Remember the good ole days when you read a book and that was it? Or when you watched a movie, even a series of movies, and you got the whole story? Or what about the days when all you had to do was plunk yourself down in front of a television or computer monitor for 40 hours or more to enjoy the narrative inside a video game.
In today’s world of cross-platform storytelling, you have to read books, watch films, play video games, collect comic books, and sometimes download the occasional mobile game on your phone. If you do that, then you may be able to understand the entire story.
One of the great examples of this is the Star Wars Universe. There are books detailing what the characters in the movie are thinking and feeling. There are books that take place before, between and after the movies. There are comic books devoted to explaining what happened to Darth Vader when he visited his wife’s grave and how Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo discovered the Knights of Ren. There are shows on DIsney+ that have deepfaked Mark Hamill’s face so that they can develop more Luke Skywalker stories. They even unveiled Emperor Palpatine’s return in the video game Fortnite prior to Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t involved the comics, yet, most likely because the entirety of the Marvel properties is split between various film companies. Unless the MCU were to solely make an MCU-Comicverse where it only included characters from the movies, I doubt they’ll cross-platform with comic books. That doesn’t stop them from utilizing TV shows to promote their movies. In order to watch Hawkeye on Disney+, you really should watch the Black Widow (2021) movie. Oh, and all of the movies up until Avengers: Endgame (2019). If you’re planning on watching Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (coming out in May), then you’ll want to watch all of the Loki and WandaVision shows, Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), the prior Doctor Strange film, and every one of the other MCU films. Oh, it gets worse too because Patrick Stewart is starring in it. That’s right, the same guy who played Professor Charles Xavier in the eight or so X-Men movies.
Now, you don’t have to watch all of the films, all of the television shows, read all the books and comics just to enjoy one single movie/book/game/etc… However, you won’t be able to fully understand and appreciate all the Easter eggs and cameos that will be inevitably jam packed into it.
When it was announced that Stephen King’s The Dark Tower was going to be adapted into a film, I was elated. For those of you that didn’t know, I absolutely love what’s considered to be King’s magnum opus. Just about all of King’s extensive library of work involves the Dark Tower universe in one way or another. However, when the movie came out, it was met with mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently has a 15% Tomatometer and a 44% audience score.
Personally, I loved the movie. Sure, it has its flaws, but for a sequel I thought it delivered something fresh while still keeping to the original source material. That’s right, you heard me correctly. Director Nikolai Arcel said in an interview that “the hardcore fans of The Dark Tower series will know that this is actually a sequel to the books in a way. It has a lot of the same elements, a lot of the same characters, but it is a different journey.”
Stephen King tweeted a year before the movie was released that “The Dark Tower is close, now. The Crimson King awaits. Soon Roland will raise the Horn of Eld. And blow.”
To those that didn’t read all the books, the movie did blow. And because of that, Roland will never reach the Dark Tower in cinematic form. Which is a true shame.
So how did the MCU survive and thrive while The Dark Tower crumbled and the Star Wars franchise lingers in a mediocre galaxy far, far away? Well, it’s my own opinion, but I think it’s because the MCU started slow and hooked its audience. Once they were hooked, the MCU grew upon itself to the point of you had to watch all the prior films in order to understand the new films and shows. Now, you have to watch all the shows in order to understand the movies.
It’s sort of like lying. You start out small because, to you, it seems innocent enough. A little white lie. However, to sustain the lie, you must craft bigger lies to protect the first one. And when you’re at the point where you’re thinking “I should just tell the truth”, it’s already too late. You’re invested and you don’t want to face all those that you’ve lied to. You don’t want to face the consequences you’ve accrued.
It’s actually a pretty great business plan, the one Disney created. First, they get your $12-$15 movie ticket. Then they get your $30 for a DVD/Blu-Ray. Oh, don’t forget all those special collector edition combo packs of all the gazillions of movies they’ve released. Then they get your $12.99 per month for your Disney+ subscription. They’ve been at this since 2008 when Iron Man first released. House of Mouse? More like Mansion of Mouse.
Where is the line as far as cross-platform storytelling is concerned? Isn’t it enough for you to simply watch a movie without having to consume fifteen other pieces of media? Sure, there are plenty of other books, films, and games that have incredible storylines that don’t cross-platform. Just don’t complain to me because I’ll be cross-referencing my comic books with my novels to see if the television shows and movies create some new theory on what the MCU will be like in twenty years.
Until I come out of my MCU rabbit hole I’ve dug myself into, keep calm and write on!
Categories: Mastering the Craft