Universally Challenged: Cinematic Universes That Are Probably Doomed to Fail

Universal Pictures

In Hollywood, prequels, sequels, reboots and re-imaginings flit in and out of fashion as quickly as you can say ‘low box-office returns.’

The consensus among studio bosses of what will or will not work for an audience generally makes about as much sense as the plot of XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.

Paramount Pictures

Which is to say, as much sense as a secret service agency composed of DJs, wakeboarders and international football players.

In case you’ve not seen it, the latest XXX film features a cameo appearance from Neymar, who plays an international superspy whose primary skill is kicking napkin dispensers into bad guys’ faces. I know – it sounds brilliant!

Vin Diesel tangents aside, a willingness to follow trends has proved bankable for studio bosses in the past.

However, there’s never been a trend quite as ambitious, or fraught with potential danger, as the recently-coined ‘cinematic universe.’

In 2008, Marvel Studios blew up the movie business with the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which integrated hundreds of disparate characters into one streamlined story and propelled the studio to box office success.

Marvel Studios

This also gave Marvel the enviable freedom to invest in auteur directors, experiment with genre cross-overs, and generally do whatever the hell they liked.

Which is why it wasn’t surprising when other studios, hoping to emulate the phenomenal success of the MCU, started to take note.

However, and it may seem like an obvious point, some franchises lend themselves more readily to world building than others.

Marvel Studios

For instance, there’s arguably more demand for an epic showdown between Tony Stark and Captain America than there is for a confrontation between Yogi Bear and Top Cat.

With the Hanna Barbera cinematic universe in mind – yes, that is a real thing – we’ve scoured the internet to bring you some examples of the craziest cinematic universes currently in development.

Universal Monsters

Universal Pictures

While the idea of Hammer Horror-style monster mashup does seem kind of appealing, this fledgling franchise could be a witch’s brew of bad ideas.

The original Universal Monsters films generated some of the most enduringly eerie images in horror history. They were creaky, creepy and totally iconic.

A bolt-necked Frankenstein Monster and a bandaged, be-fezzed Mummy are now cinema staples, but Universal Studios gets credit for launching these iconic baddies into the cinematic stratosphere in the first place.

Universal Pictures

Films like Van Helsing, The Wolf Man and Dracula set a benchmark for horror filmmakers, who have been trying to recapture the simple brilliance of their popcorn-propelling scares for almost a century.

The Universal Monsters cinematic universe will kick off later this year with a modern-day Mummy reboot, before leading into Van Helsing, Wolf Man and Bride of Frankenstein remakes.

However, if the latest disappointingly action-led trailer for The Mummy is any indication, fans expecting cranky special effects, dodgy prosthetics and back-to-basics jump scares will be bitterly disappointed.

The Mummy’s director Alex Kurtzman, who is also contracted to direct the upcoming Van Helsing remake, is the writer responsible for the monstrous atrocity that was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Kurtzman also worked with Michael Bay on his sci-fi thriller The Island, suggesting that he can actually stand to work with Bay!

This means he shouldn’t be trusted with the development of a cinematic universe, or with practically anything else.

Men in Black / 21 Jump Street

Sony Pictures

The tedious contractual obligation that was Men in Black 3 led Sony to perform a much-needed autopsy on their ailing alien franchise.

Admittedly, this required some ‘out of the box’ thinking, but whoever came up with the idea of a Men in Black / 21 Jump Street cross-over was thinking way outside the solar system.

Sony Pictures

Granted, the studio could simply be trying to neuralyze audiences who were disappointed by Men in Black’s increasingly lacklustre sequels without the heavy-lifting of a full-scale reboot.

But while it may seem cynical to shackle Jump Street to the Men in Black franchise in hope that it will reinvigorate MIB’s box-office success, there’s still a part of me that’s excited.

Sony Pictures

For one thing, this cinematic universe will be helmed by Jump Street directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller, who have a substantial track record of making good films out of bad ideas.

Both series use irreverent humour to subvert action clichés, while still revelling in high-octane car crashes and intergalactic shoot-outs.

Sony Pictures

There’s still no word on whether Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones will be involved. However, if 21 Jump Street is anything to go by, we can’t rule out a last-minute cameo, even if there are some heavy-duty alien prosthetics in play.

All things considered, these stratospherically star-crossed movies could be a potentially perfect match.


Warner Animation Group

As promised, there is indeed a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe, although whether that’s anything to be excited about is another question.

Hanna-Barbera seems determined to forge ahead, throwing money at long-forgotten cartoon characters like The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and of course Scooby-Doo.

Warner Animation Group

The studio doesn’t appear to understand that people who remember Yogi Bear are now chartered accountants in their mid-to-late 50s, with low-cholesterol diets and fixed interest mortgage repayments.

Or maybe they think that their deeply irritating Halifax adverts will have kids clamouring for a cross-over movie featuring Dick Dastardly and The Hair Bear Bunch.

Warner Animation Group

Hanna-Barbera certainly have their finger on the pulse in one respect – after all, kids do love building societies!

The studio has yet to set out a long-term plan for its shared universe – which is probably a wise idea – but an upcoming CGI Scooby-Doo movie will be the first step in the studio’s probably ill-fated plan.

Super Smash Bros.


While it may only be a rumour, there have been rumblings that Nintendo is planning to capitalise on the success of its video game pantheon through the creation of its own cinematic universe.

As a child of the 1990s, it’s difficult not be excited by the prospect of a Mario origin story or an in-depth character study of Sonic The Hedgehog.

At least a Super Smash Bros. movie would do away with a tedious set-up, as the whole point of the game was watching a bunch of unrelated characters jump around and kick each other.


While that might not sound super-watchable, the franchise’s bright, colourful aesthetic and host of much-loved characters should surely be enough to spark some nostalgia and put millennial bums on seats.

However, my biggest concern about a Super Smash Bros. universe is Nintendo’s previous foray into cinema with 1993’s Super Mario Bros.

The film, which is arguably one of the worst ever made, disregarded everything we know about Mario.

Hollywood Pictures

In the movie, the Super Mario Brothers aren’t even brothers; instead, Luigi is adopted by Mario after he finds him abandoned as a baby – why?

Not to mention the fact that the whole film takes place in a parallel universe populated by sentient humanoid dinosaurs.

I may have been too busy climbing up ladders, hopping onto turtles and generally having a great time to notice that detail of the game – in fact, I’m like 100% sure I didn’t.

However, with more than 20 years between Super Mario Bros. and its rumoured cinematic universe, Nintendo has had more than enough time to learn from its mistakes.

Given the monumental affection that still exists for the Nintendo franchise, it just might be the one new cinematic universe that doesn’t dig its own grave.