When all is said and done and the dust (pun intended) has settled on Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will likely be looking at an all-time worldwide gross around $20 billion. That’s right, this superhero movie franchise will have produced roughly the GDP of a small island country. To call it Hollywood’s greatest creation is no idle boast—it’s a crystallization of the MCU’s towering success.
While the Marvel brand remains impossibly strong 11 years in, Endgame brings to a close the first incarnation of the shared cinematic universe. As the studio plans to introduce new characters in Phase IV and beyond, a mild resetting of expectations might be in order given the rarefied air the MCU is accustomed to flying through. Not every film can be a universally praised $1 billion hit.
So which big screen franchises—barring the major pre-existing biggies such as the DC Universe, Star Wars and Fast & Furious—stand a shot of gaining ground on Marvel during this wait-and-see period?
Instead of the methodical producer-driven model Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige developed for his shared cinematic universe, Legendary has opted for a looser approach. On the surface, 2014’s somber yet gorgeous Godzilla and 2017’s enjoyably frivolous Kong: Skull Island don’t have much in common. There aren’t scores of Easter eggs tethering the two nor is there a consistent tone or sense of visual language. They exist in the same universe but are decidedly singular experiences.
That approach is working—over two films, the MonsterVerse has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. And despite the elapsed time between releases, fan excitement only seems to be growing. Trailers for May’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters have been widely celebrated since last summer’s San Diego Comic Con and the movie promises to be the biggest (literally) of the summer. Giant monsters fighting each other is enticing and exhilarating in an Id-driven sort of way. It will all culminate in next year’s Godzilla vs Kong, a crossover with name brand power and spectacle to boot.
I don’t care what the tracking numbers project for Detective Pikachu’s opening—they’re too low. Pokémon is a cross-generational phenomenon that spans multiple mediums and is a legitimate four-quadrant attraction. It is the highest-grossing multimedia franchise in history. Early word from screenings have been mostly positive and the film’s promotional material has been widely praised.
We can’t take a studio’s actions as gospel as they make the wrong calls as often as they do the right. But, for what it’s worth, WB and Legendary are showing a ton of confidence in this project. A sequel is already being developed and there’s even been talk of a Pokémon cinematic universe in the works.
Is it so crazy to think that our childhood obsession would eventually develop into a blockbuster film franchise?
John Clark Series
Hollywood has made some strides when it comes to diverse representation in blockbusters, but there’s still a long way to go. Consider Michael B. Jordan’s potential Tom Clancy franchise a step in the right direction.
Paramount Pictures is developing Without Remorse as a possible series-launching vehicle for the red-hot Jordan. The film is based on Clancy’s novel of the same name and follows Jack Ryan supporting character John Clark—a badass in every sense of the word. Paramount is sinking a lot of resources into this film, recently hiring script maestro Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) to punch up the screenplay. If all goes well, Paramount will push out an adaptation of Rainbow Six as a sequel.
Now the John Clark series won’t be on the same $1 billion scale of Marvel, but as an action spy thriller in the vein of Jason Bourne, it could emerge as a profitable mini-major franchise.