How Universal’s Focus On The Dark Universe Killed The Mummy

Mummy reboot

Remember the Dark Universe? With the success of the Marvel Universe, DC wasn’t the only studio trying to get a universe started. Prior to The Mummy release, it was reported that Johnny Deep was set to star as the Invisible Man and Javier Bardem would play as Frankenstein. Russell Crowe – who makes a cameo as Henry Jekyll – was going to play a Nick Fury-type role as Dr. Jekyll. Other reports suggested Angelina Jolie was being eyed for the role as Bride of Frankenstein.  In fact, The Mummy’s director and producer Alex Kurtzman revealed that the following movies were set in stone: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Van Helsing, Wolfman, and Invisible Man. Fast forward to the opening weekend of The Mummy and the film is trashed by critics. One of the main criticisms about the reboot was that the Tom Cruise vehicle was so preoccupied with setting up its universe that they forgot to focus their efforts on The Mummy.

Now, it was clear that studios were trying to replicate the success of the Brendan Fraser version of the series. The 1990s films were generally considered the very definition of a blockbuster movie, there’s an undeniable fun spirit that carries the first two movies. Though The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was highly disappointing, and that’s putting it nicely. Still, Tom Cruise is pretty much A-list talent and despite going into the weekend with terrible reviews that didn’t particularly mean that The Mummy reboot was set to bomb. However, this article wouldn’t exist if the movie turned out to be a success. The film managed to garner $410 million worldwide based on a budget of $125 million. That actually sounds good, right? Well, when you eliminate the international sales then the total becomes $80.1 million. It was a failure for domestic audiences and Universal scrapped plans for the entire Dark Universe series. Currently, the property remains up in the air, and Kurtzman himself confirmed that he was off the planned cinematic universe. So, what happened? Why wasn’t The Mummy a success amongst American audiences? Well, greed happened. Let me explain.

The reason why the Tom Cruise reboot turned out so bad is that the studio was too preoccupied with trying to start their own Marvel Cinematic Universe that they lost sight of making sure that The Mummy was a good movie. Universal didn’t pay attention to why the Marvel brand became such a prominent force in the industry, which is that Kevin Feige and studios were patient on the way that they crafted their films. Imagine if Iron Man introduced Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor haphazardly, teasing a bigger universe by blatantly throwing in cameos for the sake of building for the future. That would’ve effectively ruined Iron Man. Kevin Feige and the filmmakers focused on making sure that Iron Man and the rest of the MCU movies were good standalone features, not a two-hour product placement promising something better for the future. Yes, there are Easter eggs planted in each film, and as the phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe got deeper then the movies became connected. However, you can still watch Doctor Strange, or Captain America: Civil War, or Black Panther without haven’t the need to watch every single Marvel movie prior to those features. Sure, you’ll miss a couple of Easter eggs here and there, but nothing that would take your experience out of the film entirely. The Mummy didn’t have that sense of fun or adventure that the Brendan Fraser versions brought to the franchise. Were they perfect? No, but it’s hard to deny that you wouldn’t walk out with a smile on your face after seeing the first two films. The 2017 feature doesn’t have its own sense of identity. It’s clear that Universal wants to replicate the popular MCU franchise as The Mummy felt in vain of a superhero flick. Instead of tapping into the horror aspects and differentiating itself from the previous versions, Universal kept choosing greed over making a great film.
I understand that the purpose of movies is to make money. Hollywood is a business first and foremost, but movies shouldn’t feel as if it’s just a cash cow dumped out by studio executives hoping to earn a quick buck. The Dark Universe has strong potential, and Universal would be wise in trying to capitalize on their iconic monsters. However, the focus shouldn’t be on the future. There’s nothing wrong planning for the future, but stop blatantly teasing something better while ignoring the quality of the film in question.

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