After the release of the first epic trailer for Alex Kurtzman‘s The Mummy, we have a lot of questions about where the shared cinematic universe of Universal Monsters is going to go from here. Luckily, our own Steve Weintraub had a chance to sit down with Kurtzman himself, along with a small group of visiting journalists, to talk about the making of the film, working with star Tom Cruise, The Mummy‘s place in the shared universe, and much more. We’ll be breaking down that last aspect in a bit, but be sure to look for Steve’s full interview later this week. Be aware that some potential spoilers follow below.
As you might have noticed in both the teaser for The Mummy and in this first official trailer, Russell Crowe makes an appearance as Dr. Henry Jekyll. We’ve surmised that he might be the glue in the shared cinematic universe that will eventually include Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s Monster and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. What we weren’t sure of is just how Jekyll will factor into this first film, or just what will become of the 2014 origin story Dracula Untold starring Luke Evans. Kurtzman happily provided some answers on both counts.
While moviegoing audiences are clearly aware of the existence of monsters in these movies, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the general public in the movies themselves are as well informed. Kurtzman clarified that fact as follows:
I feel like what I’m most satisfied by, as a viewer, is feeling like I was let in on a secret that the rest of the world doesn’t know. So The Matrix is a great example, right? At the end of The Matrix no one else knows that they live in The Matrix, because of the adventure in this particular movie, I know the reality of that. That was sort of a good marker for us. I think also the question of how does this movie live in the monsters universe, right? I believe strongly that the only way you can build a universe is not to start by trying to build a universe, that if you want to get there, the only way you’re going to get there is if the audience allows you to get there. Meaning, you have to do great individual films first. The audience has to fall in love with those movies first, and those characters first, and if they do and you develop an organic story reason to start bringing them together, great! But you can’t start with “Let’s just mash everybody together.”
Kurtzman also dropped a little historical knowledge regarding movie monster mash-ups:
The thing people forget is that the Universal Monsters were the first mash-up; they were the first universe built. It started with, I think, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and that was the first time that they put them together and then from there they started cross-pollinating all the monsters. But that was only because Frankenstein had succeeded so many times as a film, and had spawned its own sequels, and Wolf Man had done the same, that Universal was at a point where they said, “God, we don’t know what to do with these characters anymore. Why don’t we put them together?” and then new stories emerged.
So I can’t tell you how much I believe that in order for you to enjoy The Mummy, you have to have a satisfying mummy experience. If we are then in that context able to set up a larger world? Great! But the setup of that larger world and whatever characters Tom may meet over the course of the mummy movie have to be part of the mummy movie. It cannot take you out of that.