Logan Review

It’s been seventeen years since Hugh Jackman first put on the claws. Join me as I review his last outing as the Wolverine in Logan.

Logan
When the first X-Men movie came out back in 2000 there was an outcry that the virtual unknown who had been cast to play Wolverine wasn’t short or Canadian. Almost two decades later Hugh Jackman is an international star of stage and screen is virtually indivisible from the adamantium-skeletoned anti-hero that made him a household name, so it was with no little sadness that I went into this movie knowing that it would be the last time I would see Jackman in his signature role.

This film is set in the near future and features a road trip through a post-mutant world, where the Wolverine must come to terms with his past, his present and his legacy. What does a virtually immortal man who has been an animal and a weapon for most of his long life think about when he finally starts to age? How does he deal with a world that he can no longer regenerate and either fight or run from now that he can no longer do either fully? When we join him Logan is the almost last of a breed that appears to be going extinct. Hugh Jackman sells the world-weary bitterness of Logan so well that its both a joy and an emotional struggle to watch him. This is a man who has been repeatedly beaten, chewed up and spat out by a life that stubbornly refuses to end and finally give him the peace that he so obviously craves. The simmering rage that Logan runs on is constantly there under the surface in even the more comedic elements of the film and it’s a performance that packs gallons of feeling into every scene. Patrick Stewart also returns as Charles Xavier. The wheelchair-bound psychic is 90 and losing control of both himself and his powers so that he is basically a ticking bomb. Stewart fills the role with such a fragile gravitas that I found to be painfully poignant. The interaction between Charles and Logan is one of a student and teacher who now find themselves in a world where neither term fits and the only thing that matters is survival. Their relationship is so delightfully complicated and yet incredibly sad as they bicker like an old married couple between moments of clarity and deep emotion. The third person who deserves extreme praise is Dafne Keen who, despite only being 12, manages to be completely convincing as Laura and stand up to her more experienced cast mates. Once she joins the proceedings her presence throws the stagnant world that Logan and Charles have been in out of the window and they are forced to find their way back to a place that neither of them have been in for a long time. The relationship that builds between these three as the film continues is about as heart-warming and soul-crushing as they come. These three broken people find something in one another that is missing within them and become a believable family over the course of the movie; fighting, joking and learning about each other in a way that never feels anything but real and is the true back-bone of the movie as a whole. As with many comic book movies the villains in this piece, Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant, don’t have a huge amount to do other than provide an antagonist. Luckily both of them fill their slight roles with a lot of charisma, so their lack of plot points doesn’t really hinder the proceedings too much. Also, once the hugely emotive finale hit any complaints about the thinness of the bad guys was the last thing on my mind.

The film itself has enough pace and action to make you need to hang onto your seat, but also enough confidence to allow the slower, more character-driven moments breathe. The action is punchy, bloody and very, very violent; as befits a movie about a man with knives that come out of his hand. Despite this for the first time since Captain America: Civil War I really found myself caring about what happened to the characters in a comic book movie. This film echoes with the feel of classic westerns like Shane, Pale Rider and The Shootist as well as more modern fare like 2016’s Hell or High Water. The only bits that really let the film down are a few moments of overt “comic bookiness”, which I found took me out of the beautifully gritty and grounded world that Mangold and his team have created.

So, despite a few minor hiccups we are left with a movie that finally allows Logan out of his cage and truly showcases the pain that a man who has been forced to be a weapon for his whole life can feel.

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Four Moons out of Five

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Suicide Squad Review

Batman v Superman failed to set the box office alight, will DC and Warner Bros do any better with their follow up movie? Find out as I review Suicide Squad.

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The set up is simple; people with amazing powers could be a major problem if they decide to go bad. The US needs a taskforce capable of responding to this kind of threat. So, lady with a heart of flint, Amanda Waller steps up and forms the Suicide Squad. A group of dangerously psychotic, super powered criminals who can be controlled via bombs in their necks and a promise of time off their prison sentence. Voila, a summing up of the premise! Unfortunately, as with many things in this film, its not that simple….

