Okay, eventually we’re going to be calling this “The Curse of the Universal Monster Franchise.”
I’d been meaning to post a few thoughts about Universal’s proposal to turn its classic Universal Monsters collection into a shared universe. You know, shared universes are the biggest deal in the entertainment industry right now. Marvel has been mapping out, to great success, its Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2008. DC/Warner Bros. are trying to do the same with their superheroes. We’ve heard about shared universe efforts from several directions, including one I wrote about a while back regarding a brilliant plan to create a shared universe that draws from low-budget 1950s movies ala Roger Corman.
I was hoping that the recent “Dracula Untold” movie wasn’t the kick-off of Universal’s efforts, and while news coverage of the Universal universe (ha!) indicates that it was, I wonder if the movie’s underwhelming reception and box-office performance won’t mean it will be officially “forgotten” when the series gets a proper start. Assuming it does.
The studio had planned a reboot of “The Mummy” in June 2016. Now word has come that “The Mummy” will be delayed until March 2017 and another, still-unspecified second movie has been delayed from 2017 to 2018.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Universal has delayed the kick-off. If the studio doesn’t have a firm idea of how all these characters fit together, it’s better to wait until they do.
Launching a Universal Monsters shared universe isn’t easy. I think that’s what the studio wanted to do in 2004 with the Hugh Jackman movie “Van Helsing,” considering that the titular action hero met Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf and Dracula during the course of the story. But while the movie had a few effective moments, all the elements never jelled.
And I’m not sure that Universal should necessarily take its cues from Marvel, which took a slow burn approach to universe-building with solo movies that – if you missed a few Easter eggs or a post-credits scene – gave no overt indication to moviegoers not in the know of the “Avengers” franchise to come.
This despite the fact that Universal wants, apparently more than anything else, to build an “Avengers” team of monsters.
It might be more beneficial for Universal to consider building its universe around a city – London, perhaps – and a time – maybe around World War II. This is just my idea, but the prospect of a great city with so much history, so close in proximity to the European birthplace of so many of Universal’s monsters and heroes, at such a pivotal time, has so much potential.
Characters could come and go, playing roles large and small, with the leads of one movie – a mummy that’s seeking vengeance at the exhibition of Egyptian artifacts at a great British museum – crossing paths with a doctor who is trying to bring life back to bodies sacrificed in the war. And then … this traveling curiosity, an amphibian creature captured in the Amazon, rolls into a quiet town in the English countryside.
Like I said, there’s a lot of potential for stories told by someone who puts more thought into it than I just did in a couple of paragraphs there.
Universal is, of course, the home of the monster rally, with “team up” movies like “House of Dracula” and “House of Frankenstein” and “Abbott and Costello meet …” a part of its past.
Maybe they should look to that past rather than try to force their classic creatures into anybody else’s modern superhero mold.