Last time, Film School Friday taught loyal readers how to become a scene stealing extra because… well we have more than enough doctors around these days and us film freaks need something to fund our netflix accounts. Problem is, no matter how hard you try to steal the spotlight, most directors will cut you out in the editing suite. I know. It’s ridiculous. Film makers can go mad with power yet half the time, they can’t even do their jobs properly.
Take a look at the mammoth blockbusters coming out these days. Every studio seems desperate to build their own cinematic universe so they can keep churning out ready made sequels for the masses that require little or no introduction. Why waste time on original thought when you can just recycle the same characters and settings over and over? Am I right guys??? There’s plenty of money to be made if you can build your very own cinematic universe; just ask Marvel! So let’s forget our dream of becoming extras, purge all creativity from our minds and grab a directors chair as we read on for today’s lesson.
Lesson #29 – How To Build a Cinematic Universe
Let’s look at Marvel Studios for example. Trust me, they know how to sort their shit out.
With each subsequent phase, Marvel have become more and more successful, dominating the movie industry with comic book adaptations based on their most iconic characters. What’s particularly impressive is that they managed all of this without their big guns, Spider-Man and the X-Men, both of whom belong to Fox. Recently, the studio revealed that they have a long-term release plan that stretches all the way to 2028, which is actually pretty awesome, assuming people will still give a crap about superhero films by then. Rival comic publisher DC have finally jumped on the bandwagon in a bid to create their own cinematic universe, but will it work?
While Marvel took small steps, gradually establishing their universe by introducing new characters in smaller roles, DC are taking a less subtle approach, throwing every character they have along with the kitchen sink into their next two releases. Batman VS Superman will feature Wonder Woman and Cyborg in supporting roles, alongside a brand new Batman played by Ben Affleck. The Justice League movie will then star the other big players, presumably including Flash and Green Lantern alongside other characters who are yet to be confirmed. Now, I’m not saying the casual movie goer is stupid, (although the popularity of A Haunted House is damning evidence to the contrary), but good characterisation requires a lot of time, which may be lost in the huge ensemble casts of these upcoming DC releases. Also, are we really going to allow Zack Snyder to build the entire cinematic DC universe? The man who directed a film called The Owls of Ga’Hoole?
James Cameron has taken a slightly different approach to craft the Avatar universe. Instead of waiting 39 years between each release like he usually would, Cameron has decided to make Avatar 2, 3 AND 4 all at once. Admittedly, Avatar did become the most successful movie of all time, so if you’re going to take that kind of gamble on any franchise, this is probably the one to go for. Saying that though, Avatar 2 could still end up being a pile of crap and if that is the case, Cameron will have zero time to adjust the subsequent releases. If they’re all terrible, each one will just be churned out anyway and that didn’t work out too well for The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It also didn’t help that Johnny Depp lost the ability to be good in anything, but that’s another Film School Friday lesson in itself. Don’t rush me guys! That douche bag will get his time, don’t you worry…
Keep It Simple…
In order to create a convincing cinematic universe, detail is key. Even the little things only the most hardcore geeks will notice must be considered because if you make ANY errors, there will be hell to pay. “How come that guy is wearing a rolex even though he’s a flibbity flip flop from the planet Vanagoo!??!”
However, while the details are extremely important, it’s also worth bearing in mind that sometimes, there is such a thing as being too complicated, as this will alienate the more casual fans. Star Trek has always had a reputation for being hard to comprehend if you don’t put the effort in from the beginning and now the new Star Trek movies have messed around with the continuity so much that it’s anyone’s guess if the TV series even counts any more.
On the flip side, the Star Wars franchise tried to keep things accessible by simplifying the movie prequels to a child’s level of understanding, while still retaining the various alien species and political undertones. That’s the real reason everyone hated The Phantom Menace so much… not because there was so much hype, it was poorly written and Jar Jar Binks didn’t die a violent death. No, no, no. It was definitely the simplification that did it.
In other words, you’re screwed either way! Building a cinematic universe is even harder work than building the pyramids, but the Ancient Egyptians managed it and all they had to work with was alien space ships and stargates so if they can do it…
Remember to come back in two weeks for another edition of Film School Friday, where we will be celebrating our 30th lesson with lots of cake and ice cream. Want some? GET YOUR OWN!