If studios keep copying Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, originality in studio films will begin to die.
True originality is dead. If there are only seven stories to tell in this world, then we’ve basically told them all to death by now. To think otherwise is to be bliss or ignorant. Variety comes not from a story, but how it’s told. A sense of character and personality ultimately make these seven specific tales fresh and worthwhile.
I think this is why Hollywood’s continuously pulsating idea to make everything into giant, encompassing universes troubles me so much. The reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a success was because talented producers stayed committed and diligent to their extended cinematic connections. This accomplishment shouldn’t be taken as a mold for the future of cinema, but rather a success in executive planning.
While it’s fun to see characters we love meet and work together, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a flawed, soulless machine. It takes the art out of each product in favor of continuity, style and story, and as a result, these films grow more predictable and formulaic. Even last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, for its entire quick-witted joke and clipped pace, suffered from feeling pastiche to the point where its ultimate success was muted.
So when I see Warner Bros. taking notes on Marvel’s thematic threshold for their upcoming DC lineup and Sony announcing plans this week to host a Ghostbusters multiverse — where multiple films, TV shows and potentially a pointless prequel are in the works — I naturally get worried. Not only because I’m dubious of much storytelling mileage is feasible in the Ghostbusters world, but because I fear this is, indeed, the future of cinema and potentially the death of the original blockbuster.
Listen, I get that Hollywood executives are spoiled prima donnas who want what the other kids in the studio playgrounds have. If Disney somehow owned a six-legged, tap-dancing orangutan, DreamWorks would find a way to get six. It’s all about taking other people’s success. That’s business. But at the risk of sounding blunt, studios kill blockbusters because they cut off the balls of what makes them, like any movie, special: their bold, fearless inspiration.
Movies, whether they’re a black-and-white drama about a dog in the Holocaust or a $300 million action blockbuster about giant squid monsters, are all art on some level. They strive from a singular creative place. Star Wars might now be a multi-million dollar franchise, but it initially came from a creative section of George Lucas’ head. Batman, now every kid’s favorite superhero, was once birthed from Bob Kane’s pen. You get where I’m going with this.
While many people are involved in a film’s journey to the big screen, it still needs a thundering, bold vision to truly stand out. By imitating others imitating themselves, Hollywood creates this never-ending wormhole of bland storytelling. After a while, people won’t care if Iron Man battles another baddie or when Skywalker’s kin battles someone with a lightsaber or how another Ghostbuster — man or woman — gets slimed. We’ll have seen it all before. Big tentpole movies become old hat.
I once called this “fast food filmmaking” in a column last year, and this term sadly hasn’t become irrelevant. In fact, I’m afraid to say it’s more relevant than ever for the years to come. Of all the columns I wrote, this wasn’t the one I wanted to give a sequel.
Will Ashton is a senior studying journalism and a staff writer for TheCelebrityCafe.com and College Magazine. Email him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter @thewillofash.