Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Perils of Starting a Shared Universe - Ryviews RyPort

Hi Everybody!

For those of you following E3, you may have seen the recent South Park game trailer, The Fractured But Whole.

If you haven't it, I'd recommend it even if you aren't a big fan of the show (I'm not). It has some nice digs at DC and Marvel. And it got me thinking about shared universes in general. So I thought I'd go into a bit of an analysis of why The Avengers worked so well, and why Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice did not.

I was recently reminded of a quote that may or may not be true, but I'm going to attribute it to Hank or John Green, who might have said "To be successful on YouTube, you have to start in 2009." [citation needed, as I just said]

Now, regardless of the accuracy of that quote, I find it to be very true for most things. When you're the first at something (or even before a big surge), you have a bigger market share. You'll have more of an edge. And everyone loves new and exciting ideas.

When Iron Man came out, it wasn't the first super hero movie. And it wasn't even the first after credits scene. But super hero movies had not yet flooded the market the way they have now, and after credits scenes were actually very rare. But let me tell you, I was super giddy when I saw Samuel L. Jackson utter the word "Avengers". It was a powerful moment. There had never been a big shared universe in movies, at least at the forefront. There were sequels, spinoffs, small connected easter eggs, but there was never a fully fledged shared universe that was so immersive (that I know of).

I doesn't hurt that Ultimate Nick Fury was specifically modeled after Mr. Jackson himself [2]

So, Marvel did a wonderful thing and it worked. Partially because it was new. But they also knew how to build the hype. Iron Man was a stand alone movie. It functioned fine on its own and if you didn't stick around after the credits you wouldn't have missed a beat. Then Incredible Hulk came out, and Tony popped up at the very end, but didn't share any screen time with Bruce. A good choice, I think, because it kept the crossover-ness very narrow.

The next few built on the universe, but it was always away from the focus. Each movie could stand alone. None of them piled the heroes on too thick. Hawkeye and Black Widow came into the fold, but they were not super important, nor were they big name Marvel stars. There were little hints and scenes that moved towards a team up, but it was still background.

Then The Avengers came out. It was after years of hype and build, years of meeting these characters before they finally appear on the same screen. It was glorious. And we get a small taste early on, when Iron Man helps Captain America take down Loki. They have a great shock and awe moment, and it's great. And that's before they even bring Thor in.

And the full team isn't really fighting side by side in full glory until the film's climax, with basically one of the best panning "OMG I'm a nerd and I love this" shots in cinema history. It's a slow build, and it has some good interpersonal moments throughout. It was a fun team up movie with good writing and good cinematography.

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sound of my fangirlish screams [3]

Then DC decided they wanted some of the action. But they didn't want to take the time to build their heroes. A factor for that is certainly what I would call the "Batman Origin" syndrome, where every incarnation of the caped crusader involves his origin story. Everyone knows Batman. And with the popular Christopher Nolan trilogy in the recent past, they wanted to throw him in. But he's not established as that particular character yet. Avengers made a point to have a solid foundation for Bruce Banner even though he had 2 movies prior. Batman had a bit, but he was Batman faster than Banner was Hulk.

And if you look at Civil War, that was a good treatment of Spider-man. He was thrown in without his origin, but he wasn't a main character. He was a highlight, and he was good for some quirky remarks and some awesome action. Batman in BvS still got another origin, and he was suddenly a main character.

Wonder Woman had a similar role to Black Widow in Iron Man 2 but Wonder Woman is a much bigger character AND she's getting her own movie AND it was not as well handled (in my opinion).

And because the holy 3 were all thrown into a movie before they had the hype with movies and years of buildup, it fell very flat. Even forgetting that the movie had some pretty terrible writing and cinematography, it could have still been pretty awesome if they had the build up. But it wasn't there. It was just all thrown in. No suspense. No hype. It doesn't work as well.

"Eh, you know these guys already, right? We don't need character development!" [4]

A shared universe takes time to build. It can't just be "Let's put 5 characters in a movie". It needs to be "Let's get the audience to learn and care about these characters and then put them together".

What DC is doing isn't a shared universe coming together for a big movie. It's a big movie that spawns several spinoffs. And that doesn't have the same kick. But even then, the first Avengers was novel, it was new. Even Age of Ultron lacked the same power. The best part of that movie for me was when Falcon and War Machine popped up because they hadn't gotten their big team moment yet. It was exciting. Seeing the Avengers reteam wasn't nearly as exciting the second time around. And with DC, they're trying (and failing) to do what Marvel already did.

Sorry DC. You should have started in 2007.

As usual with my RyPorts, I apologize for rambliness of this post.

Until next time,


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