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What Universal’s Dark Universe Franchise Can Learn from The Mummy

The Mummy

So, The Mummy’s been out for a few weeks now, but I think it still warrants discussion. Usually, I’m one to try and defend something, even if it doesn’t gain much critical praise, but I can’t do that here. I did not enjoy myself, and I promise you I wanted to. So badly. It’s not that there aren’t things about it worth praising. Sofia Boutella looks great and also is great in the few scenes where she’s actually given a chance to shine. Those moments are unfortunately few and far between. But just because I had my hopes dashed by The Mummy doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m willing to give up on Universal’s Dark Universe just yet.

I love monsters, from the modern ones to the classics. The Universal monster movies were my introduction into horror. I watched them over and over again as a kid. I want to watch these characters carry on, I want to see them succeed. I actually enjoyed Dracula Untold and, yes, have found myself wishing that that had been the start to the cinematic universe as originally intended, but that doesn’t mean that Universal couldn’t still pull this off. Technically, we’re only one film into this shared world. It’s not a great start, but hopefully that just means things will only go up from here.

I think if anything lessens the blow of The Mummy, it’s Wonder Woman. That opened one week before and proved that even if your cinematic universe gets off to a rocky start and takes a while to find its footing, it can still produce a great movie. The secret to Wonder Woman’s success shouldn’t be puzzling, either. The most frustrating thing about all of this is that we really shouldn’t be treating it as some great mystery.

The Mummy 2017

Wonder Woman succeeded because it was its own movie. That’s it. That’s all. Patty Jenkins knew what kind of film she wanted to make and DC let her make it. That’s the biggest takeaway that the team behind The Mummy should learn now that they’re going into their next batch of monster flicks.

Mummy didn’t ever feel like it was focused on being about, well, a mummy. The universe building took up just as much of the plot as the main story itself and that should never be the case. Yes, Marvel stumbled in this area as well, particularly in Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. But when the cinematic universe got off to its start in the original Iron Man it was because they knew they had a great feature on their hands and put in a post-credits teaser to then start building toward something greater.

They didn’t plan a universe and then try to shoe-horn their own movie to fit it. They just made a film and wanted it to share a connection with the next one they made. They didn’t overthink it and I think it’s clear that the team behind Dark Universe did.

There’s already a great opportunity for course correction here, though. Universal has the chance to get this world right in their very next entry. One of the most exciting announcements recently was the news that Bill Condon has officially been selected to helm Bride of Frankenstein. Some people grown at the fact that Condon’s directed for the Twilight franchise or that he helmed Beauty and the Beast—which I actually enjoyed—but he is perfectly catered to this world.

Mummy 2017Bill Condon also directed a fantastic film called Gods and Monsters, based on the life of James Whale, who directed the original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. He won an Oscar for his script. There’s no better choice for a big, lavish big-screen update of Bride than Bill Condon. If—and that’s a big if—he’s allowed to make the movie he wants to make.

That’s all it comes down to, Universal. Let your films be their own films. They can be connected, they can hint at bigger things, but give them room to breathe. If they’re not going to strictly be horror movies, all right, we can live with that, but at least let them stand on their own. Just make them good, make them individual, make them all stand out from one another. That’s something that Fox is learning from its X-Men franchise that Universal should definitely take into account. Logan is a completely different from Deadpool.

What they did with The Mummy didn’t work. They were trying to rush a universe to try and catch up with Marvel. There’s so much world building forced into this that at times it completely forgets to be about anything approaching a mummy. I want Sofia Boutella to come back and shine in something else if they can find a reason for her to be there and not just force her into The Inivisible Man or something, but it’s a shame she couldn’t have done it in her own movie.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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