That idea sounds like the sort of thing that could lead to a story that is anarchic good fun about bad people being sent after worse people. It even suggests that themes of evil and redemption might be explored. At the very least it sounds like the set up for a supervillain remake of the Dirty Dozen. In a word; nope! This film decides to spend nearly the entire first third of its run-time telling you about the back stories of the Squad members via neon-titled flashback sequences that are grafted into a scene where Amanda Waller pitches her idea to form the Squad. Given that there are six of these you can imagine why I was somewhat tired of them by the end. Individually some of these vignettes have entertainment value, but they are completely unnecessary. We know that Harley Quinn is crazy the first time we meet her because the script tells us so. We don’t need another ten minute sequence showing her and the Joker hooking up to reinforce it. We know Deadshot is an amazing shooter, partly because of his name and partly because the film is constantly showing us his skills with firearms. We don’t need a ten minute sequence telling us this at the start. It feels very much like someone at the studio turned up, watched the film in the editing suite and said “Hmmm… I’m not sure the audience are clever enough to pick up on all these subtle clues about the character’s traits. Perhaps we should really spell it out for them and hold up the entire plot of the film for the best part of forty minutes?”. It’s clumsy, it’s patronising and most of all it’s generally not that much fun. There are also several scenes later in the film that feel oddly out of place and I would put good money on having been added in the reshoots, which does nothing for the cohesiveness of the film as a whole.

Finally the movie starts moving and we get and inkling of the plot, but once again this is so muddled and filled with holes that it doesn’t feel like a journey that the characters go on. It feels more like a bunch of “cool scenes” strapped together to show us once again how badass this group are. This episodic feeling isn’t helped by the wooden script, which regularly had me wincing at how staid the dialogue was. They even have Will Smith say “So, we’re some sort of Suicide Squad then, huh?”. I know it’s a suicide squad! It’s on the poster! It told me that on the title card when I started watching the film!!! When the actual villain of the piece is finally introduced, which I won’t give away in case you’re worried about spoilers, they once again have a clichéd scene where they decide that they don’t like humans so they’re going to destroy/take over the world. The actual end-game they’re going for is also never really explained, but suffice to say the Squad are going to have to stop it. But wait! Actually they’re not, they’re being sent into the city where this villain is operating to rescue a VIP! Once the film finally seems to realise that this really isn’t what people have come to see this group of bad guys do, it manufactures a reason for them to go and confront the big bad. This scene that not only makes no sense but slows the entire pace of the film to a crawl just before the climax. It’s a really odd choice.

Perhaps though a mess of a script and plot could be saved by interesting characters who are all different shades of grey? Not in this movie! When they are being described by people who are not in the Squad the film would have you believe that these are some of the most twisted and vicious folk on the face of the planet. When you’re watching them this really doesn’t come through at all. What we are given instead is the same “bad guy with a heart of gold” stuff, which doesn’t match up to any of the set up. How is the cannibalistic, sewer-dwelling, man-crocodile meant to be someone I’m supposed to warm to?! Because the script says so? Oh, ok! There is absolutely no subtlety to the way these characters are written. When that is combined with a weird focus on Deadshot and Harley Quinn, who both feel like they should be secondary antagonists and not main characters, it really puts the final nail in the coffin for this movie. I should say at this point that the cast are clearly doing their damndest to make these characters work. Will Smith is charismatic and great as Deadshot, Margot Robbie is fun, dangerous and cracked as Harley Quinn. Joel Kinnaman does his best to be a soldier with a serious conflict of interest as Rick Flag and Cara Delevingne shines as the creepy Enchantress. For me though Viola Davis stole the show as the impressively dead-eyed and resolute Amanda Waller. The rest of the supporting cast are also clearly putting their heart and soul into their performances and my hat goes off to all of them for the amount of effort they went to. The problem is that the characters and script that they are given to work with are just plain bad.

As a final note on the cast, many people, the advertisers included, have been making a big fuss about Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker. First things first; he’s only on screen for about fifteen minutes, so don’t get your hopes up. Secondly, whoever wrote him decided for some reason to make him oddly over-sexual. I say “oddly” because sex has never really been a part of the Joker’s character in any of the versions we’ve seen so far in the comics or on screen. Instead of being creepy it felt more like the writer had been desperate to find something “edgy” to do with him and decided that “possible sexual fiend” was the way to go. Leto’s performance is equally as heartfelt as the rest of the cast’s, but sadly that can’t save the character from the writing. That being said I’d love to see which poor person has to try and find a way to make this Joker and Affleck’s Batman work together… because they clearly don’t!

