These days, nothing is immune to the “movie universe” treatment. While they didn’t invent it, Marvel Studios started the trend when they set in motion the shared universe of The Avengers by giving superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor their own series of films before bringing them all together in the culminating feature. With its own set of superheroes, DC has finally caught up with their own movie universe. Made up of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman, the ‘universe’ somewhat began with Man of Steel and will take shape in the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which, as hinted, will lead to the formation of the Justice League. DC also has the ‘bad guy’ version of the Justice League coming out next year in Suicide Squad. And of course, Star Wars is a universe unto itself, with the expectation that a new film will come out every year, which will include origin stories and spin offs, er, anthology films.
So at this point we shouldn’t be surprised when news breaks that yet another property will get the universe treatment. Even so, it was, if not surprising, at least eye-rolling when it was reported that Universal would be creating a monster universe (and by that I don’t mean a really really big universe—I mean a universe comprised of monsters). As we reported, the universe will be overseen by Alex Kurtzman (Transformers) and Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious). It will begin with a reboot of The Mummy and continue in a similar way as The Avengers began: with separate films for each character, eventually coalescing into a movie to include all the characters. Beyond the Mummy, we can supposedly expect movies on Dracula, The Wolfman, Van Helsing and Bride of Frankenstein.
There were questions as to the tone the movies would take, whether it would be action or horror or an adventure-type format like the most recent Mummy films. And it appeared they had settled on, in Kurtzman’s words, horror:
“I promise you there will be horror in these movies…The tricky part is actually how you combine horror with either adventure or suspense or action and be true to all the genres together.”
And we now have learned more about the tone the films will take. Speaking with Variety, Kurtzman and Morgan revealed more about the universe they are responsible for creating. In the piece, Morgan reveals:
“This is not a heightened world. We’re exploring issues of family identity and questions of, ‘Where do I belong in the world?’ ”
If not a ‘heightened’ world, that description is definitely a heightened level of maturity and thoughtfulness for a set of characters not known to be portrayed as such. The question is if audiences can take these characters that seriously.
It is also revealed that Universal plans to release a new monster movie every year, with the first coming in the form of The Mummy in 2017, which we knew. In the words of Universal Pictures Chair Donna Langley:
“The characters will interact with each other across movies. We’re incubating it at the moment, and we’re taking the time to get it right.”
Another revelation is Kurtzman and Morgan’s preparation. Apparently, they “obsessively watched Universal monster films” made in the golden age of the 1930s. And going back to the blending of genres they discussed before: “to broaden the sense of genre, (they) augmented that with a diet of Hammer Horror pictures and other creepy works.” Not only that, but there are a total of 10 writers working on the projects, and each has been given a monster to work on.
For Kurtzman, “We’re creating a mythology, so we’re looking at this canon and thinking, ‘What are the rules? “What can we break and what are the ones that are untouchable?”
It is almost heartening that they are taking inspiration from the old and original films that serve as the basis for the ‘monsters.’
It’s still too early to tell if this big bet by Universal will pay off. If they are doing it just to have their own set of films to compete with the superheroes and comic books, it probably won’t. But if these words of the creative minds behind it are applied and achieved, we may actually have a universe worth visiting.