Friday, September 5, 2014

Shared or separate universes - which way to go?


Another thing to come out of the Shazam announcement is that the movie will not be a part of the DC Comics film universe being constructed around Batman, Superman, etc., and that the DC film universe will not be connected to the DC television universe represented by Arrow, the Flash, and any future shows that may come to be (Gotham will be a standalone series, along with Constantine).  This has resulted in some cries from the same crowd that hated Man of Steel and has already determined that the DC film universe is going to be terrible.  You can sum up their argument as such:

'Why don't they just do what Marvel did and connect everything?  This is why Marvel is running circles around DC.  FAIL!!!!!!' 

You're going to hear and see that quote and others like it for the next several years.  Even if the DC films are phenomenal these clowns are so invested and locked into the idea of them sucking that they will be unable to give any kind of fair accounting.  Be prepared for a lot of lot of articles and blog posts with the following titles:

  • Why (insert DC film name here) sucks - These are coming regardless.
  • 10 Major Problems with (DC film) - You'll see these if the movies are good and audiences mostly love them. The haters will be left with nothing but to nitpick and write a bunch of 'well, actually' contrarian pieces.
  • Why (DC film) underperformed at the box office - You'll see these if the movie makes a lot of money but falls short of some mythical studio projection.  It won't matter how much money it actually makes; there will be some target number that is higher than the gross that will allow people to say it flopped.  This is exactly what happened with Amazing Spider-Man 2.  ASM2 made roughly the same money as Captain America: The Winter Soldier grossed $713 million worldwide as of August 1 while ASM2 did $703 million worldwide as of June 29.  Yet the former was labeled a smash while the latter has been called a flop in some forums.  You better believe that if Dawn of Justice grosses a similar number to Cap 3, the same kind of stories will be written.  
And the justifications for these kind of pieces have already been formed: casting decisions (Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman), trying to shoehorn too many people in one movie (five heroes and one villain have been cast so far, even though we have no idea how much any of them will be on screen), and now the unconnected universe theory.  Since Arrow is a success and the Flash looks like it will be, why not connect the films to that world?  After all, Marvel is connecting everything and it's working great.  Well, here's why:
  • Canon changes - Arrow has already made major changes to how several characters are depicted from the source material.  To connect the universes means you are locked into those changes which will piss off the source material truthers out there (many of whom don't like Arrow for doing it).
  • Damage to the TV shows - Agents of SHIELD was hurt by having to coincide with Winter Soldier.  The show picked up after the intersection point, but having to hold off on a lot of big guns did not do it any favors with the audience.  Dawn of Justice doesn't land in theaters until March 2016.  That means you'd have to write almost two seasons of Arrow and Flash focused around a lead up to that point.  You have to account for Superman, Batman, etc without ever seeing them onscreen because Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gadot, etc won't be showing up just Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson aren't showing up for SHIELD.
  • New shows - There's a story about a Supergirl show in development, and there are other second and third tier players that you could create TV shows around.  Tying everything together would put these shows in a box right out of the gate for the same reasons as the existing ones, and limits just who you can do a show for.  I would love a Nightwing TV show, but a connected universe means you have to tailor it to any future Batman films which limits the way you can deal with every character involved.

 The Marvel connected universe has worked so far, but will always be on shaky ground because it's just damn hard to do that kind of thing.  The Netflix series will probably be good, but they're going to have a smaller audience just because and will have the same constraints as Agents does.  This is not child's play folks, and to expect everyone to try it is just dumb.

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