Then we come to the wonder that is the soundtrack. In the trailers we have been treated to Queen’s opus, Bohemian Rhapsody. I also suspect that sales of Ballroom Blitz by Sweet have gone up significantly in recent months. Both of those worked for a minute and a half of excitingly cut footage. Having a different, on the nose, song ever scene for the first half of the movie does not. It’s almost like someone decided that they were going to make the movie a mix-tape, or visa-versa. Eclectic would be the kind way of putting it. Unfortunately it not only doesn’t make you feel like the film has a solid score or audio theme running through it, it also enhances the choppy nature of the first third of the movie. I’m sure the album will do well as most of the songs that have been chosen are great, but they don’t work in the context of the movie as it currently stands.

Lastly, I want to say that this is a $175million film and you can tell that a lot of time, effort and money has been spent on getting it to the screen. It looks expensive, it feels Hollywood and the people who have managed that have done a great job. Lest you think that I’m down on him I will also say that David Ayer has done a great job as a director. There are a lot of great shots in this film and it generally looks very good, they have just been edited together poorly. Sadly Ayer and his team have been working on a product that was flawed from the beginning. There is an old adage about not being able to polish faeces that would fit well in here.

To sum up this movie is a confused mess that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It bodes ill for the future of the DCEU and I recommend that you don’t go and see it.

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One Moon out of Five.

My Pick of the Comic Con Trailers

Hall H Queue

 

Look at that queue! There is a reason for it…

 

Every year the infamous Hall H at the San Diego Convention Centre, AKA Nerd-Central, is packed to the gills with feverishly excited nerds all salivating to see the latest footage that Marvel, DC and other film-makers are exclusively releasing. In previous years there has been a lot of outcry about exclusive Hall H trailers and showcases, along with the increasing problem of bootleg phone-footage going up on the internet mere seconds after it is initially screened.

 

This year the consensus among studios appears to be that they will release the trailers at the same time as the footage is shown in Hall H, so they beat the pirates to the punch. This means that the excitement that was once contained to breathless written descriptions now ripples out across the internet, like a wave of nerd-excitement that covers the world within minutes of Hall H erupting like some volcano of joy. Join me as I go through my pick of the best trailers to come out so far….

 

 

Justice League

 

Anyone who has read my Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review (https://moonvieswithmoon.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-review/), or listened to the Minotaur’s Head podcast for more than ten minutes (https://hearthis.at/hubrismosaic/) will know of my roller-coaster ride of excitement and dawning horror and disappointment regarding the first major film in DC Studio’s attempt to make a shared universe of their own to match Marvel’s MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Therefore it was with some trepidation that I watched this trailer.

 

Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, along with their alter-egos, Batman and Wonder Woman, try to put together a team of super-powered people to fight an unknown threat. There is a distinct feeling of the classic Oceans 11 movies going on here. Gone is the dour grimness of the previous films! There are even jokes in this trailer! Jokes that play off the foundations of the characters on show, which makes them feel organic and amusing! The distinctive style and hyper-reality that, much castigated, director Zack Snyder is known for is still apparent, but the colour that the new characters add makes it pop, rather than loom like the previous entry did.

 

After the general disaster that was BvS, does this mean that Zack Snyder’s team has discovered how to make these films work?! Hope has been relit for many a nerd today; The Justice League are coming!

 

Wonder Woman

 

 

Many people decried that such an important female character as Wonder Woman was given such short-shrift in her first ever cinematic outing earlier this year, myself among them. Luckily Warner Bros. and DC apparently feel the same, as she is the first of the DC’s Trinity (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) to get her own movie in a post team-up world.

 

This trailer has a lot of elements that reminded me a lot of both of Marvel’s “out there” movies for the MCU’s Phase One; Thor and Captain America. Diana Prince’s introduction back into the world of men after millennia spent in relative isolation among her Amazon sisters on the island of Themiscyra is about to happen.Unfortunately, this appears to be slap in the middle of World War One. Needless to say the daughter of Zeus appears to be pretty unimpressed by this and decides to vent her ire upon the ranks of the German army.

