In Marvel and DC's two pantheons of superhero movies and TV series, we've seen two very different approaches to putting together a shared universe. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each version? And what's so great about a shared universe, anyway?
In response to this post on the ways in which the two studios either chose to separate their television and movie universes or to keep them unified, a discussion began about what was working in each strategy and what wasn't.
Commenter lightninglouie pointed out that existing in a shared universe gave storylines like the originally lesser-known Guardians of the Galaxy an opportunity to impress unfamiliar audiences:
The thing is though, the "universe" concept is a huge draw for audiences. It works as both a brand and a world. Viewers like the fact that all the Marvel characters coexist within the same narrative framework, and they trust the studio to make entertaining stories, so they're willing to see movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, which might have been a harder sell as a standalone project. It's also why viewers stuck with Agents of SHIELD, because they liked the idea of having a weekly glimpse of that universe, however remote. (And there was a pretty big, albeit belated, payoff.)
WB seems really unsure of the whole idea of shared universes. I think on some level they just want conventional entertainment without having to worry about a larger world. Which is fine, but it seems weirdly conservative and timid given how the DC brand is primed for Marvel-style treatment (especially considering that Warners owns the movie/TV rights to everything).
Other commenters pointed out that DC — with its sprawling, parallel reality-crossing storylines — would encounter particular difficulties in a shared universe:
Making a connected universe is limiting somewhat, the upside is that you can have a team up and that EVERYTHING matters on every movie and show. That is extremely difficult to pull off, especially for a series - as [Agents of SHIELD]'s slow start and inability to move the main plot until Cap 2 came out demonstrated.
Hopefully, DC will use the freedom from inter-connectivity to build multiple unique and interesting worlds. Pre-Batman Gotham is one example of a story you can't really tell in a connected universe unless you make it a period series, which it does not appear to be.
If they use this freedom to explore the DC universe on big and small screens, then I'm really OK with no unified DCCU.
Besides, if you want to connect them all later, there's always the multiverse.
Plus, generally speaking, DC is the universe with all the parallel Earths. Marvel, yeah, they have their alternate realities, but I've never seen it as necessary like it is in DC, so their history is more about one giant continuity in the comics, whereas DC has all their Earths and different Batmans and Supermans with different histories and Marvel has their retcons that reset characters whenever their history gets too bogged down.
Commenter ead01, however, suggested that the real test of how far a shared universe could stretch was yet to come, as all the new series and movies slated to come out started to roll out:
I think the real test for Marvel is going to be the next slew on TV shows Jessica Jones, Daredevil etc. I don't think there have ever been that many different TV series' that share the same universe (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) even without bringing the movies into it.
I think this is once again DC taking the path of least resistance in that it's easier if the TV shows don't all same the same continuity and Marvel trying something new. I've no idea if it will work but it'll be interesting to watch unfold either way.
What do you think? What do you like about seeing storylines connected into a shared universe, and what makes you wish those stories would just separate already? Tell us in the comments, along with examples of stories that worked or didn't work for you.