The cinematic universe is the latest craze to hit the film industry. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Universal's Dark Universe, it begs the question if maybe, just maybe, there are too many now.
Before trying to answer that question, it's worth running through a few of the cinematic universes that are in full swing, kicking off, or still just being conceptualized. And, boy, there are a few.
First, there are the comic universes of Marvel and DC. Marvel Studios is, of course, the modern master of the cinematic universe. It all started with Kevin Feige and crew back in 2008 when they released Iron Man, and they haven't looked back. The cinematic universe has seen 15 film entries with another nine slated to come out between July of 2017 and 2019. That's not to mention the various TV series across ABC and Netflix that, while being at arm's length, are still set within the universe.
DC, on the other hand, is still fairly young and finding its footing. It got off to a rocky start with films like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad but found big success recently with Wonder Woman. Including 2013's Man of Steel, there have been four entries into this universe with two more films in production and many more planned to expand the universe. However, given the rocky start that DC and Warner Bros. have gotten off to, it looks like the pair will wait to see how Justice League does before continuing forward with any films past Aquaman.
Speaking of Warner Bros., the studio is looking to juggle a second universe centered on classic movie Kaiju, with Godzilla and King Kong at the heart of it. There have already been two films released in this monster-verse — 2014's Godzilla and 2017's Kong: Skull Island. To expand the universe more, 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters will also introduce Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah to battle Godzilla, and 2020 will see the two kings face off in Godzilla vs. King Kong.
Speaking of monsters, Universal is turning to its stable of classic movie monsters for its own cinematic univere, called the Dark Universe. Kicking off with 2017's The Mummy, it will bring together classic monsters like the titular Mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein, though how is unclear. That said, Universal hasn't been skipping on star power, tapping Russell Crowe to play Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Johnny Depp to play the Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem to play Frankenstein's Monster.
How Much Is Too Much?
Those are just a few of the cinematic universe that have emerged over the last few years looking to jump in on the craze, and more are still being planned and developed as we speak. While it's amazing to live in a time where stuff that was considered niche not too long ago is prolific in the mainstream, it might be getting to be a bit much. The more the market gets filled with these shared universes, the quicker the demand could dry up. It happened with noir films and westerns that ruled old Hollywood, but are now much more scarce. The very same could happen to these event films.
The tentpole blockbuster has been around since the 70s, becoming an integral part of how studios go about business. It's through these blockbusters that directors Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese are able to make the films they want, ones that may not be on the scale of an Avengers, but outpace everything in quality. With such a focus on these shared universes and the numerous films that get planned, however, there runs the risk of fewer films of a smaller scale.
That's not to take away from the fun of these shared universe films, but its about maintaining a balance between the two where the event films don't start gobbling up the smaller gems that can fill out a calendar year at the movies.
The silver lining, though, has been the emergence of smaller studios such as A24, who lean more into quality over spectacle, along with the emergence of Amazon and Netflix as viable platforms for film releases. But even with that, maybe its time the big studios take a step back, evaluate its plans, and decide if further crowding this film space could have adverse effects.