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As the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn is tied into what is unquestionably the most successful "shared universe" currently running in theaters. Marvel Studios has spent the last six years building franchises and crossing them over, and the results have seen tremendous box office success. The approach has proven so successful that it has seen imitations start popping up all over Hollywood - but it's a methodology that Gunn sees as potentially being wrought with problems and potentially damaging to the movie industry on the whole.
The outspoken director posted his thoughts on the growing "shared universe" movement on his personal Facebook page - titling it "Carts Before Horses & Hollywood's New Love of Shared Universes" - and it's an interesting read coming from a guy with such a key inside perspective. You can read the posting in its entirety below:
Hollywood certainly has taken a fancy to the "shared universe" concept ever since The Avengers hit in 2012 and wound up becoming the third most successful international release of all time. Even beyond what's going on with comic book movies, like The Amazing Spider-Man, the DC Comics slate and the potential for future Fantastic Four and X-Men crossover, the last few months and years have seen big announcements for properties like the Universal Monsters, Robin Hood and King Arthur. Just about every major studio is trying to get in on the action, and it's not super hard to see why it's brimming with problematic possibilities.
As we've seen, there certainly is a ton of upside potential in the establishment of multi-tiered cinematic universes, but none of it is going to go anywhere without a solid foundation. There's no point in making or spending money on a sequel that nobody wants, so why would you start making focused plans for one even before audiences have provided feedback about exactly what they want? It's one thing to start developing and announcing work on sequels after successful production and test screenings, but as James Gunn says, putting the cart before the horse just doesn't make any sense.
Creating larger continuities and expanding franchises can be a great deal of fun for audiences, and I'll admit to having fun watching the existing franchises grow and evolve, but there is certainly a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, and with any luck Hollywood will figure that out before its too late and we start seeing a flood of sequels to movies nobody really cared about in the first place.