The slow death of the cinematic universe


American legend Mark Twain was born in the year 1835, shortly after a long-awaited visit from Halley’s Comet. Twain would later say that he believed that he would die with the comet’s next passing, and he was correct. In 1910, Twain left this mortal realm as he had entered it, beneath the tail of one of the most beautiful phenomena that our universe has to offer.

While by no means an American legend, I feel like my life might at least be book-ended in the same way. Except maybe with disappointing superhero movies instead of celestial bodies.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that cinematic universes are fun. It’s nice to be able to look forward to an upcoming movie that belongs to a beloved franchise, and it’s satisfying in an almost familial sense to watch the same set of characters interact and grow with each other, year after year. But for the love of God, is it really necessary to transform every single franchise that ever existed into a sprawling, never-ending web of films?

It would be one thing if the “cinematic universe” approach to movie making actually encouraged creative interpretations of the source franchise, but this is not the case. Take for example the Marvel movies “” despite being made by myriad distinct directors including Joss Whedon, Kenneth Branagh and Shane Black, the unique styles of these creators are suppressed in order to ensure that the tone and aesthetic of these films are interchangeable enough to allow for endless character cameos and spin-offs. While this works wonders for making a consistent and cohesive series of films, this is at the great cost of making each individual project much less interesting than it could otherwise be.

And hell, despite their monotony, at least Marvel movies are competently made. DC’s “Suicide Squad,” despite being widely regarded as a cinematic dumpster fire, made enough at the box office to ensure that studios won’t learn that massive amounts of reshoots and blatantly going against the vision of the directors make for horrible, disjointed films.

I’m starting to suspect that even decent movies that come from these universes are less so because of their origins, and more in spite of them. “10 Cloverfield Lane” is one such film, initially a stand-alone script that was incorporated into the established “Cloverfield” franchise. It shows “” the film quickly dips from an engrossing look at paranoia into a muddled and much less interesting alien-takeover story the moment it’s forced to acknowledge its franchise obligations.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that some unique scripts see the light of day when they otherwise wouldn’t have, but there has to be a better way than to demand such massive and plot-changing compromises.

This is what scares me the most. It’s starting to look like the only way for small-scale, independent stories to be brought to the screen will be for them to awkwardly insert themselves into the flawed systems that produce big budget disasters.

It’s not the end of Hollywood as we know it “” at least, not yet “” but considering how safe these movies are to make from the point of view of the studios, I get the feeling that this is a problem that isn’t going to resolve itself anytime soon. At least, not without a dozen more “Spider-Man” reboots.