There’s an old proverb that most people should know: “Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.” It refers to not getting too far ahead of yourself in your planning before you know exactly what you have. As filmgoers have been treated to trailer after trailer of the latest exploration of the Mummy franchise, who might have guessed that this was supposed to be the beginning of a much bigger thing?
Unfortunately, The Mummy is getting hit with less-than-stellar reviews. This comes on top of Universal Pictures announcing that The Mummy is the start of a revival of Universal Monsters in a series called the “Dark Universe.” Did they jump the gun?
It’s not looking great for the Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella-led outing of the classic monster franchise. Heading into its opening weekend, The Mummy’s Rotten Tomatoes score is sitting at a pretty abysmal 26 percent among critics on the film rating site. Among common complaints, the movie misses out on some of the fun of the previous Mummy movies and doesn’t do enough to bring in that classic monster movie thrill, aiming instead for a fast-paced ride without substance.
Certainly contributing to this is the lack of character in the cast and their portrayals. Although Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella are nothing to scoff at, fans of the previous films will remember the iconic energy Brendan Fraser brought to the role of Rick O’Connell. Arnold Vosloo also did a memorable job in making the mummy a truly menacing and memorable threat, whereas we can see Tom Cruise’s character fighting back and maybe even overcoming Boutella’s mummy in some trailers of the latest film. Fraser, Vosloo, and other cast members of the 1999 film brought charm, fright, and mysticism to the films, making them more than just stale action flicks, something the 2017 reboot has been accused of being.
Critics aside, it didn’t stop Universal Pictures from proudly announcing in May that there was more to come for their cinematic “Dark Universe.” The Dark Universe is set to follow hot on the heels of the 2017 Mummy reboot with a Frankenstein reboot already announced. Furthermore, Universal has mentioned plans for Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera as well, mimicking where the Universal Monsters franchise started in 1923 and 1925 with horror film legend Lon Chaney. Judging from these announcements, there’s no doubt that Universal Pictures has its heart set on bringing the classic Universal Monsters to a new generation under the banner of the Dark Universe.
It could very well be the way of the market as well. Film universes are a growing trend these days. Marvel got the ball rolling by announcing nearly a quarter-century of planned films for their extended catalog of heroes and villains. DC also followed suit, gearing up the biggest players in their media franchise — including Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — for what inevitably leads to The Justice League, which will bring many major DC heroes together in one film. Lucasfilm preceded both, building an intricate web of legacy through, before, and after the original Star Wars trilogy that has sometimes flopped and sometimes soared, but always leaves audiences hungry to see what comes next.
There’s just one problem with Universal following suit by announcing the Dark Universe: Most of the people behind the planning of those other instances made sure they had success on their hands before they announced anything. Iron Man in 2008 was an immense hit, and Marvel launched some following winners like Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011 before fans ever heard the words “Phase One” or “Phase Two” in the public spectrum. Likewise, DC banked so big on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy that a universe to follow that success was practically mandatory. Universal didn’t just create an expectation when they announced the Dark Universe. They also created a point of reference for better or for worse.
All Universal Pictures has done by announcing the Dark Universe at this juncture is link all future projects back to what is looking to be a stumbling start. It may have been better to sit on The Mummy’s opening weekend and see how it turned out before the Dark Universe became public. Unfortunately, it would appear that Universal has gotten ahead of itself and created an uphill climb to prove that any following Dark Universe films will be worth the audience’s time with The Mummy.
[Featured Image by Universal Pictures]