 

Action? Check! Questions that are going to be asked about the power balance between men and women? Check! Amazon’s kicking serious amounts of ass? Check! Gal Gadot will finally get enough screen time to show if she is really worthy of the bracers, tiara and sword of Wonder Woman. Personally, I’m very much looking forward to DC’s premier female hero getting a chance to strut her stuff without any of those annoying caped boys getting in the way!

 

Kong: Skull Island

 

 

King Kong has been around since 1933 and has already had two major remakes, as well as several less impressive outings. Before seeing this trailer I was pretty convinced that seeing him on screen again would be just another money-spinning rehash of what we’ve seen before, but this time things appear to be a little different.

 

A post-Vietnam trip to an uncharted island by helicopter gun-ship? Sounds like fun! Put that alongside the amazing cast (Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Sam Jackson and John Goodman anyone?!) and it looks that they may well have cracked the code for getting the world’s biggest ape back on the silver screen. Oh, and did I mention that he’s HUGE?! This is officially the biggest Kong has ever been. Watching the staccato shots of massive hands slapping helicopters from the skies has got me really excited to see what this movie has in store for us. Oh, and that shot of the guy on a mounted machine-gun firing from between the horns of a triceratops skull? That may just be the most metal thing I’ve ever seen! I’m booking my ticket to go back to Skull Island, and I’m hoping you’ll join me!

 

Dr Strange

 

 

DC have put out a lot of trailers recently, hell this list started with two of them! It would be relatively easy to forget that Marvel still have one movie left to release this year. Luckily they have just been being cunning and waiting to drop the trailer for it until it will have the most mind-blowing effect possible.

 

Look; its Benedict Cumberbatch continuing to conquer Hollywood like a boss, and this time he’s a sorcerer! Move over Gandalf, there’s a new wizard in town, and his name’s Strange! Although this is clearly a film that will be treading over yet another origin story it is equally as clear that this is something that we have never seen before in the MCU. Reality shattering like glass, portals opening in down town New York, magical ninja cults, Mads Mikkelsen looking menacing, cities turning inside out like a kalidescope and all of it set to the mellifluous tones of Tilda Swinton’s mystical narration? Count me in!

 

Blair Witch

 

 

The Blair Witch Project was one of the first true internet marketing success stories, not to mention the start of the “found footage” movie genre. A tiny film that managed to make a huge amount of money through clever use of urban legend tropes. That being said, I always found the movie itself somewhat disappointing and dull.

 

This surprise follow up looks as though it has taken the lessons of the genre that its ancestor began back in 1999 and refined them until they appear to be truly creepy. A lot of horror trailers these days, like the films they advertise, leave me feeling unbothered, but this one has already got under my skin like few others. All the classic bits of Blair Witch lore are present and correct; hand-held footage, teens on a mission, darkness, trees and odd stick figures. It’s time to make that legend that began seventeen years ago pay off one more time and head back into the woods….

2015 – The Year of Cinematic Nostalgia

2015 – The Year of Cinematic Nostalgia

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You may have already guessed from that title, but in this article I’m going to look back on 2015 as the year that Hollywood really doubled-down on nostalgia in its tent-pole movies. It is no secret that the cinematic trend for sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots has been growing for the at least the last twenty years, especially when you look at the blockbuster end of the market. The lure of a well-loved title or Intellectual Property (IP) has always been a good way of trying to get audiences through the door, for example, the history of cinema is littered with adaptations of successful books. Now though we seem to have reached a point where Hollywood has realised that it is not just names and IPs that sell tickets, but also nostalgia for the feelings and experiences that we went through the first time we went to see the classic movies that now make up the foundation of modern pop-culture. More than ever before in 2015 we saw nostalgia become the corner stone of both blockbuster films and the marketing campaigns that flooded the airwaves and billboards trying to sell them to us. I am going to use three of the year’s most nostalgia-based films to discuss this trend to see if it is just a marketing strategy or actually something that can make movies better.

