(Photos: Warner Bros. & Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Having multiple movies where characters interact with each other is a relatively new idea to genre films. Generally speaking before the last decade, one actor would play a character confined to their own movies and never shall they meet another character from another movie. The stories of their movies exist on their own, and when the story reached its conclusion, if the studio wanted to tell more stories with that character, it was recast as a new actor completely separated from the films previous. Marvel Studios changed that, taking a huge risk in doing so, but other studios tried to take a bite at that apple with middling results. Warner Bros came late to the party with their universe, barely tying their Justice League line of films with side projects like Suicide Squad. Others, like Universal, attempted to make a go of Dark Universe, an attempt at a Universal monster franchise with films such as 2014s Dracula Untold and 2017s The Mummy reboot.
The problem with this is that when you have to make multiple movies fit one overarching plot, you lose, to differing degrees, what makes the single movie on its own great. While Captain America: Civil War was a pretty great movie, consider what it could have been if it didn’t have to weave Black Panther into the MCU in a meaningful way or be saddled with the aftermath of the previous Avengers movie? Doesn’t at least a part of it feel a little bit like Age of Ultron part two? I’m almost certain that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would be better if it was just a sequel to Man of Steel and wasn’t a prelude to Justice League, which works for serialized monthly comic books in a way that doesn’t for films that take years to produce.
I would point people to how the CW DC Comics television shows do for where this sort of thing could work well, with each hero(es) having their own shows and once a season having a crossover event between them all, but even that is too complex. It makes for lessened view ability if you only like Supergirl but don’t care for Arrow or The Flash, especially when catching up on the show late.
With Avengers: Endgame coming in 2019, we will, hopefully, see a graceful and resonating end to the long, infinity stone centric storyline that has been unfolding for over a decade and nearly two dozen feature-length films. Will Marvel Studios continue to interlace their films after this? Will there be an after-credits stinger after Spider-Man: Far from Home that somehow relates to Black Panther 2 or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, or will these films finally get to relax and just exist in, of, and for themselves? What would that even look like?
But even more importantly, if Marvel stops connecting everything so tightly, or even better at all, will the other studios continue to do so? Will Warner Bros give it a rest and let their movies just be movies? Will other studios just try to just make films their own series at most, instead of an interwoven universe with threads so convoluted that it makes them hard to enjoy? Only time can tell, but I hope this changes soon.
Things do not have to be interwoven to be interconnected. Characters can appear in other films with the same actors without having to bind their plots together. Without being able to stand on their own, so often these films just feel like they are setting up other things, leaving viewers unsatisfied. If these movies can stop being so dependent on others, they can have space with which to stretch out their legs and be, perhaps, more enjoyable.
David Castro is a Puerto Rican writer from New York City. He has worked on the upcoming Undead supplement for Chill Third Edition and is working on launching a Patreon. You can find him on Twitter (@theinkedknight), on Tumblr (thedevilsyouknew), on Facebook (facebook.com/inkstainedstudios), and at davidrcastro.com.