When Cinematic Universes Collide

Ethan Sapienza, Film Editor

Two things are certain in light of March 25: no number of critics can diminish the innate appeal of the words “Batman,” “Versus” and “Superman,” and cinematic universes are here to stay. For those who are unaware, a cinematic universe is a series of films that are interconnected and intertwined, operating within one universe (think: all Marvel films). So, since
audiences keep coming, buckle up for 10  more DC movies, which, if they adhere to “BvS” director Zack Snyder’s aesthetic, will feature plenty of darkness and death.

There are multiple repercussions to this trend, but the reason behind it is simple: streaming. Since 2008, when Netflix
decided direct Internet content would be a good idea and the entire world agreed, Hollywood has been frantically trying to maintain solid audience attendance. Consequently, they’ve fallen back on blockbusters and established properties — which means adaptations that have built-in fan bases — which would lure fans into the theater by name alone.

Anyone can go to their local theater and see how most films are being made with this mindset (even “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was based on an old TV show), and that each one intends to kick start a franchise. Not only will established properties attract pre-existing fans, but a continued series will get audiences to pay $15 for each installment. Universes are the same philosophy on steroids, where a viewer has to see five preexisting films to understand the big one that ties everything together.

There are numerous issues with this business ploy, the first being just how tiresome it is. Only Marvel has been successful in building a thorough universe, yet the oversaturation of spectacle comic book movies is already potent. DC is playing catch up, a “Robin Hood” universe has been proposed, “Star Wars” is just starting its own and recently, a monsters universe was attempted with the awful “Dracula Untold” hoping to begin it. The success of so many franchises results in untold redundancy and banality.

The post-credit scenes or Easter egg references also turn viewers into mindless consumers, forced to look forward to the next movie in the series without being able to process the one they’ve just watched.

In terms of ethics, comic books were mostly produced during a time when conservative rhetoric was the norm. Seeing the biggest films of 2016 portray archaic gender roles or objectification is chilling, particularly when they’re made for all ages.

And finally, for the regular moviegoers, it’s heartbreaking to see giant blockbusters take over. Certainly, an action film can be relaxing and entertaining, but their dominance has resulted in diminished amounts of midlevel original works. If Quentin Tarantino had gotten his start fifteen years later than when he did, say in 2007, he’d likely have a difficult time launching his unique brand of films and would probably be pegged to helm the seventh iteration of “Spiderman.”

In the 1950s, Hollywood churned out epics in similar fear of the burgeoning TV industry, hoping cinematic spectacle would keep dwindling audiences coming. It took “Cleopatra,” a monumental financial failure, to stop the production of bloated epics. Here’s hoping Snyder and co. can reproduce such a blunder.

Email Ethan Sapienza at [email protected].