Universal’s Monster Reboot Franchise Is Trying Very Hard Not to Be the MCU or DCEU
Back when Universal announced their classic monster movie reboot series plans, many of us were quick to roll our eyes at the prospect of yet another franchise that’d pound beloved characters into the ground by sheer overexposure. And it’s a valid concern: I’ll be the first to admit that I, a superhero movies lover, have become a little bored with the formula lately. Universal, however, is taking a very cautious approach with all of this, as evidenced by the fact that they still haven’t announced a timeline for what comes after The Mummy and when, a la Marvel’s various Phases.
Collider recently sat down with Chris Morgan, one of the guys behind the whole project, and asked him what was up with the rest of these movies, if they had any dates planned for the others yet, and how they’re going about putting this series together. But first off, why make them?
I think why people will love these monster films is the they are an homage to the originals, which means you’re gonna get complex characters. And the thing that I think is interesting about monsters is that they are always exaggerations of human attributes or human fears. For example, Frankenstein was a result of the kind of industrial and scientific revolution—are we playing God? Should we be playing God? And with the Wolfman there’s that worry of what happens if I lose control? What happens if I hurt the things around me that I love? There’s very human questions and worries and fears and darkness and cravings.
We live in a world of superhero movies now—and by the way, I love them and I see them all and I have a great time, but I can’t identify with them as closely as I want to because I know I’ll never be perfect like that. Whereas the monster movies are saying that everybody has darkness in them, everyone has secrets and things they are ashamed of and don’t want to say or something that feels monstrous and dangerous about them. We’re just kind of embracing that and saying, ‘That’s ok.’ The films are just gonna be interesting, emotional, action-y, largely global sorts of films. I think The Mummy trailer sets up, in a really good way, kind of the tone of these films.
That’s a really interesting read of superhero movies, and a good way to set monster movies apart from them. Superhero movies do deal with plenty of inner darknesses — think of Tony Stark in the first Iron Man — but while a hero works to keep his dark side in control, or find a way to use it for good, monsters are allowed to run rampant. Which, in a way, is cathartic.
Morgan also said that they’re still working on getting the order of the films down. A few have been cast, such as Johnny Depp in The Invisible Man and Javier Bardem in Frankenstein. Russell Crowe is playing Dr. Jekyll (as in, The Strange Case of) in The Mummy, which hints that Universal is already going for a kind of interconnectedness right off the bat, but Morgan stressed that they weren’t going to try and force anything.
We kind of designed them all to be kind of standalone sorts of franchises that have kind of similar things between them. And as the scripts came in, then we started putting them in a, ‘Well this would be a good order. We reveal this here’ so now it really comes down to, again, it’s a studio decision on which film is coming out next. Just with all the films we’re working on, Bride of Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, Invisible Man, and on and on and on, it’s a real embarrassment of riches in terms of awesome, fun characters. I always say it this way: I’m in my office right now and I’ve got a Werewolf head mounted on the wall. It’s pretty good to come into your office and—that’s what you’re working with, you’re working with monsters that are 80, almost 100 years old. There’s a real legacy, a real respect, the fact that this studio, I don’t think, would have lasted if it wasn’t for the monsters, it really built up.
Collider also asked Morgan whether they were thinking about going for R ratings on any of these (since R rated superhero movies have been mighty successful lately), and whether they’d try for a period film (The Mummy is set in present-day). Morgan’s answers to these were basically that Universal would wait and see and try what they thought was best for the film, which is a fine answer. You can also argue that Marvel and DC are also trying their best, so we’ll see with this one. Honestly, The Mummy looks weird, but the good kind of weird. The kind of weird that could easily make a case for a franchise.
The Mummy hits theaters June 9.