 

The first film that I’d like to discuss is the awfully named Terminator: Genisys. Odd spelling aside this was a film that staked its claim on the market entirely on the promise of revisiting scenes from the 1984 classic with a modern twist. It also marked the physical return of this franchise’s biggest box office draw, Arnold Schwarzenegger. All the trailers made absolutely sure that they showed off as many shots of the aging Austrian Oak, especially when he was busy riffing on the original film’s lines. For a man who is not exactly known for subtlety and mostly made his career off repeating three words, “I’ll be back”, and an imposing physical presence I got the feeling that even Schwarzenegger was probably wincing somewhere with the blatantness of the marketing campaign that accompanied this film into cinemas. Potential audiences were positively pounded with the fact that this movie was revisiting classic scenes from the original film and that was a very good thing. They did show off some of the film’s more expensive action scenes along the way, not to mention the bizarre decision to spoil the movie’s only major plot twist mid-trailer, but overall the marketing was designed to do one thing; hammer home that this was a jaunt down Terminator memory lane. Being a major fan of the first two films myself I was initially quite enticed by the idea of watching Arnie go back to the movie that really launched his career, but after what seemed like months of consistently seeing the same scenes played over and over I was feeling quite tired of the film before I even saw it. When I finally did I quickly came to realise why all the advertising had been so strident about the nostalgia this film was meant to be invoking; it wasn’t a very good movie. Although the scenes that took place back in the “original” were quite good fun and did a great job of recreating the feel of that film, they lasted for all of about five minutes and then the rest of the run time was a mess of poorly executed ideas mixed in with as many references to the previous movies as possible, with the occasional cryptic question thrown in to try and get you excited for the proposed sequels. At this point said sequels appear to be on hold as, even with a box office taking of roughly $440 million, the film did not manage to break even. Overall it appears as though nostalgia alone was not enough to save this film from its lack of plot-cohesion and general quality.

 

Next we come to what was 2015’s second biggest movie, Jurassic World. This film was marketed on one premise; the park is open! As I have said in my review, that is exactly what fans of the series had been waiting for since the first Jurassic Park hit screens back in 1993, and as such it was an immensely clever idea to play with in order to rejuvenate the series. You only have to look at the box office takings of $1.7 billion, which have currently put it as the third biggest grossing movie in history, to see that it was an idea that worked. The nostalgia for the incredibly well-loved original film that the trailers evoked, combined with the lure of more dinosaurs on screen (it appears that, just like me, everyone loves dinosaurs!) was enough to convince virtually everyone to get into the cinema to watch this film. Once there the ride through Jurassic World was a thoroughly enjoyable one, filled with big things with teeth chasing tourists and fighting soldiers. When I reviewed it, I described it as “a film which suffers deeply from not knowing exactly what sort of story it wants to be”, and I feel that even more strongly now, but not for exactly the same reasons. Back then I thought that it was the convoluted and unfocussed script that was the main problem, now I find myself wondering if it was the constant struggle to pack more nostalgia into the film that hamstrung it? The movie is so over the top and exuberant in its celebration of the fact that it is the descendant of the classic original, packing in references to it at a truly breathless pace, that it feels a bit like an excited puppy bounding around and making a mess of everything, but you can’t bring yourself to shout at it because it is clearly having such a whale of a time doing it. Obviously the seat of the pants ride through Jurassic World and the harking back to Jurassic Parks past was enough to make virtually “all the money”, but I suspect that once that initial excitement and nostalgia is no longer part of the equation the film will not age as well as its beloved predecessor.

 

The last film on my list is now likely to be the biggest of 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. At the time of writing it has just passed the $1.7 billion mark worldwide, and it still has yet to open in China, and shows no sign of stopping. No other movie before this, except perhaps The Phantom Menace before we knew the horrors that lay within, has had such a grand and celebrated build up. Star Wars, it could be argued, is the original touchstone of pop-culture. True, Jaws was the first blockbuster, but for the sheer size of legacy and consistent influence on everything that has happened since I do not think you can beat Lucas’ space-fantasy. As soon as they announced the return of the original cast this film was one that could have relaxed completely and ridden the tide of nostalgia all the way to the bank. Instead, JJ Abrams, Michael Arnt and Lawrence Kasdan fine tuned the script to the point that, although references to Star Wars past are positively layered throughout it, anyone could walk in and watch this movie and have a good time doing it. For those of us who are life-long fans the nostalgia it invokes is glorious, but not overpowering. For everyone else it looks and feels like a Star Wars movie, but has enough excitement and joy of its own to make them feel at home without knowing the whole story so far. This is a film that is very familiar to the fans, but also manages to not only stand on its own two feet as a story, but also set up the excitement for further films to follow. I suspect it is also one that will have many people who before now have turned their noses up at the franchise before now reaching for the Blu-Rays of the earlier films to see what all the fuss is about.

