Written by Tom G. Wolf
2017’s reboot of The Mummy got a… mixed… reception. Intended to serve as a launchpad for Universal’s cinematic universe – the creatively named “The Dark Universe” – it ended up being a spectacular box office and critical bomb.
This poor performance and the subsequent departure of project overseers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan from Universal has left the future of the Dark Universe in doubt. While Bride Of Frankenstein still appears to be in the works (updates were given earlier this month), it’s apparent that Universal will need to rethink its long-term strategy. Here are three key ways the franchise could be brought back from the dead.
Manage commercial expectations
Given the way Universal launched the The Dark Universe, it can only be assumed that they saw it having similar box office potential to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But while horror cinema has some of the most rabid fans around, it typically lacks the same crossover appeal as a superhero film. There are definitely exceptions – 2017’s IT, for example.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean they can’t carve out their own niche. Scaling back expenses means less risk to the studio, while being able to more effectively deliver a genre film that doesn’t necessarily need to appeal to a mass audience. It’s a tougher thing to do under the current “blockbuster-or-bust” mentality that many studios seem to have, but not impossible.
Stop casting huge names
One of the many problems with The Mummy was Tom Cruise. He’s a charismatic actor, but by casting him the film instantly became just another Tom Cruise vehicle in the eyes of the public. This was a problem, because the selling point of a monster movie should really be the monster. It’s hard not to see the same issue occurring with some of the other names being thrown around… Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man? Angela Jolie as the Bride Of Frankenstein?
To draw a contrast with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey Jr was not at his peak when he was cast as Iron Man. He was cast because he was affordable and because the star power he did have wouldn’t overshadow the character itself.
Put the right people in charge
The rapid departure of The Dark Universe overseers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan after The Mummy’s release is certainly troubling – but to be frank, it seems they weren’t necessarily right for the job to start with. Both appear to have been hired on the basis of their history working on large-scale franchises, as opposed to their experience working with horror films.
This is understandable, given that the Universal Monsters are still big merchandising moneyspinners and Universal needs to treat them carefully. But it’s important to have someone running the show who not only generate a hit, but understands the source material and presents a unified artistic vision.
The most obvious name that springs to mind is Guillermo del Toro, given his oft-mentioned reverence for horror, and the Universal Monsters in particular. Whether he’s interested in taking the job… well, only time will tell.