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Marvel's Cinematic Universe: Is It the new Standard or a Recipe for Disaster?

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By Chris Kavan - 07/23/14 at 05:15 PM CT

The success that Disney has had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is pretty astounding. Since debuting Iron Man in 2008, Marvel films have brought in $2.6 billion domestically and nearly $6.3 billion globally - and with Marvel films scheduled through 2019, it is obvious that they are not going to give this model a rest anytime soon - and why would they? It has worked this well so far - you don't mess with a good thing why you have it, you only try to keep things going strong.

But is the success of this Marvel model an anomaly or is this the start of a new trend that may dictate the box office for years to come? We will soon know as there are now no less than three huge franchises looking to take advantage of this whole "Cinematic Universe" concept. We will only have to wait one year for the first to arrive: Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams, is going to be the start of new story set in the most well-known sci-fi franchise created. But it's only the start - beside Episode VIII and IX (with Rian Johnson of Looper and Brick fame attached to direct) - there are also two spin-off films being developed. Directors Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and Josh Trank (Chronicle and the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot) have already been tapped to direct these two - and while there is still speculation as to what exactly these films are going to focus on, early reports have them based on a young Han Solo and everyone's favorite silent-but-deadly bounty hunter, Boba Fett.

Now, I'm a huge Star Wars fan and I guarantee you I want these new movies to succeed. So does Disney - who already has a TV show (the animated Rebels) in the works and I can bet you my entire movie An early meeting between the actors and director of the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII film.collection they are going to market the hell out of this - but until that first movie rolls, aren't going to know if this effort is going to pay off or if Disney has made a billion dollar misstep. My guess is that out of all the properties, Star Wars certainly has the best chance of following in the footsteps of Marvel and being a viable franchise - and even though they have all but thrown out everything in the expanded universe, there is a lot of history they could mine for characters, history and story should they choose.

If one group of superheroes can start a movement, who says there can't be room for another? In 2016 we will be given Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - and, should things turn out well, DC is going to have their own cinematic universe to rival Marvel. The Justice League is already set for a 2017 release date with Man of Steel director, Zack Snyder back in the director's chair. The Justice League has their own set of characters - besides Superman and Batman, you have Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, Green Lantern (let's forget the Ryan Reynolds atrocity ever happened, shall we?), Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter - other characters who have joined include Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Green Arrow and Captain Atom (amongst yet many others). Enough said - it's more than enough to rival The Avengers - but DC has had a bumpy ride in the past - and they have tried to reboot their characters more than once (Superman Returns, Dark Knight, etc).

In the end, it comes down to whether audiences can spread the love across two major superhero franchises. Marvel has the edge, if only because they were first and they have proven to be not only popular, but have consistently delivered quality action, story and characters - and they have improved over time as well. DC has a lot of catching up to do - and it's going to be an uphill battle to convince audiences they can do as well (if not better) than their Marvel counterparts. We'll know in the next five years if the world can support such an effort.

Now, strangest of all, it has been reported that Universal Studios plans to reintroduce their "classic" monster lineup (The Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc.) for modern audiences, but that they are planning on doing this via their own "Cinematic Universe". Led by Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek and Spiderman) The original Universal Monsters collection is set for a 21st Century update. and Chris Morgan (Fast Five) the first film in this supposed new lineup will be The Mummy, also scheduled for a 2016 bow. On the surface, this seems like a strange choice - but, then again, it could be genius. Getting all these classic monsters together - fighting each other, fighting with each other - the possibilities could go anywhere. Then again, if they are rebooting all these classic creatures, one would think a stand-alone movie would be enough (granted, the 2010 Wolfman film was terrible on its own). This is still in the early stages, so who knows for sure if this model is going to be viable, but it they do make it work, and audiences respond well, who knows what franchise is going to be next?

Maybe Disney will do a "Cinematic Universe" based on all their existing princesses. Nintendo has enough iconic characters that if they could team up with an impressive team, you could have a plethora of adventures - Metroid, Mario, Zelda - it could work! But it is all going to depend on whether audiences choose to support any of these franchises or not. If the first movie fails or even opens below lofty expectations, it could sink the ship before it even has a chance to leave port - and Marvel may be the only Cinematic Universe left standing.

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