 

So we have a year that was filled with examples of films that used nostalgia to sell tickets. Outside of the three I’ve written about there were, among others, Spectre, The Man From Uncle, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mad Max: Fury Road, Cinderella, the list goes on. But the question remains; is nostalgia a good tool for film makers to exploit? We have seen how if it is not balanced out with a strong story it can overwhelm a promising film, as it did with Jurassic World. I still believe that this movie would have been utterly fantastic if they had managed to go once more over the script and focussed in on the story they were actually trying to tell rather than how many references they could fit into the run time. We also saw how nostalgia alone does not a good film make with the car crash that was Terminator: Genisys. That is a perfect example of what happens when someone makes a movie just because they have the rights to the franchise, rather than having a good story to tell. And finally we saw how when used correctly nostalgia can add punch to a film that was already a good one in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Nostalgia it seems is a powerful tool, but one that needs to be wielded subtly, because with great nostalgia comes great responsibility.

Shared Universes: How Much is Too Much?

In today’s article we will look at the question of the moment in Hollywood and nerd-dom alike: Shared Universes, how much is too much?

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Before we start I just want you to have a look at the picture above. It’s a still from the latest trailer for “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” that is due out at the end of April. In it we can see the six main Avengers doing their heroic thing, as they leap in to presumably lay the smack down on a group of unfortunate soldiers. Aside from the coolness inherent in that statement, and the picture itself, I want you to take a second and think about exactly what it represents in terms of story-telling, logistics, ambition, time and not least, cash. To get to the point where this picture is even possible we have been presented with the following since 2008; ten Marvel movies (“Iron Man”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Iron Man 2”, “Thor”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “The Avengers”, “Iron Man 3”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”), two TV series of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”, an eight part TV mini-series of “Agent Carter” (which is sadly yet to be released in the UK) and the upcoming ten part “Daredevil” mini-series that will air on Netflix in early April, and every single part of each one of those projects is set in the same continuity. That is now what us nerds reverently refer to as The Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU.

This behemoth of multi-platform entertainment is only set to grow from this point onwards. Marvel announced last year that they are going to be stepping up their production schedule by releasing three films a year up to 2019, as well as promising another four mini-series on Netflix, that will come out on a yearly basis, and the assumption is that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will continue to air throughout this time. What I’m trying to point out with this massive overview of the MCU’s past and future is that from its fairly uncertain beginnings with “Iron Man” Marvel Studios have built themselves into a juggernaut that has smashed its way into Hollywood and done things its own way. Now that Disney have bought Marvel Studios and produced two movies that took well over a billion dollars each at the box office (“The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3”) they have even more money behind them and the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want. At the moment Marvel are Hollywood’s golden calf, and, of course, now everyone else wants to try and recreate the magic, and the box office takings.

The main problem with this idea is that everyone seems to think that the reason for Marvel Studio’s success is their film’s shared universe, which I think is missing the point by quite a lot. Marvel have managed to get to where they are now by making movies that, on the whole, are entertaining and of a high quality. The clever thing about their shared universe is that, not only does it pander to the comic-book geek market by giving them overlapping stories that are inspired by what they have been reading for the last sixty years, it now spreads their risk for any one movie that they put out. Back at the start of this endeavour if “Iron Man” or “The Incredible Hulk” had tanked at the box office the whole studio would have gone under. They then took a further risk with “Thor”, which was much more outlandish than what had gone before. Once “Captain America: The First Avenger” came out to financial success they finally reached the point where their universe could support itself. Since “The Avengers” then sealed the deal by becoming the studio’s first movie to take a billion dollars, Marvel have been relatively safe from anything but a continuing run of terrible movies. Now the MCU can support a bad movie by surrounding it with good films, which require the bad movie to give a complete picture. This is not to say that they are forcing the public to watch every film or TV show they make, but the carrot of being a completist is there for everyone who wants to chase it. This is what Marvel were aiming for when they dreamed up the MCU and this is why it is now a relatively stable powerhouse. The point I’m trying to make is that the success they’ve had is not a product of the shared universe they’ve created, but completely the other way around; without success in the first place they would never have been able to create a shared universe.

