Cinematic Universes are all the rage these days with the MCU setting the gold standard. If you think about it, though, the Universal Monsters franchise experimented with cinematic universes long before the Avengers assembled. With films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Dracula, Universal created a larger world that connected all of these iconic characters. So when it was announced that Universal would be bringing some of their classic monsters together in a shared cinematic universe, it sounded like a fun and even fitting idea. Unfortunately, the Dark Universe got off to a rough start earlier this year with The Mummy.
Universal’s first big mistake was hiring director Alex Kurtzman, who already botched Sony’s attempt at a Spider-Man cinematic universe. Like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the film bit off more than it could chew and seemed more focused on universe building than telling a good standalone story. Although The Mummy was a massive critical and financial flop, Universal still intends to move forward with Bride of Frankenstein set for a 2019 release. With Halloween just around the corner, now seems as good a time as any to talk about how Universal can save the Dark Universe, assuming it’s not too late already.
- Make It About the Monsters
Part of what made 2017’s The Mummy such a bore is that it put more emphasis on the human characters than the titular monster. The MonserVerse has had a similar problem, but at least Godzilla and King Kong scored a few badass moments in their respective films. In The Mummy, though, you don’t remember anything about Sofia Boutella’s character outside of her makeup. In that sense, you can say that she’s to the Dark Universe was the Enchantress is the DC Extended Universe. Even the 1999 version of The Mummy, which mainly centered on Brendan Fraser’s character, still took the time to develop its villain’s backstory and master plan. Then when actor Arnold Vosloo was given a chance to shine, he brought an intimidating and dignified presence to the role. The bottom line: if a movie is called The Mummy, we want to see a movie about the Mummy!
- Embrace Its Horror Roots
At some point, Universal seemed to forget that the Mummy is supposed to be scary. The 2017 film doesn’t have an ounce of horror in it, however, instead taking the action adventure route. In the end, it just felt like another genetic summer movie that lacked an identity of its own. 2017 in general hasn’t been a great year for action flicks with the fifth Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean falling below expectations. Meanwhile, horror movies like Get Out and Stephen King’s It have been massive successes on all fronts. If the aforementioned films prove anything, it’s that the Dark Universe doesn’t need CGI-driven set pieces or bankable stars like Tom Cruise. The filmmakers just need to embrace its horror movie roots.
- Don’t Just Reboot It Again
Universal has actually been trying to get a cinematic universe off the ground for longer than you might think. 2004’s Van Helsing already brought Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s monster together. This monster mash looked like the potential beginning of a new series, but Universal ultimately decided to reboot their monster franchise years later. 2014’s Dracula Untold was originally intended to be the beginning of their Dark Universe. After the film’s underwhelming release, however, The Mummy became the new launching point. If Universal keeps hitting the reboot switch, it’s going to get more embarrassing than Fox’s attempt at making a watchable Fantastic Four movie. If they can’t get it right with Bride of Frankenstein or any of their other planned films going forward, just give up on a cinematic universe altogether. After all, if the story of the Mummy teaches us anything, it’s that some things are better left dead.