There’s every chance that 2021 becomes the year of the couch blockbuster. Thanks to Warner Bros. choice to drop its major films on HBO Max simultaneously with their release in theaters, people now have the option to watch the monsters mash in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” not in an overpacked theater, but in the comfort and safety of their own living room.
Watching two larger-than-life characters destroy the better part of Hong Kong is a different experience at home than in full IMAX glory, but if nothing else, the nuances — or lack thereof — in the MonsterVerse gave us more insight into why not every film franchise is destined for a TV adaptation, as well as why the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a better shot at successful expansion than most.
In the case of “Godzilla vs. Kong,” it feels safe to assume that few people are excited to revisit this universe because of a deep and abiding love for the human characters. And for good reason. Monster movies have never really been about people; they’ve been about society. So-called Titans rise up as a corrective to humanity’s hubris and mistreatment of the planet and people who die do so as collateral damage of a long-running war between society and, well, everything else on the planet.
While this makes for good, dumb, fun in film franchise form, it’s not something that could easily be replicated week-to-week because honestly, why would we care about humans when Titans are the true protagonists?
Conversely, this is what makes the MCU so ripe for expansion into television. If there’s a criticism to be made regarding the adventures of the Avengers — and there are many — it’s that the universe is populated with so many characters it becomes impossible to service them all justly, meaning that for years some heroes were forced to take a back seat. So it becomes an issue of not having any human protagonists, but rather an issue of having too many human (or humanoid) protagonists.
Expanding the reach of the MCU to TV allows fans to learn more about the past and pain of Wanda Maximoff, something never allotted enough time in the films, and it allows Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes to work through their own burdens after the departure of Steve Rogers — to the extent that Bucky is in therapy — fleshing out two men who were too often relegated to being Captain America’s buddy.
The MCU is far from perfect, but it is perfectly structured to work within the confines of serialized TV, if it would only choose to embrace the form. Too often at this juncture, the MCU is trying to force the rules of TV to bend for them, when those precise restrictions would go a long way toward a foundation that the organization could build lasting series on the back of.
So while some of us would love to see a week-to-week serialized series about Godzilla in his downtime, hanging out alone in his underwater palace and thinking about how he should have drowned Kong when he had the chance, it definitely wouldn’t make for must-see TV, while there might yet be an MCU show that lives up to the hype.
For more about adapting film franchises for TV greatness and how cinematic universes fit inside the small screen, check out this week’s episode of IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens” as hosts Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers, Creative Producer Leo Garcia, and, myself, TV Awards Editor Libby Hill, hash out the flaws and foibles of the MonsterVerse and whether or not similar universes could make the leap to TV.
Plus, I look ahead to the weekend’s Screen Actors Guild Awards and speculate on whether the actors will choose to innovate or if they’ll reward the same three shows everyone else has and, in more delightful news, the crew explores the wacky wonder that is the cast sheet for the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars series, featuring such standouts as Benny Safdie, Kumail Nanjiani, and Joel Edgerton.
In keeping with ongoing social distancing mandates, this week’s episode was again recorded from the comfort of everyone’s respective apartments, and we’re again offering viewers a video version of the podcast, as embedded above.
“Millions of Screens” is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.
This episode of “Millions of Screens” was produced by Leonardo Adrian Garcia.