This leads nicely into the second concern that this situation raises. The rest of Hollywood have been taking note of Marvel’s plans, and those who own superhero franchises have already been attempting to make shared universes for themselves to print money with at the box office. The prime examples are Fox Studio’s “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” franchises and Sony’s repeated attempts at making the “Spiderman” franchise take off, but while neither of them have managed to reach the dizzying heights as the MCU as of yet, they are still trying and have plans for several movies each in the next few years. However, the main contender for Marvel’s crown is Warner Brothers who own the rights to all the properties currently owned by DC Comics. This may not mean a lot to some, but the names that they have access to will do: Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman to reel off a few of the ones who are expected to be the top earners. Warners have been slow off the mark, with a Justice League (see all the characters above, plus a few more, in an Avengers-style team up) movie in development hell for many years, before they finally kicked off their own shared universe with “Man of Steel”. Although Warners were slow to start we are now looking at a slate of DC movies that rivals even Marvel’s huge plans for the next five years. We will be getting at least two DC films a year and possibly three depending on what they can manage. This means that soon The Avengers will be facing competition from DC’s own premier superhero team in the form of The Justice League. All of their main characters will soon apparently get their own films as well as regularly teaming up for our entertainment and, hopefully for the studio, cash. This means that between now and 2020 we could be looking at up to six superhero movies a year from the two main comic book studios, Marvel and DC, and that is before we add in the regular “X-Men”, “Spiderman” and “Fantastic Four” movies that will crop up along the way. Why, as a self-confessed comic-book nerd, am I concerned about this? Well, it’s a question of quality versus quantity. I love the idea that we are getting so many beloved comic book characters coming to the screen in the next few years, but the pragmatic part of me also knows that the more of them they make the more chance there is for people to make bad movies. I also know that the majority of the public are not as concerned as I am about who makes which film, or which continuity a particular superhero belongs to. I am worried that if enough bad movies get made, they tar the genre as a whole, which could conceivably bring an end to the popularity of the superhero movie. Sad times for nerds everywhere lie ahead if this comes to pass. And that is just in the superhero genre. Outside of that we are now looking at shared universes springing up everywhere as everyone leaps on the band-wagon. Disney are planning one “Star Wars” movie a year for as long as they can keep the production running, and it has recently been announced that Sony will be doubling-down on their shared universe plans with attempt to continue the “Ghostbusters” franchise into a set of interconnected movies. Also, Fox is giving the reigns of the latest “Alien” movie to Neil Blomkamp at the same time as continuing production of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus 2” in the same cinematic universe. It would appear that, even outside of the superhero oeuvre, the words “shared universe” are here to stay.

I apologise to those of you who are feeling a little exhausted after reading all of that its a lot of information to take in. The point of this was to show exactly how much of Hollywood is caught up in the wake of trying to mimic Marvel’s success. Of course, all this lead up takes us back to the original question; how much is too much? If we only take the superhero genre by itself, even the most stalwart of geeks, such as myself, have to start to wonder how long the market can support this level of production before the interest starts to wane? And what about outside of the superhero bubble? What will happen to the mainstream film industry if all movie execs decide that everything needs to be interlinked to succeed? And before you laugh at that idea you should know that there are also currently strange ideas being floated of making the next “Jump Street” movie a cross-over with the “Men in Black” franchise. If this, slightly outlandish, plan is in the public domain, who knows what else is going on behind the scenes? As Mark Kermode rightly pointed out in his recent BBC radio series, “The Business of Film”, it all comes down to the fact that Hollywood is a money-making exercise. The people at the top of these studios are investors and they want to see a return on their money for minimum risk and that means that if something is selling well then everyone is going try and repurpose it for their own profit. Sadly they are missing the point, which is that good quality, entertaining movies with interesting plots sell. Not shared universes for shared universes sake. Luckily there are people in Hollywood like Kevin Feige, the man at the head of Marvel Studios who has so far managed to use his love of the source material to guide the MCU from success to entertaining success, making quality films without bowing to the overwhelming need for profit. Long may his sort reign!