Guardians Helmer Talks Shared Universes

One thing that a handful of studio development executives and some very hardcore Marvel fanboys have in common these days is an adamant belief that a “shared universe” is the only way to go with adapting certain material.

The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has certainly lent weight to the argument, but in its case it had decades of comic book source material, years of planning and plenty of careful world building across individual works before fully unveiling its wider ambitions.

Others who’re attempting to jump on the bandwagon don’t seem to be anywhere near as organised or patient with the process. “Guardians of the Galaxy” filmmaker James Gunn has now weighed in on his Facebook page with his thoughts on the topic, and hopes studios will become more concerned about making a good base product than concentrating on wild plans to spin it off before audiences have had a chance to determine if they like it:

“Listen, I love big ass shared universes in movies, as well as huge franchises. But I’m a little worried about the numerous shared universes being planned by the studios, without having a strong base film to grow from – or in some cases, NO base film to grow from.

Star Wars had the original Star Wars, the Marvel Universe had the original Iron Man, the Dark Knight series had Batman Begins, even movies like Transformers and Twilight – these were movies audiences loved, and the audiences demanded more from these characters. But these days studios are trying to grow trees without a strong seed.

Execs and producers and sometimes even directors are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them – making a great movie. And studios are trying to grow franchises from non-existent films or middling successes. It’s like they aren’t taking audiences into account at all anymore.

I know George Lucas, Kevin Feige, John Favreau, etc, had ideas where their films would potentially lead in the face of success. But I don’t think it ever got in the way of making that first movie count as if it was the last, of making it something wonderful that people would love whether it led to other films or not.

In short, I think this new business model is flawed. I think filmmakers and studios should be prepared for the big picture, but never, ever let it get in the way of making a single great film. Be a little more experimental and see what works as opposed to trying to force success.

And mostly, remember that we as an industry exist to serve the audiences, to communicate with them – they have a voice in what we create as well. We are not here to dictate what they want to see, mostly because that’s simply not possible.”

Even Marvel itself demonstrated that it’s not all smooth sailing. “Iron Man 2” and the first “Thor” came under criticism for putting too much emphasis on teasing “The Avengers” than making sure they were solid films in their own right

In response to his posting, some have considered Gunn’s comments a swipe at Sony’s Spider-Man, Universal’s classic monsters, and in particular Warners’ DC Cinematic Universe. Gunn denies the claims, saying:

“Anyone in the industry, or anyone who reads the trades, knows that this isn’t geared at Warners – it’s a type of thinking that’s currently rampant in Hollywood, and this post is geared toward all the studios, and all filmmakers as well… neither Marvel nor DC is ‘flawless,’ come on. And how come you guys love to fight about Marvel and DC is beyond me. We’re not rival football teams.”

He also says money isn’t the root of the problem here:

“As strange as it sounds, I WISH money seemed to be more a part of the thinking here, but it’s not. Movies that make money are movies the audiences are interested in, and usually ones they like. But now franchises and shared universes are being built off of movies that are disappointments or middling successes at the box office.

There is a sort of desperate hope on the part of studios that if they just try hard enough, they can force their IP to work for them. It’s sad. And it’s not based on money, it’s based on illogical thinking and knee-jerk copycatism.”

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