Due to the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems like every franchise wants to have a cinematic universe of their own. DC Comics has the DCEU, Godzilla and King Kong are set to face off in their Monster-verse, Universal Pictures made an unsuccessful attempt to revive their classic monsters for the Dark Universe, the recent SCOOB! is set to start a Hanna-Barbera movie universe, and there are several more. That’s heavily because of this recent trend made popular by the MCU, but it’s worth remembering that Marvel didn’t originate this idea. There have been several other shared movie universes throughout the history of film. Universal Pictures did create the first one with their classic monster movies, having characters like Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s Monster meet and even battle in various films. The Aliens and Predators keep facing off. Jay and Silent Bob star in the hilarious View Askewniverse.
There are definitely more shared universes in film and TV than people may realize. While not everything out there really needs to be a part of a cinematic universe, it’s an idea that often does well and gains attention because it’s a lot of fun seeing beloved characters meet. Whether it’s the Jetsons hanging out with the Flintstones or Freddy fighting Jason, it’s difficult to not feel excited when it happens. It just needs to be done correctly with material that actually allows for it.
Let’s explore some franchises that could potentially make for great cinematic universes.
The Nicktoons are the most iconic and memorable shows that Nickelodeon has released. Everyone knows and loves The Rugrats, Spongebob Squarepants, Rocket Power, Hey Arnold!, The Fairly Odd Parents, and the rest. 90’s nostalgia is extremely popular right now, and this would be a fantastic way to celebrate that nostalgia. The Nicktoons could also grab the attention of those of us who grew up with them while also gaining the excitement of younger audiences who enjoy newer series like The Loud House.
It could be a lot of fun to see new movies of The Rugrats, Aaahh!! Real Monsters, CatDog, and others. It could also bring new life to a lot of these series. Of course, it could all lead up to an Avengers-style crossover featuring each of the Nicktoons characters, with Spongebob, Tommy Pickles, Rocko, CatDog, the Angry Beavers, Arnold, Doug, Jimmy Neutron, Timmy Turner, and more teaming up for some common goal. Perhaps they work together to save the Nickelodeon Studio from being closed down, or their various antagonists team up to take over the world and must be stopped.
With the Super Mario Bros. movie being the only big screen adaptation of a Nintendo-made property, they don’t have a great track record in theaters. However, now that comic book movies have been proven to be viable for Hollywood, there’s no reason why video game movies can’t be too. Illumination, the studio behind Despicable Me, is currently developing an animated Super Mario Bros. film set to be released in 2022. Other animated movies could and should be made based on Nintendo’s games, including The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Star Fox, Kirby, Metroid, and countless others. This could easily lead to a gigantic animated universe featuring extremely iconic characters. It’s hard not to see how a Zelda movie or a Donkey Kong movie wouldn’t attract audiences. If they follow the stories already provided by the video games, then a lot of fans will be made happy and come back for more.
Nintendo already produces the Super Smash Bros. party fighting game series, so the crossover is already provided for Hollywood as well. A Super Smash Bros. movie could showcase fights between the iconic Nintendo characters while also having them team up against the likes of Master Hand and Tabuu.
DC’s upcoming The Batman starring Robert Pattinson proves that they can still make a Batman movie outside of the DCEU. Where the DCEU features the likes of Wonder Woman, The Flash, Superman, Aquaman, and Shazam, there may not be a whole lot of room for other Batman characters who could hold their own movie. Pattinson’s version of the character may be too young or early in his crime-fighting career to also feature characters like Nightwing or Red Hood, but maybe we will see the franchise progress to that point. Maybe we will one day receive a separate Batman series featuring an older Bruce Wayne that will allow for those characters to exist.
Either way, movies starring Nightwing, Batwoman, Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, and Catwoman all in their own shared universe outside of the larger DC Universe could be really exciting to see. It could allow for a lot of focus on them and their individual development that something like the DCEU couldn’t allow for. Plus, in the comics, seeing them grow together and bond is one of the most heartfelt and emotional aspects of DC. It could make for a unique superhero movie franchise in a world overrun by gratuitous superhero films.
