When Marvel created the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was touted as a shared universe between all of their different live action projects. That’s a pretty cool idea. Currently, Marvel has three different types of live action products going on. The big screen movies, some epic, like the Avengers and Captain America films, some much smaller, like Antman. The network TV stuff, produced for ABC because of the Disney ownership of both Marvel and ABC, and the Netflix streaming projects like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. But do they really play well in the same sand box, and should they?
Initially, when Agents of SHIELD first debuted, they did a pretty good job of doing the sharing. Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson stepped from the grave on the big screen to be the lead character in the small screen version of the show. There were huge shared plot elements that were shared by the two different sides of the universe, specifically, the fall of SHIELD in Captain America: Winter Soldier, has determined the direction of the TV show. There was even a quick visit from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, to turn over the keys to what remained of SHIELD’s kingdom to Coulson.
Daredevil and Jessica Jones did a little worse at the sharing, because it seemed so forced and after thoughty. There were some quick references to Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) making money off of the destruction caused by the Battle of New York. There was also an episode of Jessica Jones (not one of my favorite episodes) where Jessica is hired by a woman, who actually leads her to a trap to try and kill her, because she is considered one of the superheroes that destroyed New York. Otherwise, there are a few throw away lines over the course of the series that are shoe horned in to make it seem like the sharing is going on.
I bring this up now because it appears that we’re about to have an epic fail in the shared universe department, that I learned about through a piece on io9 by Charlie Jane Anders. Captain America; Civil War, which releases on May 6, 2016, deals with the conflict over whether or not super humans should be registered, without secret identity, and working for the government. Apparently, however, the big screen guys aren’t dealing at all with the pretty major story arc going on in Agents of SHIELD, about the growing number of humans who are getting super powers from their Friday fish dinners infected with the Terrigen crystals at the end of season 2. Should we expect that number of people to grow exponentially now that it is Lent?
A piece by Donna Dickens on Hitfix, says that the Civil War writers weren’t even aware of that story arc when they set about adapting Civil War to the big screen. That’s a pretty big omission. So, the question that bears asking is if we really have a shared universe, or if it only applies to the TV world sharing the story arcs of the movies.
I definitely don’t understand why there can’t be better shared story arcs. To me it is inexplicable why the producers/writers of Civil War weren’t read in on where Agents of SHIELD was heading and seeing if there were some logical tie-ins that bettered both story lines. I don’t get why the creative staff and showrunners at Netflix couldn’t know what is going on in Civil War, and even Agents of SHIELD, and craft some Easter Eggs, or tie-ins to make both stories richer.
I also don’t understand why it isn’t possible for characters to jump between the three different arms of the MCU, even if it is just a scene. Coulson should be in the movies again. He was friends with those people. If it is truly a shared universe, there is no reason Tony Stark or Captain America or other Avengers can’t show up for a quick “how do you do” in an Agents of SHIELD episode. Jessica Jones has relationships with the Avengers. Well written, clever nteraction between them would make both properties better for it. Same thing with Daredevil. I am not suggesting that there needs to be entire episodes built around characters from the other elements, I am just saying that communication and short interactions, even just video calls and information sharing, would make them all better. There are few people smarter than Tony Stark or Bruce Banner. I can totally see Coulson, or one of his agents, needing some information or tech and calling Stark, or vice versa. Fitzsimmons make cool stuff. Additionally, there are some nice mid to minor characters that could tie things together. Reporters, cops, bloggers, scientists, politicians, Agent 13, etc. They could even do it with shared places that are specific to the shared universe: the Daily Bugle, the Baxter Building, Avengers Tower.
The answer could be that the collaboration between the different production companies is complicated. Well, so is landing a robot on Mars or curing small pox in Africa in a time of no internet or cell phones, but we did that. It could be that movies pay a lot better for these stars than do TV appearances. Please, Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans, if that is the reason, quit your jobs now. Most of the stars of the big screen properties could stack their money to Mars. Take TV scale for the few minutes of screen time and be done. And if it is the other way around, the movies are making gazillions, they can afford a few bucks to bring in some TV actors for the movies. Again, I am not suggesting that the TV characters are in entire movies, just some cross over appearances. If you guys need help with this end, keeping track of and communicating the story arcs to each of the production arms, you call, I’ll help out.
Maybe DC has it right, keeping the movie side of their universe separate from the TV side. I’ll let you know after I see Ezra Miller playing The Flash sometime in the future. I am a big fan of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen, so it’ll be a tough sell. I do understand their decision, however to keep them separate. They are having great luck on TV, and I think their feature films are less enjoyable than their Marvel counterparts. I’ve made that clear HERE.
Back to the beginning. Should Marvel continue to share their universe? Yes. Are they doing it well? No. These are missed opportunities to really tie things together and make all of the pieces in the Marvel universe better. People dig Easter eggs. So, like my grandma used to say, “Either do it right, or don’t do it at all”.
What do you think? Is Marvel sharing well? Should they? Leave me a comment below. Don’t make me grumpy.
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