News recently came out that Hanna Barbera is going to have a shared cinematic universe. I’ll get to my thoughts on that specifically in a bit, but this is a good opportunity to talk about shared cinematic universes and shared TV universes in general.
While I did enjoy the Avengers movie, I think that for the most part a shared cinematic universe is a bad idea. It undercuts the focus on who the movie is supposed to be about, creates all sorts of logic problems, and leads to movies being dumb.
Here’s an example: Captain America is someone who is exceptionally strong and athletic, and highly skilled at throwing an indestructible frisbee. You can tell a lot of interesting stories around that. But when Captain America’s buddies are someone who is strong enough to throw around tanks, a super-genius billionaire with high powered armor who can fly, shoot death rays and exploder rays, and psychically control an army of flying killer robots, and a literal god, what’s the point of Captain America? What possible mission could Captain America actually contribute to? Is there anything that the Avengers would be able to accomplish that Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor wouldn’t be able to do minus Captain America?
So Captain America either becomes superfluous to his own movie, or his friends are inexplicably absent during some huge crisis, off eating shwarma while the fate of the world hangs on Captain America struggling to complete some herculean task that would be trivially easy for a higher powered superhero.
And don’t even get me started on how the Avengers also include a chick who doesn’t have superpowers at all and is just pretty good at fighting, and a non-super-powered dude who is just good at shooting arrows.
(This SNL skit kind of sums up my feelings on that.)
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/54079263″>JR-SNL The avengers</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user14827238″>Andrew</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
The Avengers was entertaining as a novelty/spectacle, but studios have taken the exact wrong lesson from that and are trying to replicate cinematic universes. Also, note that most of the Marvel movies since The Avengers have been disappointments, as the filmmakers struggle to find good stories to tell that fit into the broader context that has already gotten too complicated to handle.
I won’t bother joining the gajillion people tearing into Batman vs. Superman. But I will point out that because it’s part of a shared universe, it has already ruined the Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, and Justice League movies are are going to come out over the next few years. These movies, which might have worked on their own, will be saddled with the legacy and dreadful story points that Zack Snyder crapped onto them.
On the other hand, I do think that shared TV universes work. TV shows have a broader range of stories to tell, and can take the time to service many characters over many different episodes. Putting The Flash and The Green Arrow together in a movie would be dumb, because there’s absolutely nothing the Green Arrow can do that the Flash can’t do better. The Flash could pick up an arrow, run over, and then stab someone with it, faster than the Green Arrow could shoot it. But in a TV show where there’s more time to breathe, the writers can come up with a handful of stories where it makes sense to put them together, while keeping them separate and in separate cities for most of the stories.
(The Marvel/Netflix shared TV universe shows are on my queue, but I haven’t had a chance to watch them, so I can’t comment. However, everyone seems to think Daredevil and Jessica Jones are pretty good. And it does seem like these shows are using heroes with a similar power level, which avoids some of the silliness from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)
Then there’s the upcoming Hanna Barbera cinematic universe, which is just bizarre. How does it make any sense for Scooby Doo to meet Fred Flintstone or George Jetson? What would that possibly contribute to a story, and how twisted will they have to make the rules of the world to bring those characters together? This really feels like a studio jumping on the shared universe bandwagon just because it’s trendy, rather than anything that was the result of someone having a good story to tell.
On the other hand, there aren’t any Zack Snyders involved in this. The Hanna Barbera Cinematic Universe is being done under the direction of the creative team behind The Lego Movie, which was excellent. And they’re starting with a Scooby Doo movie directed by the director of the Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated TV show, which is probably my all-time favorite show that you’ve never heard of and would be shocked to learn is good. (Seriously, check out Scooby Doo Mystery Inc on Netflix. It’s amazing. Unlike every other incarnation of Scooby Doo, it has real character development and ongoing stories. Imagine Scooby Doo done by Joss Whedon, without Whedon’s malevolent sense of life.)
So as wary as I am over the Hanna Barbera Cinematic Universe, I am excited to see a movie follow up to the best version of Scooby Doo.