6 Crazy 'Shared Universes' Hollywood's Actually Making
Ever since Marvel decided that Iron Man should be able to grab Lebanese takeout with Thor, the idea of the shared universe has taken off in Hollywood. We see this in everything from Godzilla and King Kong's "Monster Verse" to the DC Extended Universe, which assembled the Justice League on a handy flash drive. While few have been able to replicate Marvel's success, folks are still attempting to create their own elaborate multi-film franchises -- some of them doing so with source material that might surprise you. For example ...
The Bond-Verse, James Bond-Verse
Recently, the rights to the James Bond franchise went up for sale. And rather than simply draw up their own sociopathic spy characters with British accents and bland names, corporate giants like Amazon and Apple were trying to get their paws on 007. Why? Well, with both companies looking to dominate streaming, rumors surfaced that they wanted to create a sort-of Bond universe, in which every nook and cranny of Bond's fictional world could be explored -- probably with characters actually named "Nook" and "Cranny."
Spinning Bond off into a TV universe could allow producers to, say, give Bond's American pal Felix Leiter his own show. Or how about a sitcom about how teen Blofeld resents his adopted brother James? Universal ended up snagging the rights to Bond, and sure enough, they recently announced their own streaming service. So it's not inconceivable that a Bond-verse is still in play. The most prominent rumor seemed to suggest that a Bond spinoff wouldn't focus on Bond himself, but rather a young female agent, who could be set up in the next movie. And since a lot of people think Bond is going to kick the bucket in the upcoming film, this would allow the producers to take the franchise in a fresh direction without taking the bold step of gender-swapping Bond.
While nothing has been officially announced, it certainly seems like a possibility, especially with Bond rival Jason Bourne similarly spinning off into a TV series, Treadstone. And let us not forget that the Bond universe has previously expanded to tell the story of Bond's illegitimate, umm, nephew. Yeah, nephew ...
The Cereal Monster-Verse
One of the biggest failures in the cinematic universe game was Universal's "Dark Universe," which announced a slew of new monster movies and even put together a slick logo, all before waiting to see if anyone liked their new Mummy movie ... which they did not. Apparently, at least one company is betting that the real reason that didn't work out was their creatures' conspicuous lack of powdered sugar.
Yup, General Mills is reportedly launching its own shared universe starring the monstrous mascots from its breakfast cereals -- Count Chocula, Boo Berry, and of course, Franken Berry. Bizarrely, the company made the announcement with a billboard of Franken Berry striking an uncomfortably seductive pose on a Sunset Blvd. billboard.
The website listed on the billboard features an invitation for pitches for "blockbuster" stories for General Mills' "legacy characters" -- which it seems is what they consider their cartoon knockoffs of famous literary characters. It may sound like a goofy PR stunt, but it appears as though the company genuinely wants to see these breakfast ghouls in multiple major motion pictures.
And hey, maybe there are stories to tell here. Is Count Chocula an actual vampire who digs chocolate, topping his cereal with the blood of the innocent instead of milk? Is Boo Berry the vengeful spirit of a berry farmer scouring the Earth for his murderers? Was Franken Berry created by an evil scientist with a diabolical plan to turn the world's feces pink? Hey, we could totally pitch these ideas, you guys.
The Filthy-Urchin-Filled Dahl-Verse
For parents who would rather shove an iPad in their kids' faces at bedtime than endure the painful monotony of reading, Netflix is planning to bring the world of Roald Dahl to life. And by "life," we mean a shitload of TV shows. Netflix spent a "nine-figure sum" for 16 Roald Dahl books -- and keep in mind that's before any production costs, just for the rights to tell the stories of various filthy children escaping abusive homes with the help of creepy but magical strangers.
Though in a world of billion-dollar superhero movies, it's possible that Matilda may not pack 'em in like she used to.
