Movies & TV

5 Shared Movie Universes That Failed

They can't all be the MCU

Since the birth and subsequent cultural dominance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, shared universes have become all the rage in movies, with studios competing to deliver the next MCU.

It's far from easy, though, to build a universe that audiences will keep coming back to, even when the original movie is a success. Just ask The Lego Movie, as box-office returns for that franchise have been on a steady decline following its expansion into spin-offs.

For a long time, it looked as though the Worlds of DC would go down as a failure until Aquaman saved the day and now the future looks brighter than ever. But arguably that's down to Warner Bros not actually focusing so much on the shared-universe aspects any more, and letting the movies stand on their own instead.

It's a shame these other shared universes didn't do the same...

1| Dark Universe

Likely to be the poster child for failed shared universes for some while yet, Universal's Dark Universe held so much promiseuntil it didn't.


The studio was so confident about its universe, which would unite new versions of classic movie monsters like the Mummy and the Invisible Man, that they released a star-studded photo before the first movie had been released.

Perhaps they should have learned from the previous attempt to launch it with Dracula UntoldThe Mummy struggled at the box office before some key names left and the next scheduled movie, Bride of Frankenstein, was postponed.

Some vague hope was offered in May 2018 that the Dark Universe might not be dead, but the final nail in the coffin came in January 2019 when it was announced Universal were making an Invisible Man moviewithout Dark Universe star Johnny Depp.

Awkward. We're not betting against Universal eventually revisiting the idea, but maybe after they've taken a standalone approach.

2| The Amazing Spider-Man

Sony might have kickstarted their "shared universe of Marvel characters" with the surprise success of Venom, but they weren't quite so lucky when it came to their Amazing Spider-Man plans.

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Originally, there were going to be four Amazing Spider-Man movies as well as spin-offs for Sinister Six (which even had a release date) and Black Cat, among others. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffered from having to introduce these characters into the universe – such as Felicity Jones as Felicia Hardy/Black Cat.

The problem was that the sequel underperformed at the box office, making less than the first movie, and soon Sony and Marvel Studios signed a deal that saw Spider-Man join the MCU, starting with Captain America: Civil War.

Perhaps Spider-Man will find his way back to Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters one day, but for now, everyone is happier that he's in the MCU.

3| King Arthur

After Warner Bros cancelled Arthur & Lancelot (which would have starred Kit Harington and Joel Kinnaman), they set their sights on an ambitious six-movie shared universe of Arthurian legends.

This would have seen the likes of Lancelot and Merlin get their own solo movies once the series had been launched with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, starring Charlie Hunnam as the latest on-screen King Arthur.


Because of the shared-universe plans, the movie was missing these usual mainstay characters of Merlin and Lancelot, but it's unclear how much difference they would have made as the movie flopped at the box office.

4| Robin Hood

Sadly, we're not talking about a shared universe from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. We just used that photo as we like the movie.

Instead the Robin Hood shared universe we're talking about never even made it off the starting blocks. Back in 2014, Sony were reported to be buying a new project called Hood from Cory Goodman and Jeremy Lott.

The plan was to make an Avengers-like series of movies centred on Robin Hood and his Merry Men, but for reasons unknown, nothing happened with it. As of September 2018, Deadline seemed to report that it was still a possibility.

However, given we've now had a new Robin Hood moviethat flopped at the box office –it's hard to see Sony unleashing Hood anytime soon.


5| X-Men Origins

Okay, this isn't quite a shared universe, but it was a failed attempt to continue the X-Men series after the original trilogy ended with X-Men: The Last Stand.

If the convoluted title didn't give it away, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was intended to be the start of a series of standalone movies, with X-Men Origins: Magneto next up and Sheldon Turner hired to write it.

The problem was that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a bit crap, so other Originsmovies didn't happen and the story of the Magneto spin-off was absorbed into X-Men: First Class.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Ian Sandwell
Ian Sandwell is Digital Spy’s Movies Editor. Shortlisted for PPA New Talent of the Year 2018, he’s a horror-movie obsessive and box-office expert, often fuelled by tea.
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