It’s been a couple of years now since Universal Pictures first announced its intention to create an interconnected universe of Universal Monsters movies, to be spearheaded by writers/producers Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek) and Chris Morgan (writer of the last seven Fast & Furious movies). The Mummy is first out of the gate, with Kurtzman directing that film, but Universal also assembled a writers room to come up with ideas/stories for The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. However, while The Mummy opens in theaters in June, we still haven’t heard any official release dates or pre-production dates for future Monster movies—flying in the face of the “let’s rush everything” mentality that sometimes spells doom in Hollywood, Universal seems to be playing this one pretty conservatively for a chance.
Some of these films do have talent attached—Johnny Depp is set to star as the titular Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem is in talks to play Frankenstein—but the studio has yet to pull the trigger on directors for these movies as Kurtzman and Morgan are overseeing the screenwriting process with writers like Eric Heisserer (Arrival) and Jon Spaihts (Prometheus). So when Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently had an extended conversation with Morgan about Universal’s Fate of the Furious, he asked about the Universal Monsters Universe and what will attract moviegoers to these updates of classic stories:
“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.”
Morgan continued, adding that this Monsterverse will stand in contrast to the glut of superhero movies we see at the multiplex these days:
“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.”
While some superhero movies do dig into characters who are their own worst enemies (see: Tony Stark, Batman, Zack Snyder’s version of Superman), I think what Morgan is saying is that the Universal Monsterverse films will embrace the inner darkness that we, as humans, have. The Mummy will give us our first taste of this kind of take on the films, but Morgan stresses that they’re all being conceived as standalone films that will also feel cohesive—although they haven’t yet settled on what movie will come after Mummy:
“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.”