It’s been known for a while now that Universal is gearing up a huge franchise reboot of their classic monster movies. In line with Marvel, it seems that Universal Pictures is planning their own cinematic universe … of monsters.
Sounds cool, right? It definitely should. Not only does it look to be one of the studio’s top priorities, there are some big names already attached to the grandiose project — Tom Cruise is to star in the new “Mummy” movie and Johnny Depp is on for “Invisible Man.”
On the heels of Universal’s newest announcement of another untitled monster movie added to their slate — a quick peek at IMDB leads us to believe this will be about Van Helsing — it’s easy to go all-in on the horror-centric excitement but aside from the star power mentioned above, one has to wonder how exactly these movies will work? Will they live up to the hype and do the originals justice? Or, would this just be another effects-heavy rehash made solely for profit?
There are some genre heavy-hitters involved in the production on this. Alex Kurtzman is set to helm the “Mummy” reboot and he has some strong credits under his belt — “Xena: The Warrior Princess,” “Fringe” and “Limitless.” While the majority of his work as been producing for television, he may be the right guy for the job as the majority of his focus has been of the horror/science fiction variety and those sensibilities should prove very useful here.
Joining Kurtzman is Chris Morgan whose writing and producing credits include the “Fast and Furious” sequels 6 – 8. Yeah … it’s possible this is where the action-y panache comes into play as, while these are being advertised as horror films, it feels as if there has to be some fast-paced urgency to play out. After-all, if Tom Cruise is picking up the Brendan Fraser mantle in “The Mummy,” there will probably be a bunch of bumbling about and running hither and thither.
Aside from all this speculation, is it possible for Universal to regain the horror glory they pretty much invented cinematically nearly eight decades ago? One can only assume there are movie tie-in attractions already being discussed for their numerous theme park locations.
Mr. Kurtzman, Mr. Morgan … may we make a suggestion here? Just beginning its third season, Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” has established a gothic/genre universe where the likes of The Wolfman (Josh Hartnett), Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), Dr. Henry Jekyll (Shazad Latif) and Dracula all exist and interact in one sense or another. In the beginning, the concept sounded hokey but it’s worked thus far, building upon these genre classics to such an extent that Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley would most definitely be proud.
With Universal set to create their own cinematic monsterverse, it may be great homework to study the John Logan-created horror series. With the likes of “Gladiator,” “Skyfall” and the new “Alien” movie — this is based solely on rumor, people — this man has flexed some serious screenwriting muscle over the years.
It’s been proven recently that smaller genre films like “The Conjuring,” “It Follows,” “The Babadook” and “The Witch” can be more bankable than big box office faire. Action and special effects can take a story so far but at the end of the day, tone, characters and story are what really draws an audience in.
We all expect the flash, the bang, and even jump scares, Universal … but fans everywhere are hoping for something a bit more than what you’ve delivered in previous genre go-rounds. We’ll just pretend “Dracula Untold” never existed. Horror fans have grown along with the genre, we’re hoping these new movies present some maturity, as well.
On the bright side … at least nothing can be as bad as 2004’s “Van Helsing.” Sorry, Hugh Jackman, but no amount of polishing could fix that turd.