MovieBob - Intermission
Franchise Movie DOs and DON'Ts

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 22 Nov 2013 17:00
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DO: Use a shared universe to your storytelling advantage.

DON'T: Make your audience keep a flowchart.

Captain America: The First Avenger doesn't have to stop and explain the specific mechanics of how the Red Skull being right about the Norse Gods existing and leaving magical artifacts behind on Earth works, because that was already explained in Thor and the sort of person who needs those kind of things explicitly spelled out is probably the sort of person who already saw Thor. By contrast, the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie was so confusingly plotted (and with only one series to cull from!) that an explanation of what the HELL actually happened is a detailed special-feature on its DVD.

DON'T: Tie the success of the whole to the success of one piece.

DO: Be able to absorb a misfire.

Everyone remembers Nick Fury showing up at the end of Iron Man's credits to effectively announce that the Marvel Universe was a thing, but people tend to forget that the first real heavy-lifting in terms of worldbuilding happened later that same year in The Incredible Hulk: That's where we first saw Captain America's Super-Soldier Serum, for example. Part of the reason was that Hulk's movie just wasn't anywhere near the megahit Iron Man was, and notoriously tough to work with star Edward Norton opted out of The Avengers. Marvel Studios' solution? Just keep going forward. After all, Thor and Captain America were already in early-stage production, so it was entirely possible to simply shift focus and proceed as-planned - though perhaps with fewer callbacks to this particular movie than they might have initially planned.

DO: Go cross-media - it's the 21st Century!

DON'T: Go cross-media without a plan.

By the time Avengers: Age of Ultron comes to theaters, at least one of its main characters - Quicksilver, fast-running brother of The Scarlet Witch - will have appeared in the personage of an entirely different actor in the unrelated film X-Men: Days of Future Past. This is somewhat unavoidable, the result of contract issues and studios not wanting to play nice with semi-shared properties, but it's most likely surmountable. He won't be the most important character in either movie, and it by legal necessity will likely have a different backstory in both films.

On the other side of the coin, rumors continue to swirl that Batman Vs. Superman will feature not only a role for Nightwing (aka "grownup Robin") but also cameos for the civilian identities of Wonder Woman and The Flash. Problem? Both of those characters also have CW TV series in the works - The Flash as a spin-off of Arrow and Wonder Woman as a re-imagining tentatively titled Amazon . Nightwing, meanwhile, has been rumored as an Arrow guest-star since before the (terrible) show launched. At this point, plans do not (apparently) include those incarnations turning up in the movies. Whereas Quicksilver is a preexisting issue, this strikes me more like a self-inflicted wound on DC/Warner Bros' part - fair or not, people will decide (assuming they go through with this at all) that one version is "better," and the perceived loser will suffer in comparison.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet. Aside from his work at The Escapist, he wrote a book and does a videogame criticism show.

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