The Mummy was all set to be Universal’s launching pad for its Dark Universe, an MCU/DCEU shared universe digging up all their classic monsters to make all the money. IT didn’t get off on the best foot.
Turns out, people (in the U.S. anyway) don’t really care about another Mummy movie since, you know, we just finished up with Brendan Fraser’s Mummy movies and The Rock’s Scorpion King spinoff about a decade back. And it also turns out, this Tom Cruise-led version of The Mummy is a soulless, messy, incoherent, tonal disaster from the top down, a bad movie that commits the cardinal sin of intentionally bad movies: it’s boring as hell to boot. Nevertheless, it brought in plenty of dough intentionally, so no matter how stillborn the star may have been, this Dark Universe is here to stay.
And yet, for the life of me, I cannot understand why Alex Kurtzman and the other creative “masterminds” behind this Dark Universe thought The Mummy was the right place to kickstart this new extended, multi-movie franchise. The Universal monsters are a big group of iconic characters, some of whom we haven’t seen in decades. Many, in fact. Unless my memory is failing me, the last appearance of The Creature from The Black Lagoon in any capacity was the 1987 horror comedy The Monster Squad. The invisible man has had it’s different versions in John Carpenter’s awful Memoirs of An Invisible Man and Paul Verhoeven’s pretty sweet Hollow Man. But even Hollow Man was almost twenty years ago.
Same thing can be said for Frankenstein’s monster, even though he has become basically part of the thread in the pop culture fabric. There were so many opportunities for Kurtzman to kickstart the Dark Universe with a new version of a classic character whom we haven’t seen in a long time on the big screen. Instead, they decided to ape off a mildly successful pile of garbage franchise (don’t try and tell me the first Fraser Mummy is “actually” good) that started in 1999 and gradually deteriorated over the next 7 or 8 years. It’s the very definition of laziness, and it could have been avoided had the producers and Universal not been so eager to start this entire universe before even making one movie.
Next in line is supposed to be The Bride of Frankenstein, which is a good direction. However, James Whale’s original Bride of Frankenstein is one of the greatest horror films in the history of motion pictures, so there’s that little hurdle to clear. Javier Bardem has been cast as the monster, and Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon is set to direct; both of these are infinitely more fascinating than a Tom Cruise adventure movie masquerading as a horror.
Now, Kurtzman and the producers need to get the fuck out of the way. Seriously, the last thing Condon and Bardem need is a team of franchise-focused #brand nuts swooping in and undercutting any artistic vision the two may have when it comes to bringing something fresh and original to a classic character. Don’t try to incorporate analytics into the structure of the story, don’t try and check off boxes in the screenplay. And while we’re at it, hire someone competent to pen a script; don’t bring in six (SIX!) screenwriters to cobble together an empty-headed screenplay with six different tonal directions. Let someone creative do the creating, and sit back and think about marketing.
And speaking of that marketing, why don’t we make this Dark Universe dark? It’s supposed to be a horror franchise, correct? Let it happen! Stop showing me The Cruiser running, show me tortured should and ghoulish castles and laboratories and jump scares and science gone awry. Show me women screaming and monsters terrorizing, all without a CGI cloud of indistinguishable dust destroying cities. Been there, done that. And let’s tap the brakes on Dr. Jekyll turning into the franchise’s Nick Fury. Awful idea.
Of course none of this will be considered as we churn along to the next movie in the Dark Universe. Screenplays will be thrown together quick enough to get to work on what really matters: explosions and CGI. At least the U.S. seems to have gotten its shit together with this movie and will deny any terrible subsequent films by not going to see them in the theater; hopefully the rest of the world will figure it out before it’s too late.