Power Rangers have been extremely popular since they first released in the early 90s, and it never really stopped. There are now at least 20 different series of Power Rangers, along with a movie reboot that came out a few years ago. Since the live-action super-powered franchise was bought by Hasbro in 2018, there have been rumors about what they have been planning to do with the property.
The new episodes of the latest series, Power Rangers: Beast Morphers, are still airing on Nickelodeon. Future series are still set to do the same. It seems they have other plans for the theatrically released movies though. There have been rumors of Hasbro’s new Power Rangers movie reboot being centered around time travel. Depending on what they actually do, a cinematic universe may fit the franchise well. We could receive movie series based on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Power Rangers in Space, Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue, Power Rangers: Time Force, and the other series. The recent BOOM! Studios comic series introduced the “Heroes of the Grid” story arc where the different groups of rangers from across time and the galaxy are able to team up. This sets up the perfect story for crossover movies in the future.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been due for a better big-screen reboot than what Producer Michael Bay was able to “accomplish.” The shell-kicking brothers may not have tons of material that would work for a huge cinematic universe like the MCU, but there is definitely enough to have a few movies that aren’t focused on the turtles themselves. With the next TMNT movie series, a separate film series starring Usagi Yojimbo could also be released, with them meeting in a team-up movie down the road. The samurai rabbit has already appeared in three different TMNT animated series, has fought alongside them in the comic books, and has been a part of various TMNT toy lines. It makes sense for him to be featured in a movie or two with them, as well as having his own movie series since he does originate from his own separate source material.
Aside form an Usagi Yojimbo team-up, there is certainly room for some of the other TMNT characters to receive their own spin-off films, such as a Casey Jones solo movie or a Master Splinter origin story.
Sony’s video game mascots may not all be as iconic as many of Nintendo’s, but they do have some certainly worth the mascot title and have strong fanbases. The video game world wouldn’t be the same without the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Nathan Drake, or Kratos. If the next big Hollywood trend is video game movies, then we can certainly expect to see plenty made based on some of PlayStation’s biggest games. They have a wide range of characters and games, from lighthearted and colorful like LittleBig Planet and Sly Cooper to darker and more mature like Twisted Metal and God of War. There’s definitely enough material from PlayStation’s library to make movies for everyone.
PlayStation mascots have crossed over in various video games before, like in Crash Bandicoot Purple and Spyro Orange, PlayStation Allstars Battle Royale, and PlayStation Move Heroes, so a movie crossover with those characters certainly isn’t farfetched. Maybe we won’t see a character like Kratos hanging out with Parappa the Rapper anytime soon, but Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, and Sly Cooper meeting in an animated film wouldn’t be too much of a surprise and could be extremely enjoyable.
Universal Monsters (Again)
The Universal Monster classics like Dracula and The Invisible Man formed the original shared movie universe. They may have made a rather unfortunate attempt with 2017’s The Mummy, but it should absolutely be attempted again. The stories of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Bride of Frankenstein are timeless and beloved. Getting the chance to experience those stories told with a modern blockbuster budget (and told well) would be incredible.
The Invisible Man, which was separate from Universal’s Dark Universe, released earlier this year and was outstanding. It did extremely well critically and financially. There’s definitely a desire to see new versions of these older monster movies, and now’s the time to take another stab at it.
The Looney Tunes are some of the oldest and most beloved cartoon television characters ever. There hasn’t been a whole lot done with them in recent years, but it’s safe to say that there are still countless fans of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety. Their wit and slapstick made them all animation icons. New movies featuring these characters would likely attract both new and old audiences.
The way the old cartoons worked would allow for several potential movies. They were often seen in separate sketches rather than all being together in a single story. There could be a movie following the antics of Bugs, Daffy, Elmer Fudd, and Yosemite Sam, another featuring Sylvester and Tweety, and even one starring the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. This would match the classic sketch formula that the original series followed. There are countless ways they could all interact in crossover films, like how they already have in Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
There are definitely stories and franchises that should stay away from any sort of shared universe formula. It doesn’t always work and it can sometimes feel forced. That being said, cinematic universes and crossovers can be a lot of fun when actually done right like in the MCU or the Jay and Silent Bob films. It’ll be exciting to see what sorts of new movie universes we will get to see in the future.
Let me know in the comments what movies you’d like to see in a shared universe!