Stand-alone films seem to be a thing of the past. All you need is some success and even the movies that were meant to be one-time events are rushed back to the theaters to be experienced again and again until people finally decide they've had enough. And so with the success of Marvel, the iffy success of DC Universe, the Harry Potter franchise, Star Wars, Star Trek, Fast and the Furious, and Mission Impossible, every studio is looking to design a movie universe so fun and addictive that just being apart of it will guarantee butts in the seats.
Universal decided they would design such a world, using their Classic Horror Movie Icons. How could it go wrong? People like Franchise movies, people like horror movies, and Universal has the rights to some of the most iconic creatures of terror. And they had something else...a bona fide superstar. A superstar who already had led them to the promised land with a franchise that only seemed to get bigger and better as it moved along. You may know him as the crazy Scientology guy or even Nicole Kidman's or Katie Holmes' ex. But he's actually a pretty big deal in Hollywood.
And this guy is all about the Franchise Universe. Mission Impossible, Jack Reacher, Top Gun, and the reason I'm babbling about movie universes on this post...The Mummy; or better known as the first movie in the Dark Universe. Universal could taste the profits. I mean Brendan Fraser's Mummy movie spawned sequels and spin-offs and he's no Tom Cruise. So this was a no-brainer. Of course, they failed to understand what made the original Mummy and Fraser's Mummy movie so appealing and they dropped the ball.
Who's to know for sure where the final blame lays but I would guess it falls at the feet of the studio heads and their Franchise making star. The Mummy was a hodgepodge of too many genres, no real direction, a star who can't disappear into a role but simple is the same guy who runs convincingly in every film he's in. (Side note - of course if he did more work like Tropic Thunder maybe he'd be able to once again disappear into his roles, but I digress).
I went to the Mummy on opening night, exhausted from a brutal week of work. Add in the fact, I'm old and don't usually go to movies anymore on Friday nights and you can see where the night was heading. However, I held out hope that this movie, this first part of a franchise universe that seemed designed to bring me nothing but happiness, would be able to overcome the two factors weighing me down as I took my seat. Well, I will let you know, those hopes were dashed...no that's not right. They were escorted from the theater, taken to a back alley, beaten, robbed, and left in the gutter. For, in the end, the movie simply was ordinary...plain...unspectacular in every way. Even a bad movie can be remembered fondly if handled correctly, and they couldn't even do that right.
Here was a movie that had no idea what to do with itself. It pushed one way when the audience needed to be pulled the other. It couldn't decide how to be scary enough to be fun, but not so much that non-horror fans would avoid the film (something Bredan's version did so well).
And the glaring problem of the picture was its star, Mr. Tom Cruise. He's an action star who's recent characters aren't normally portrayed with too many flaws, but this role needed someone who could be flawed...because that's how it was written. In fact, the comic relief, Jake Johnson, would have been better cast as the main character.
And the pacing was horrible, as scenes of action were divided with scenes force-feeding you all the information you would need to enjoy the Universe as a whole. And while I enjoyed the inclusion of Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, it mostly took away from the flow of the movie. And so when it was all said and done, we left the theater with an empty feeling. A movie that elicits nothing more than a shrug and maybe a scene or two of memorable action or dialogue. I say this as someone who can find a silver lining in almost any movie because I know movies are hard to make and many times too many chefs in the kitchen can burn a really good movie.
So why am I wasting my time and yours with a blog post about Tom Cruise's dumb Mummy movie? Because movie #2 of the Dark Universe came out this weekend. Except it wasn't because Tom Cruise killed it. And maybe this is for the best. Maybe this is what really needed to be done for the Universal Monsters to move forward with exceptional movies. Maybe it is for the best to have these characters and creatures revisited in stand-alone movies that allow each creative team the freedom to make the characters their own, instead of some cookie-cutter version that will bounce back and forth between pictures...each time losing another piece of what makes them so special. to begin with.
But looking back, the potential for greatness was there. They had star power in each reboot. I mean they had Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in the first one so they wanted the audience to know they were serious. Johnny Depp would be the Invisible Man, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's Monster and Anjelina Jolie rumored as the Bride of said Monster, Luke Evans reprising his role in Dracula Untold, and Channing Tatum as Van Helsing(which we know would have killed this off if Cruise hadn't gotten to it first). Not to mention Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde full-length movie.
But sadly no Universe with these characters, played by these actors. However we did get a new movie and it's getting very good reviews and while I haven't seen it yet...and probably won't until it's available to stream, there is hope yet for the Universal Classic Monster movies...just one at a time.
Catch the Invisible Man starring Elizabeth Moss in theaters now