Author Topic: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies  (Read 3781 times)

Offline Barry the Nomad

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Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« on: March 02, 2015, 10:01:24 am »
Given how many forum members follow the latest superhero movies, I wanted to float a question out there: which do you prefer? Cinematic universes or self contained trilogies (or a 4-5 movie series)? I am not talking about which makes studio's more money, I'm talking simply as a viewer and consumer, which do you prefer?


Since The Dark Knight Rises wrapped the Nolan trilogy, it seems studios are going all in on cinematic universes. But remember the days of superhero franchises that stuck to one hero, or team of heroes, and had a shelf life? Franchises had maybe 3-5 movies before being rebooted, and while there was universe building, it was contained to those few films. While Donner's Superman, Burton's Batman, and Raimi's Spider-Man started out strong and ended with disappointing third acts (or in the case of Batman and Superman, a fourth act), I'll admit to really liking easily digestible franchises like these over Marvel's current approach.


Not to say that Cinematic Universes don't have their positive points, but I do find it a bit of a drag that soon Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk will be too old for the MCU and new heroes will be introduced to take their place. new takes on just about any of the Marvel properties in the MCU are unlikely for years to come, with MCU films planned as far as 2020. That's 12+ years of the same film continuity. And with such an investment in the MCU, a reboot would not be as easy as it was with Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man. Marvel has gotten better at making their films less samey, with Captain America Winter Soldier feeling like a very different film than Guardians of the Galaxy, but the MCU does have their basic template that they do like to stick to (I can't be to only one who saw GotG and thought it followed the first Avengers formula very closely).


Compare MCU's lifespan to Raimi's Spider-Man which lasted 6 years, Burton's Batman which lasted 8 years, Nolan's Batman which lasted 7 years and the original Superman franchise which lasted 9 years (I consider Superman Returns to be a light reboot of the franchise which was intended to be its own series). While these franchises (with the exception of Nolan's trilogy, IMO) had very weak final installments and were not made with the intent of ending when they did (with the exception of Nolan's trilogy), I think the fact that they did not rely on several other franchises in a cinematic universe AND that they told self contained stories with loose threads running from film to film worked to their advantage. Look at Sony killing Raimi's franchise after Spider-Man 3 compared to killing Webb's franchise after Amazing Spider-Man 2. Well Raimi very well could have made a Spider-Man 4 (and he planned to) the series works well enough as a trilogy and thanks to a universe building not being as prominent, there weren't many plot threads left hanging. The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, meanwhile, hinged on a Spider-Man cinematic universe with future film teases in place and several plots left unresolved.


My basic point is I think cinematic universes and self contained franchises both have their advantages and disadvantages, but Amazing Spider-Man showed us that the cinematic universe route can be a high risk for studios. Either you do it right, which I would say Marvel is doing despite me not being the biggest fan, or you don't do it at all.


Self contained franchises are far safer, easy to digest, and allow for new talent to tackle iconic franchises after 6-8 years. Burton's Batman and Donner's Superman went to some pretty stupid places, but they did have some fantastic first few movies and at least did not require 12+ years of existence, opening the door for new talent to reinvent the franchises.

Offline TruthEnigma

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2015, 05:00:50 am »
The problem is not franchise vs. universe, but studio vs. studio. There are problems with both franchise and universe, as in with a franchise rebooting every few years, you end up seeing the same origin retold over and over to the point where you can help saying "I get it Bruce. Your parents are dead. Get on with it!" However if a studio is poorly run, you will end up with problems with both.

The Spider-Man vs. Amazing Spider-Man is the perfect example. Amazing Spider-Man is definitely affected negatively due to them trying to build a universe and this is a mistake by Sony. However the Raimi movies were affected by a poor third movie which killed a lot of the momentum the series had and at the same time pissed Raimi and the cast off enough that none of them wanted to do a fourth. Raimi wanted the Vulture as a villain and to build to a Venom movie properly. Sony thought differently and interfered. The result is a bit of a mess. Warner Has similar issues. They are desperately trying to build to a Justice League without building all the characters.

It's possible to do a universe as a loose setting to house the various stories you want to tell, such as the Alien/Prometheus/Predator universe, or Quentin Tarantino's universe or Kevin Smith's universe. It just depends on the competency of the filmmakers and the studios.

Offline MadeManG74

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2015, 12:26:59 pm »
It really depends on what one wants to do with the series. If it's a planned finite series then a self contained trilogy is the way to go, if it's just the characters as a concept then there's no limit to what you can do, so go for a universe.

