Over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of the cinematic universe. Creating a universe goes a step further than the standard sequel. In a cinematic universe multiple films can exist. These films relate to each other beyond story continuity. They share the rules, characteristics, and history of the universe, but tell unique stories.
The most notable cinematic universe at the moment is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Since its inception in 2008 with the first Iron Man film, there have been several installments. Each adds layers of depth to this universe where superheroes and villains are very much a part of reality.
A more recent universe, known as the MonsterVerse, createsd a world in which Godzilla and King Kong, amongst other giant monsters, can coexist. In addition, Universal Monsters is kicking off this summer with the release of The Mummy and over time aims to bring all the classic movie monsters into the modern age in one shared cinematic universe. With our upcoming film Tar, we at Howling Wolf love the idea of the cinematic universes moving away from the superhero trend and into the world of monsters.
There are many reasons to enjoy these expansive big screen fictional universes. A universe allows for storytelling on a massive scale. In the MCU there are multiple storylines taking place concurrently. The Iron Man and Captain America trilogies may seem very different than the Guardian of the Galaxy films, but in reality they are all just pieces of a much bigger whole. Telling a story of this magnitude is something that audiences have never experienced before.
This cinematic universe format lends itself to a world of monsters in the same way it does a world of heroes. A universe establishes a tone and sets rules and expectations that connect each movie. The MonsterVerse establishes that monsters are real. With this known there is no telling what horrific creatures inhabit that world. If a massive reptile can crawl out of the water and run riot in San Francisco, who’s to say a giant gorilla can’t live on a remote island in the middle of the ocean. Why would only one monster exist? Once we know our conception of the world is false and beings that defy all logic exist, the door is opened for any number of strange and nightmare inducing creatures to exist, a creature of the Tar for example.
Placing these monsters in a universe ultimately gives greater freedom to the developers. Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island are able to tell two separate and unique stories, despite their underlying connection. These connections are demonstrated through subtle references such as shared terminology. Both Godzilla and Kong use “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms.” Connections like this are a fun way to get viewers more invested.
The upcoming Universal Monsters films will have the freedom to tell each monster’s story , giving them the time and attention they deserve, and still connect to one another. Knowing that these monsters occupy the same world and have the potential to interact with one another makes it almost weird to imagine a world where they couldn’t. Each new installment in a cinematic universe adds to the richness of the universe’s history, enabling a greater fan community to form.
An added bonus is that this format of storytelling allows audiences to see more of their favorite stars in these franchises. By putting the monsters in the spotlight, the MonsterVerse allows the leads to easily cycle around with each new installment. Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island both featured unique, star studded casts, and it looks as if future installments plan to continue this. The Mummy will be starring Tom Cruise, so it is entirely possible that this universe will follow in the MonsterVerse’s footsteps. It’s nice to finally see the focus being on the monsters that reek havoc on our world.
Based on these trends it seems like the cinematic universe is here to stay. New universes will be developed as old ones come to a conclusion. Creating these universes might be the key to giving these films the depth they’ve been lacking. Maybe the cinematic universe is a trend that will continue transcend to through other genres of film. With Tar on the way, there’s no telling the different ways in which we could expand our own universe, giving it greater depth and a richer history. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see…