‘The Mummy’ And Dark Universe: Where Universal Went Wrong [Opinion]

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The Mummy plopped down into theaters this weekend with an underwhelming performance at the U.S. box office, launching Universal’s “Dark Universe” effort with a shaky start of $32 million.

Considering it cost $125 million to make this initial entry, the prospects of a connected series of films that bring in other monsters — The Bride of Frankenstein is due next — are fleeting.

That’s not to say it won’t happen. The foreign box office is quite strong at this point, pulling in 81.5 percent of the overall take, according to Box Office Mojo. As such, it is unlikely the Tom Cruise- and Russell Crowe-starring vehicle will lose money.

Even applying a 1.5 multiplier to the production budget for The Mummy ($187.5 million) would place the film close to break-even at the end of its first week with $174 million grossed thus far.

Week 2 is all but certain to push it into the black, and that is despite an atrocious 17 percent score on the critical aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences have been more forgiving, but with a 45 percent favorability rating, not by much.

The film does have its share of problems, but it is not beyond hope, especially if the foreign box office continues to yield results.

Still, if there is ever going to be a reboot of The Bride of Frankenstein and a successful continuation of the Dark Universe, it is important to understand where the film and the approach of Universal has gone wrong.

Mainly, The Mummy strikes the wrong tone for what monster movie fans wish to see.

Watching Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton character goof his way through another bloodless action-adventure cloaked in a horror package — hello, Stephen Sommers’ Mummy films and Van Helsing — is not what fans of these classic monsters signed up for.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has found success by staying true to its characters and fanbase.

They tailored the source material to the group, who would most appreciate it and hoped in doing so the authenticity would connect to a wider audience.

It was the right move, and something DC had to figure out the hard way with Wonder Woman, which followed three generally panned disappointments in Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad.

Universal did not get the memo. What they should have done was make a horror movie for people with an appreciation for the original films and the source materials those films were based upon.

Instead, they tried to create a new universe of superhero films for superhero audiences using characters that most appeal to horror movie fans, while somehow making the horror elements non-heroic and not particularly scary.

There is a way to do this correctly while sticking to the PG-13 threshold.

Look at films like Drag Me to Hell or The Ring or Insidious.

Each was an effective horror movie, but they kept violence, sex, and all the usual horror tropes to enough of a minimum that teenagers wouldn’t be turned away at the box office and parents could enjoy a good scary movie with their junior high and high schoolers without any pangs of guilt or leers of judgment.

And just so they wouldn’t alienate hardcore horror movie fans, they could have launched “unrated” versions with more violence and gore for the home video market.

Universal has burned up its goodwill with The Mummy regardless of profitability. The next film will have to connect, or the chances of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, The Wolf-Man, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Invisible Man, will vanish into the ether.

And the only way to connect is to make a film for the audiences that love the movies.

But what do you think, readers? Will The Mummy doom the Dark Universe? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Universal]