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I’m Sorry I Ever Encouraged Cinematic Universes

Because who doesn’t want four King Arthur movies a year?

Scarlett Johansson Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff in 2021's "Black Widow"

On Tuesday, Metaflix reported on Warner’s plan to expand on their HBO Max offerings. Among the announcements was the revelation that DC Films will continue to develop not one, but two distinct cinematic universes, and it got me thinking. At this point, there are way too many movie universes to keep up with, and I think I’m over it.

Most everyone knows that the never-ending prevalence of movie universes started back in 2008, when Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” ended with a teaser towards an “Avengers” film and, well, that obviously went very well. Not only is “Avengers: Endgame” the highest grossing movie of all time, but there is a humongous slate of MCU films and television shows coming our way, even after “Endgame” seemed to cap off the story pretty well.

Since 2008, we’ve seen so, so many plans for huge slates of movies to come out, all interconnected with cameos and end credits scenes, all building to a grand team-up blockbuster. Of course, a lot of them barely made it off the ground, if at all. Universal’s plans to turn their classic slate of horror monsters into a universe died after back-to-back flops. Before the Disney deal that brought Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to the MCU, Sony announced about a thousand Spider-adjacent films, only to cancel them all after “Amazing Spider-Man 2” didn’t go over very well with, well, anyone. Warner even tried to turn the mythology of King Arthur into a shared universe, but that fell apart after 2017’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” starring Charlie Hunnam bombed.

Of course, there are plenty still up and running. Disney recently announced about a million “Star Wars” projects, and “Godzilla v. Kong” is set to pit those two against each other next year. “Bumblebee” seemed to resonate with a lot of people, and there are apparently more “Transformers” spin-offs on the way.

I’m exhausted just writing that. At this point, it’s more than obvious that this style of filmmaking isn’t about making fun movies with classic characters, but really just a way to make money through FOMO. You may not care about Godzilla at all, but you love King Kong. Godzilla’s gonna pop up in the next King Kong movie, so you have to watch Godzilla otherwise you’re not going to understand the next one, so you might as well go see it.

I’m not going to lie, I’m a part of the problem. I’ve loved “Star Wars” since I was a toddler, and I watch most anything on a screen with a “Star Wars” logo on it. I’ve seen every Marvel movie, and I’ll probably end up watching the ones slated for 2021, even though I wish it ended with “Endgame.” After all, if nobody went to go see these shared universe movies, they wouldn’t get made.

At this point, I just want to watch a movie without having to Google it before and after to figure out who all the cameos were, and what characters popped up without much (if any) context. I mean, PlayStation recently announced upwards of 10 film and TV projects based on their biggest games, citing the MCU as inspiration, so I’m sure that’s going to be another universe too. I don’t even own a PlayStation, I’m sure I won’t have any clue what’s happening.

In the modern film industry, smaller, riskier projects are falling by the wayside for these big-budget blockbuster series, and they’re oftentimes not very good. We’re losing out on lots of original ideas for the sake of introducing another obscure cast of characters from a long-retired franchise, only for the new universe to get canned immediately. These stories are oftentimes rushed, and more often than not they end up unfinished anyways. I’m tired.

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