Cinema’s new craze

By Charlie Bourne

Ian Hunter picture
Ian Hunter

While the traditional, serial way of making sequels is still alive and well, recent years has seen story telling expand by creating universes using related stories to fill in the missing pieces of a bigger picture.

Giants like Marvel, DC and Disney have all had their own shot at this.

To understand more on this new cinema trend, film academics James Russell and Ian Hunter from the Leicester Media school explained more.

Ian said: “One trend within cinema this year is tying all those sequels together into these big hypodiegetic universes.

“Before there was Superman, Superman 2 and after that Superman 3, now with all the Marvel ones and so one there all tied in to one big universe.”

James said: “I think that’s certainly the way film producers would like to go.

“Kevin Feige (President of Marvel Studios) changed Marvel’s business model from selling the license to adapt their comics and decided to adapt them their selves, which is quite an ambitious thing to do and their shared universe came out of that.

“Now even characters like Doctor Strange and Black Panther – who are both very minor comic books characters – can introduced, developed and then have their own films released that can prove very successful.

“Others would like to do that but it’s very difficult to get those off the ground.

“Transformers are trying this, there is a Bumblebee movie coming out soon, and Fast and Furious are as well.”

Aside from the successes of Marvel and Disney, with their recent spin off launches from the Star Wars universe, other film production companies haven’t had their respective universe reach the same heights.

James said: “Universal wanted to make a universe of gothic monster films called the dark universe starting with a rebooted version of The Mummy, even though that was moderately successful it’s not enough to spark a franchise.

“DC have been successful by any measure except from when you compare them with Marvel where they haven’t been and they’re on a downward trend.”

But if some companies have struggled, why is the appeal to create these universes so hot right now?

Ian said: “It’s a way of managing audiences in relationship to the movie, so why do adapt a novel? People may have heard of the novel, it has proven its place on the marketplace and it’s a ready made story so your cutting down your chances of really fouling out, and it’s the same for sequels and remakes.

“It’s repetition of difference. So you make something that’s similar to what audiences know but slightly different, it helps package things in a way that is easier to sell.

“If you look at the Alien series there is loads of spin offs on all different forms of media, which maximises the profit you can make from a particular property,”

James said: “It makes financial planning easier, it’s a more stable way to bring out films and instead of bringing new ones afresh there is always one in the pipe line.

The film industry is an extremely intensive and expensive industry, so the need for big budget films to generate as much profit as possible is obviously crucial to production companies.

Sequels and remakes of older films are usually safer ways to help avoid cinema flops. However, when adapting beloved comics or remaking films that boast huge fan followings, judging the films success artistically can create division within viewers.

James said: “If you look at what DC have done, there are some hard-core fans who love what Zac Synder did and others find the depiction of the characters quite offensive.

“The Solo film that’s out soon has had a very difficult production, we had some work with Pinewood while that was going on. Someone was saying to me that they shot a scene and someone was wearing a cowboy hat, Bob Iger the head of Disney came over and watched the rushes and said I don’t like that hat.


“Think of the number of people that have chosen that hat, yet they had to go back and reshoot it. You can’t please everyone, and it’s the same with audiences.”

Discontent with remakes and sequels of films with big fan following, like the mixed reviews The Last Jedi attracted, may simply be because audiences and fans are looking at the film in different ways.

Ian said: “Fans are different from audiences. Star Wars is a kids film, the new trilogy is not aimed at people like me who saw the original film when it first came out, it’s different audiences.

“So what fans think doesn’t always carry over into what mass audiences think about films as they’re often looking for different things and general audiences might not be so worried about whether the film is accurate or if they got certain things wrong or right, comparing to what he fans think.”

With the film industry seemingly producing sequels at an increasing rate successful films are rarely one offs, but with the new trend of shared universes being adopted by multiple companies, it shall be interesting how new projects perform at the box office over the coming year.

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