For Hollywood studios looking to replicate the success of Marvel by launching their own cinematic universe, Avengers: Infinity War co-director Joe Russo has a simple piece of advice: “Yeah, don’t do it."
“Not everything can be sustained through a cinematic universe," he told Variety.
In the interview, Russo addressed the intricacies of building a cinematic universe full of beloved characters, and the growing desire to accomplish what Marvel Studios has done over the past decade.
“I think all of this — Netflix, Marvel, Star Wars, this massive moment of disruption we’re in — is really a function of audiences craving new kinds of storytelling," he said.
And it seems to be true. Russo touched on Netflix and binging 10-episode seasons as an example of that, and as the future of long-form storytelling. Netflix has seen continued success with series like Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black and Marvel's own shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher.
“It’s another way to digest content, and that structure is less predictive to them,” he said. “We have seen so much content that every average moviegoer has a level of sophistication in their ability to predict what is going to happen in a movie, which is why Anthony and I spent a lot of time trying to hide the secrets of [Infinity War], misdirect the way the trailers were cut, misdirect with information. It’s too easy for them to intuit what is going to happen.”
Other recent attempts at building cinematic universes have failed to reach the heights of even early Marvel Studios films. Warner Bros. has met with decidedly mixed success with its so-called DC Extended Universe, while Universal Pictures' Dark Universe was seemingly dead on arrival with The Mummy. With Sony Pictures plotting its own Spider-Man universe with the upcoming release of Venom, and Legendary Pictures prepping its "Monsterverse" with King Kong and Godzilla, it won't be long before we find out if lightning can strike twice. At the very least, Russo is hopeful studios will keep finding new ways to keep audiences engaged.
“The advice would be to continue to look for new ways to tell stories, because I think the audience is open to it,” he said. “There is traditionally a generational divide, but I think this new generation is going to advance storytelling in a way we haven’t seen in a long time because of the tech advancements in their lives and the way they are used to digesting content on YouTube and social media in much more compressed formats, more facile, fluid. And they like longterm emotional commitment, but there’s lots of ways to engender that that do not involve building out a universe.”