Besides, isn't a trilogy just a self-contained universe spread to only 3 movies?

Offline SOUP

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2015, 11:29:06 am »
I think Marvel has it right by doing both.

Individual trilogy's that wrap up, but tie into a shared universe.
Iron Man, Captain America, Thor... all wrapping up their individual series after 3 films. The characters are still free to appear in other movies, but according to their big outline (up to Avengers 3: Part 2), no individual franchise is going past number 3.

This leaves those open areas to start up new franchises along the way.

Offline Barry the Nomad

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2015, 11:41:51 am »
Marvel's plan is a novel idea, but my issue with it is that since the Cinematic Universe continues on, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are all left to not seeing new movies for years. And if they do make a new one, it would have to follow the MCU, meaning either old actors return or new characters fill the roles.

I'm going to miss DC's old method or rebooting a series every ten or so years, but I guess that doesn't make as much money as a cinematic universe. I just hope that an older Batman doesn't mean that we won't be seeing new Batman movies after Ben Affleck is through.

Offline MadeManG74

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2015, 11:48:32 am »
^You don't need to bring back old actors to keep a consistent universe. Just use the Jame's bond technique and replace RDJ with Jon Hamm or something. I think it would work, shit they already did it with Norton/Ruffalo.

Offline SOUP

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2015, 12:32:28 pm »
^You don't need to bring back old actors to keep a consistent universe. Just use the Jame's bond technique and replace RDJ with Jon Hamm or something. I think it would work, shit they already did it with Norton/Ruffalo.
And with Terrence Howard/Don Cheadle in Iron Man.

Offline TimmiT

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2015, 12:43:52 pm »
Marvel's plan is a novel idea, but my issue with it is that since the Cinematic Universe continues on, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are all left to not seeing new movies for years. And if they do make a new one, it would have to follow the MCU, meaning either old actors return or new characters fill the roles.

I'm going to miss DC's old method or rebooting a series every ten or so years, but I guess that doesn't make as much money as a cinematic universe. I just hope that an older Batman doesn't mean that we won't be seeing new Batman movies after Ben Affleck is through.
I don't really see this as a bad thing. There's a lot of stuff movies could cover from the comics, and this format allows them to cover a lot more of it. And IIRC they said that they could possibly do it like James Bond where a different actor portrays the same character. And like others have mentioned, they've already done so with Bruce Banner/Hulk and Rhodey/War Machine.

Offline Barry the Nomad

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2015, 03:16:22 pm »
I find the swapping of actors in a universe that hinges on continuity to be a major distraction. With the old Bond films, continuity was loose and people really looks to the eras of the major actors as being self contained with nods to past films. It worked in the original 20 Bond films, but I don't think it works in the MCU. Different Bruce Banners and Rhodey actors are actually big negatives for the MCU, in my opinion. And wouldn't recasting younger actors to take over the role of established older actors like RDJ be really weird in the MCU where time is always moving forward? Like, Tony Stark replaced with a younger actor yet other actors who appeared in Phase 2 and beyond remain in their roles would be odd.

Basically, the MCU relies heavily on a timeline that is always moving forward, with characters aging and dying and being replaced with new characters. I do think that helps in making for a deeper universe, but my problem is we only see so many adventures with famous heroes before they are too old and are retired or revamped with a new (and usually lesser popular) alter ego replacing them.

Offline George

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2015, 03:25:38 pm »
I personally think Robert Downey JR sells most of the movies. Iron Man movies to me are meh at best and pretty much the most boring of the Marvel movies. I think Marvel knows this and tries to promote the actors the best they can to attract an audience (see the promo posters for the new Avenger films, the person in the center with no helmet? Iron Man aka Mr. Downey JR.)

He is also being paid the most for a reason. Iron Man before Robert Downey JR was a D class hero for a reason.

Offline MadeManG74

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Re: Cinematic Universes vs. Self Contained Trilogies
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2015, 03:37:53 pm »
I agree RDJ is very important to the franchise, and really has made himself 'Iron Man' in the eyes of viewers. I also think that most others are more replaceable than him, and even RDJ could be replaced if they needed to.

I disagree with Barry on replacing actors being a big negative, it really doesn't bother me. Considering how much their comics stick with the status quo and have different art and writing styles over the years, I think it would work for movies.

And at the end of the day, let's not kid ourselves. This isn't high cinema, these are 2 hour long commercials for the toys. They'll change actors and do whatever it takes to keep this train running as long as possible.