A notable concern that I am sure many creatives have when asked to work on a show or a movie set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (aka the MCU) has got to be, “How can I make something unique and new within a world with so much continuity to maintain? And how do I make sure not to step on the toes of one of the other dozens of projects currently in development for the MCU?” It does seem a bit daunting, especially with a shared universe that has existed for 10 years now, and prides itself on maintaining continuity and keeping everything connected in one way or another. Still, it clearly can be done, and it seems like Marvel has figured out the right spirit to keep it going.
During an interview recently with Variety, ‘Luke Cage’ showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker spoke on the subject of building a show in the shared MCU world, saying:
“One of the things that [Executive Vice President of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb] said is that, he described the Marvel television way as kind of an eight- or nine-lane highway. That means you can drive, you can cross lines, and if you hit a guardrail, they’ll let you know. And that’s really what it is. It’s not that we plan so succinctly with all the shows, but any time we kind of are interfering with things that could affect the other shows, we let each other know. And it’s been that way since the very beginning.”
He named one example of some overlap for him coming when ‘Jessica Jones’ Season 1 ended up being the series that got to introduce Luke Cage to the MCU, meaning that ‘Jessica Jones’ showrunner Melissa Rosenberg got to make the final call on who was cast as Cage, even though he was to be the lead in Choker’s series which debuted after ‘Jones.’ Choker spoke on how collaborative the whole process was, how he was brought in for his input and how they all agreed on Mike Colter for the role before making that decision. He went on to explain that for him:
“[It’s] not my Luke Cage. It’s Marvel’s Luke Cage. [Marvel] understands the power of their brand. They’re very particular about the brand, period. As a result, they’re very involved in protecting what the brand is. So the trick is to create a singular experience but at the same time work within that framework. So what I’ve learned is just be very communicative.”
Choker then shared his thoughts on other studios attempting to do the “shared universe” concept and why no one else has been able to do it quite as successfully as Marvel up to this point:
“You can’t give people something they don’t want…I think that’s the problem with people trying to build these universes. You wouldn’t want to hear from Method Man or Ghostface if the first Wu Tang album wasn’t hot. So build your foundation, then invite people into your house. So I think the problem with some of these other properties that are trying to copy Marvel and failed is they say, ‘OK, we’re going to come out with these five properties like this.’ It’s like, the one drops and then the whole thing falls apart, instead of focusing on making one thing the best it can be and then spinning off from that.”
I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment and personally wish that the other studios would take note. Instead of releasing movies whose sole purpose is to build toward “Justice League” (as an example), they should focus on individual movies that build their characters and brands into successful franchises on their own, and then bring people together for the epic “team-ups” when the time is right. Sure, it’ll take time and patience, but otherwise you get the DCEU, which only (IMO) released ONE standalone film that really celebrated one of their heroes and stood by itself (‘Wonder Woman’) before uniting everyone in ‘Justice League,’ and that film and the shared universe suffered for it. They, nor the audience, really knew the cinematic versions of their characters enough to really step it up for ‘Justice League,’ so the whole thing felt very mediocre.
But again, that is only my opinion. Feel free to share your own in the comments below!