We don't have many details on the project yet, but Netflix has "hinted" that the Dahl stories will be part of "a shared universe." Which makes sense, because they spent nine-figures for the just rights to these characters. So if you ever wanted to see Willy Wonka battle the BFG, or Matilda and Charlie compare notes on the abject shittiness of life, you're in luck.
Some of the other books Netflix acquired include The Enormous Crocodile, The Twits, and George's Marvellous Medicine. Hell, for a billion dollars, if Roald Dahl scrawled an obscene doodle on a cocktail napkin, they should be allowed to adapt it into a show, right?
For those who love the Marvel Cinematic Universe but wish the Avengers were scrappy Southern lawyers putting everything on the line for one big case, we have good news. Hulu is launching two John Grisham adaptations that will share the same continuity. The shows will be based on The Rainmaker from 1995 and Rogue Lawyer from 2015 (by which time we'd all forgotten that John Grisham was a thing). They'll be written together in the same writer's room.
Bizarrely, you'll be able to watch the whole thing out of order. Hulu suggests viewers can watch the shows "vertically" or "horizontally." This suggests either that they'll explore bold new avenues of storytelling, or that these executives are high as shit.
Now keep in mind, so far these are the only two Grisham properties being incorporated into their own TV universe. More famous works -- like The Firm, The Pelican Brief, or god forbid, Christmas With The Kranks -- aren't on the table. But if you still feel like you have a Grisham-sized hole in your heart, Netflix recently produced an adaptation of The Innocent Man, Grisham's only nonfiction work. Yup, your TV is about to reach church rummage sale levels of Grisham content.
The Lovecraft Remake-Verse
H.P. Lovecraft is best known as the author of such horror classics as The Call Of Cthulhu and At The Mountains of Madness -- and also for being an internet troll before the internet. If you grew up in the '80s, though, you might associate Lovecraft with a bunch of crazy horror movies his works inspired, most famously Re-Animator (about a medical student who can bring dead tissue back to life, not Disney remaking its cartoons).
One of the stars of Re-Animator, Barbara Crampton, also appeared in two other notable Lovecraft riffs. And according to her, all those movies are going to be remade as part of an "expanded Lovecraft universe." First up is 1995's Castle Freak, about the horrors that come with inheriting your very own mysterious foreign castle. Update the castle into a sketchy Airbnb, and the thing writes itself.
Crampton also promised that the new movies would "bring the Lovecraft universe a little bit more to life and a little bit more in the forefront" -- which hopefully doesn't include racist musings about kitty cats.
The Spider-Man-less Spider-Verse
If Into The Spider-Verse taught us anything, it's that the key to a great Spider-Man movie is to cram in as many goddamn Spider-People as humanly possible. But for some reason, we're due to get a whole bunch of Spider-Man movies with no Spider-Man whatsoever. Sony still has the rights to the iconic superhero. And while they've partnered with Marvel to integrate Peter Parker into the MCU (where he can lead fun John-Hughes-like adventures while occasionally being horribly murdered), that still leaves a whole host of side characters who could each star in their own movie.
Most recently, the blockbuster hit / gritty reboot of The Mask known as Venom proved that audiences would turn out for a movie about a Spider-Man villain without Spider-Man showing up. And because the folks over there seem to like money, it doesn't look like they're going to stop. First off, we're getting a movie about Morbius the Living Vampire, starring Jared Leto and a bunch of people who are about to hate Jared Leto. Leto's already been stoking fan excitement, posting a Twitter video of himself shaving, presumably because flossing footage would have been too damn exciting.
Pictured: a superhero movie?
Other planned entries in Marvel Understudies Universe include movies centering on Black Cat and Silver Sable, as well as one about Kraven the Hunter. And even though the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man reboot was a dumpster fire that's been put out to pasture in the mixed metaphor that is a pasture full of flaming garbage receptacles, its villain-starring spinoff Sinister Six is reportedly still in development. So we may still get to see Paul Giamatti's Rhino drag the Green Goblin and friends on an awkward journey through wine country after all.
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