Chris Morgan Gives Universal Monsters Universe Update; Movie Order Still Up in the Air
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.”
As Morgan calls them standalone “franchises” we can reasonably assume that if The Mummy is successful, we’ll get The Mummy 2. The film is already setting up future movies as Russell Crowe stars as Dr. Jekyll, but when asked if that contemporary setting will be true of all the Universal Monsterverse movies, Morgan says a period film isn’t entirely off the table:
“The studio is mostly interested in just doing good films. They would like them generally to be more contemporary I think, just to reflect a modern sensibility and a modern take on the monsters. The Mummy is one of the first modern day—for Universal anyway—Mummy films; all the others are period. But there are no rules, so if there is a great period version of these that’s just undeniable, then we’ll absolutely fight for that and go for it.”
That same mentality extends to the rating of these movies. The Mummy is certainly embracing its horror roots, but the film is rated PG-13. Given the success of large-scale genre fare like Deadpool and Logan, Steve asked Morgan if the success of these films has come up in conversation with regards to R-rated Monsterverse films:
“It does come up. I don’t want to say it’s a different conversation, because it’s not really, we’ve always taken the approach of writing it for the way that it’s right and then we can always scale up and down for rating if that became a concern. But let’s just do the best story, just show us what the best story is and we can deal with that later. I mean, I think specially with Logan and Deadpool, those are great examples for [the R-rating], they make a real case for there being flexibility in the rating more than there ever was. So, again, just tonally right for the story that you want to tell and let’s deal with that later.”
So it sounds like the wheels are definitely turning on this Monsterverse, and scripts do exist for a lot of these movies, but Universal is waiting to see how The Mummy is received before formally pulling the trigger on the next one. We’ll know much more when that film hits theaters on June 9th.
Look for more from Steve’s interview with Morgan on Collider soon.