Today, I explain why there is a limit to how much unique continuity you can pile on to adaptations before you’re just not even adapting anything anymore.
This is the Cronin Theory of Pop Culture, a collection of positions I’ve collected over the years that I think hold pretty true.
WARNING! SOME SPOILER DISCUSSIONS AHEAD OF SOME RECENT MARVEL PROJECTS!
As I’ve written about a number of times in the past, I don’t particularly like it when comic book adaptations mock the very concepts of the comic books that they are adapting, which ties into a point I’ve made before, as well, which is perhaps don’t adapt something if you don’t actually like the thing that you’re adapting (note that the new hit film, Barbie, is filled with critiques of Barbie, but it clearly comes from a place of love and not, “Man, Barbie sucks, right?”).
However, I’ve notice a fascinating almost corollary to the idea of people hating the original concept so much that the adaptation is now extremely different from what it is adapting, and that is when the adaptations have added so much of their own continuity that, again, they really aren’t even doing any “adapting” anymore, as they are so far up their own…continuity.
That is what I think we are beginning to see with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where there is starting to get so much continuity that is just specific to the MCU itself that it doesn’t even really resemble the comic book universe that it is adapting. A notable example for me was the recent Secret Invasion series, which is so far into the weeds on Nick Fury’s background with the Skrulls, including a marriage to a Skrull, that it really had nothing to do at all with ANY version of Marvel’s various Skrull versions (heck, at this point, Marvel Studios is specifically telling the writers to NOT read the comics), as it is all about the MCU continuity. And once you’ve gotten to that point, you’re starting to get really, really lost.
Like all of the plots revolving around “The Blip,” or the fact that it is 2025 in the MCU for some dumb reason, or the fact that we’re now going to have a giant Celestial island playing into the plots of later films.
What it reminds me of is the Ultimate Universe, which was based on the idea of adapting the classic Marvel characters, only with a continuity-free twist. However, after a few year (and one Ultimatum crossover), you had stuff like Ultimate Comics: X-Men, where the X-Men consist of Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Iceman, a newly invented son of Wolverine, Liz freaking Allan as a female Human Torch, and freaking PLANTMAN (granted, they didn’t call him Plantman in this universe, but still) and live in magic trees…
When you’ve become so divorced from the original material due to the distinctive continuity that you’ve created for your adaptation universe, you’re barely even doing adaptations anymore, you’re just caught up in the weeds of your own thing, and I think that that is a major detriment to the stories being told, when there are so many great Marvel stories still left to be adapted.