A Hasbro Cinematic Universe is on the way, but can it actually work?
Earlier this week, the Hollywood Reporter dropped an exclusive bombshell on the G.I. Joe fan community– the announcement that Hasbro’s Allspark Studios and Paramount pictures were creating a “Hasbro Cinematic Universe” centered around five 1980’s brands. This endeavor would blend the universes of G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., the Micronauts, Visionaries, and ROM: the Spaceknight into one cohesive entity similar to what Marvel Studios has been doing for the past several years.
There’s only one small detail about this new shared universe— most of these properties have very little relation to each other. Even worse, aside from G.I. Joe, most of these have been absent from toy shelves and popular culture since at least 1990. Outside of some die-hard fan circles, the general public is generally now completely unfamiliar with most of these brands, as evidenced by this installment of Nerdist News hosted by Jessica Chobot:
So, can a cohesive universe be created out of a bunch of, I hate to say it, now obscure B-List 1980’s properties in any meaningful fashion for today’s audiences? Perhaps but long-time fans of some of these series may not be happy with the result. To this grown-up child of the 1980’s, the answer to this question lies with the character of ROM.
ROM? The Spaceknight?!
Yep, that guy!
You see– ROM was a then high-tech toy that was launched by Parker Brothers (the board game company) back in 1979. To build excitement for the character and the concept, Parker Brothers worked with Marvel Comics to create a comic series and a mythos for technological hero. The House of Ideas crafted a storyline in which ROM was a member of a group of otherworldly Spaceknights whose goal was to rid the universe of the scourge of the Dire Wraiths, a magic-wielding race of aliens who were said to be an offshoot of the Skrulls – the long-time foes of both Marvel’s Avengers and the Fantastic Four. In other words, ROM was firmly established as having a place in the Marvel Universe and his series ran for 75 issues before ultimately facing cancellation in February 1986. Pretty impressive for a toy that utterly failed to catch on in its first year of sales and that promptly disappeared from store shelves with little to no fanfare.
Yet, ROM utterly disappeared from the Marvel Universe years after his cancellation due to the issue of the character’s ownership. As such, any subsequent use of ROM will have to be a clean slate for the character, even going so far as to require a brand new storyline. The same holds true for the Micronauts, who also enjoyed a Marvel Comics series and whose cast included characters, such as Bug, who went on to appear in other titles such as Guardians of the Galaxy. While not as heavily tied to the Marvel Universe, any attempt to use the characters going forward might be better served with a new rebooted storyline.
See– there’s that word that fans hate to hear: “reboot”.
That’s right– for the Hasbro Cinematic Universe to stand any real chance of success it stands to reason that a complete reboot of all of the properties would be the best way to go. Rather than try to reconcile decades of continuity with G.I. Joe, Cobra, M.A.S.K, and V.E.N.O.M., start fresh with a clean slate. Forget Rise of Cobra, and Retaliation and their mediocre box-office returns. There’s also the fact that Visionaries is a heavily magic-based property set in a post apocalyptic future, while both G.I. Joe and M.A.S.K. are set in the present. Combine that with the galaxy-hopping ROM and the extra-dimensional Micronauts and continuity can become a bit convoluted. A brand new clean slate approach is, in this writer’s opinion, the ONLY way to approach this brand new Hasbro Cinematic Universe. (If the concept has any hope of succeeding at all.)
After all, it’s not like any of these properties have been lighting up the public consciousness in any meaningful way in the past 20 years. (Sorry G.I. Joe fans, but it’s true– our beloved brand is a collector-only line now that is catering to an aging and shrinking audience.) A brand new fresh take on these properties could be the necessary shot in the arm needed to connect to today’s kids who are more inclined to play with something like Skylanders or Disney Infinity than a traditional action figure line.
However, a reboot will mean that these properties won’t be the exact same entities that some of us remember from the 1980’s– and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
What do you think? Can a Hasbro Cinematic Universe actually work? Should the properties be completely rebooted or should they remain rooted in the nostalgia of the past where possible? Do you even care? Sound off in the comments below!