings of epic stories that don’t do them any justice whatsoever. I actually keep forgetting that they’re still making these.

I think we can just write this little cineverse off and set it aside from future commentary.

Still, if they’re still making them, there must be some sort of success for them. …oh, wait, I just looked it up, and where they once had a long list of titles in development, they seem to have all but finished up.

I think they need some new ideas.

MonsterVerse
Ending Already?

I don’t know why Godzilla: King of the Monsters was not more successful. I personally loved it. I can see where the hype might have failed, though, after the first Godzilla in 2014, and Kong: Skull Island mostly did its own thing anyway. But, either way, I suppose it is unlikely that the MonsterVerse will continue after next year’s battle between Godzilla and King Kong. A shame, that, as it has giant monsters, aliens, robots, and ancient civilizations within the Earth which could be explored.

Maybe it can be renewed at some point down the line, but for now, unless the next movie make’s a lot of money, this one will probably end as a quartet.

Heh, here’s an idea: make monster movies where the humans are minor characters at most. Tell it all from the monsters’ point of view! 🙂

Dark Universe
Dead.

Thank you, Tom Cruise, for single-handedly ruining The Mummy, the debut of the Dark Universe, which was Universal Studios’ second attempt at a monster-based cineverse. I have no idea what they could do with the idea at this point.

…and coming back from the dead.

…wait, what?

Yep, apparently Universal just isn’t willing to give up on the idea as of yet. They’ve apparently decided to have a loose-to-nonexistent connection between their monster movie remakes (clever, they can use what’s successful and discard what isn’t). And for their third go at this, they’re using a successful horror film producer, who has his own studio to work with. The Invisible Man could be the Dark Universe’s dark horse and bring it back from the dead.

Horror movies may not typically be my thing, and I still wonder what they could possibly do with a focus on characters which generally lose in the movies named after them. But, still! I applaud the effort and wish them some good hunting! 🙂

Valiant Universe
…beginning at last?

Huh, this might finally begin after all!

The first movie, Bloodshot, seems to be slated for release next February, 2020. Depending on its success, it could launch an entirely new cineverse, with a diverse plethora of heroes we’ve never seen on the big screen before. I’ve been commenting on this idea, and this hope, for years. I had all but given up that hope, but now, it seems, at long last, it shall finally see the light of day!

Here’s hoping for success! 🙂

Summary

Marvel is doing great! Fantastic on the big screen, and with hope for some leveling of the quality and continuity despite some wobbling steps on other screens.

Fox is done.

Sony is trying something new and bold, which had a successful debut.

DC, who pioneered the cineverse, has three cineverses, one undergong a resurgence while the other two are stagnant and fading.

The MonsterVerse is ending.

Universal is making a third go of it, resurrecting their second try with a new face.

And Valiant, after years of promises, might finally get its cineverse off the ground.

So, overall? Only one of them has been going strong from the beginning, and even that one is has areas to improve in a time of transition. Two more are done, or nearly so. Two more are in desperate need of an overhaul if they are to continue. One has yet to begin, and would still need a couple years to get off the ground. But the last three are learning, and growing through experience. They’re making comebacks. If successful, that would bring us to four or five quality, ongoing cineverses, in serious competition with each other.

Like most big, daring ideas, the cinematic universe, and every instance of it, has needed refining, rehashing, and renewal. But I don’t think the idea is going anywhere. And with the success of an idea comes, possibly, the gradual reshaping of cinema as a whole.

I look forward to seeing how all of this plays out! 🙂

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8 Responses to State of the Cineverse, 2019

  1. swanpride says:

    Honestly, if Hollywood is so into the idea of connecting universes, I could recommend a few options to them which are already ready-made in bookform.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merlin says:

      Oh, that would be a fantastic! Drawing on all the interconnected novels out there? A capital idea! 🙂

      Like

      • swanpride says:

        Yeah, there are two series I have particularly in mind…frankly, I don’t get why Hollywood hasn’t zeroed in on them just yet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        …and these two series would be…?

        Like

      • swanpride says:

        The Alliance/Union universe by CJ Cherryh and the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce. Especially the former is so perfect for an adaptation, it just baffles me that nobody has ever tried.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        Hm, I hadn’t heard of that first one. But I’ve lately been thinking about the Tortall books, and they could make for a pretty good extended saga on the screen. 🙂

        Like

      • swanpride says:

        I am not sure if you are aware, but the Tortall books by now consist of so many prequels and sequels, they could start with Alanna’s story and if that one works out, built a whole universe around it.

        And Alliance/Union universe is even easier, because it is basically a series of stories which are set in the same world and with recurring characters, but each book is written from an entirely different point of view. Plus, since he majority of the plot is set on the same space stations or in some sort of spaceship, the studios would save a LOT of money on sets.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. DerekL says:

    >The TV shows are drifting gradually further away from the pivotal, Earth-shaking, cosmic-rupturing events seen on the big screen.

    The Marvel movie and TV divisions were divorced by their corporate masters some time ago… So the TV guys no longer have the requisite early access to upcoming film plots and so can no longer sync themselves to the film universe.

    And the stuff on Netflix never was part of the canonical MCU AFAIK.

    Liked by 1 person

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