by Graham Pierrepoint
It may seem like a relatively new phenomenon – and that’s because it is – but The Guardian recently put forward a theory regarding the movie trend of tying in multiple characters into one ‘cinematic universe’ as becoming increasingly avoided. Not by Marvel or Disney, of course – as they popularized the trend through comic book heroes coming together in various movies – but by their rivals. DC, Marvel’s direct rival in print and on screen, seem to be making a few moves towards standalone pictures as opposed to big, brassy tie-ins – could this mean that they are taking more than a few steps away from a Batman and Superman-led cinematic universe?
It’s possible. Deadpool, of course, bucked what appeared to be a general trend early last year and as a result made far more money than anyone was expecting – with the character only confined to his own universe, there was no sign of any of the characters we know and love from the X-Men franchise otherwise – for the most part. Further to this, Logan showed what can be done if you dare to take popular characters out of the arguably linear storytelling of cinematic universes and throw them into more complex stories. It’s no wonder, then, that there appears to be talk of a Joker origin movie that stands away from the DC universe (and the Jared Leto character we first saw in the disastrous but financially successful Suicide Squad) – as well as hints that the next Batman movie won’t tie in with the Justice League picture that’s soon to be hitting cinemas.
Does this mean the end of cinematic universes? Unlikely – Star Wars is set to expand massively in the coming years, even when the latest trilogy concludes – and Universal still seem keen to push on with tying their monster movies together despite the critical failure that was Tom Cruise’s Mummy reboot. Standalone movies allow for standalone stories without you having to worry about how it impacts on a larger landscape – with the Marvel universe seemingly reaching an apex with the next two mooted Avengers movies, and talk of another ‘wave’ coming, could we see a further shift in cinematic storytelling – and in the tastes of moviegoers? Ultimately, the goal remains the same – if you tell a good story, and tell it well, you will be appreciated – and cinema was popular long before cinematic universes existed.