Star Trek should not try to be the next Marvel
While it may be really tempting to try, ViacomCBS should not try to replicate the Marvel Cinematic Universe playbook using Star Trek, at least not yet.
When Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark showed up in The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and the term “shared cinematic universe” was born, it changed the business of making movies forever.
It wasn’t just enough anymore to have a single successful film that would go on to spawn a hit sequel every few years. No, now you needed a whole interconnected film universe that gave moviegoers a new chapter every year or more.
Unfortunately for Hollywood, so far no one has even come close to replicating what Marvel Studios and Disney have in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
To date, the 23 films that make up the MCU have grossed an astounding $22.5 billion worldwide. And that total doesn’t even include revenue from the television shows that have aired on ABC and Netflix, books, video games, Blu-ray and DVD sales and so forth. And despite the best efforts of other studios, including Disney itself, no one has cracked the code to replicate that kind of success.
Universal tried a Movie Monster Cinematic Universe that began and ended with The Mummy. A Godzilla shared universe has underperformed and a Transformers movie universe died with the box office receipts of Transformers: The Last Knight. Even Star Wars can’t seem to get it right, with both Rogue One and Solo not making as much at the box office as expected.
So what makes anyone think Star Trek will be any different?
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With the news last week that Viacom and CBS are once again going to become one big happy studio, fans and analysts are already talking about a shared Star Trek universe, or Trekverse as it has been called. People seem to think that Star Trek can actually give the MCU a run for its money and become the next big cultural touchstone.
Are these people nuts?
I love Star Trek as much as the next guy and sure, the franchise was doing the shared universe stuff before it even became a thing, but there is no way that ViacomCBS should go into this thinking they can create a rival to the MCU, because if they do, everyone will be disappointed.
First Star Trek, while popular, has never proven to be a force at the box office. For every one film that was a hit (The Voyage Home, First Contact, Into Darkness) there are two that were considered bombs (The Final Frontier, Beyond, Nemesis.) To make a Trekverse work, that would need to change and no one seems to know how to do that.
Second, it seems highly unlikely that ViacomCBS will want to spend the money needed to do a Trekverse right, and that would be disastrous. To Disney’s credit that have spent well over $4.5 billion on just the films of the MCU. Can you ever see someone thinking Star Trek is worth that much?
And finally, it must be said. Star Trek just works better as a television show, plain and simple. And without the movies and video games and the rest, you don’t have a cinematic universe. You have some really great television on a streaming service, which is a far cry from the MCU.
Could a Trekverse work down the road? Maybe. But a lot of ducks are going to have to be in very neat rows for that to happen.
The bottom line is that is ViacomCBS is insistent on creating a Trekverse, they need to take their time and not rush into it. They need to plan and have a clear vision for what they want to accomplish, otherwise we’ll end up with the same mess that is the DC Extended Universe, just on a starship.
And believe me, no one wants that.