We live in an age of franchises and shared universes. Love it or hate it, Marvel Studios’ approach to filmmaking is the envy of Hollywood studios everywhere. So much so, in fact, that others are working their collective butts off to replicate it. From DC’s own cinematic universe, to Paramount’s upcoming “Transformers” shared universe, it really seems to be the wave of the future. In creating different types of movies within the same “franchise,” it enables studios to capitalize on the brand of previous films without them having to be fully connected to whatever movie of the month they’re churning out.
One other shared universe that’s been in the works for quite awhile is the Universal Monsters films. For those unfamiliar, back in the 1930s and 1940s, Universal made their name making these high concept horror and scifi flicks (many of which were based on novels). Two of the most recognizable of the bunch are “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” the visions of which still carry over to pop culture today. But those weren’t the only films to come from that era. On top of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” there was also “The Mummy,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Wolf Man,” among many others.
Needless to say, these characters seemed prime for a modern crossover flick. The only real problem, of course, was that when this was first announced from Universal, they seemed more interested in making this an “epic action-adventure” series rather than a horror series. Given the studio’s horror roots, this seemed like a betrayal to the characters. All the same, the move seemed to make sense. The most recent iteration of these monsters (apart from the recent “Dracula Untold” film, which did okay at the box office, but terrible in critical appeal) was “The Mummy” franchise, whose tone was more in the “Indiana Jones” action-adventure vein. These films did pretty solid business for Universal, so it makes sense they’d shoot for something like that.
Collider recently checked in with screenwriter Alex Kurtzman—who is also directing the 2017 Mummy flick—on the series’ progress.
“The monster universe is coming together very very quickly, we’re very excited. There will be announcements soon. We have actually started doing a lot of design work, we’re getting scripts in, everything is feeling really really good, so I don’t want to curse it by saying too much to you, but it’s going well.”
Of course, the big elephant in the room was the general lack of horror in these movies, and Kurtzman went on to assure fans that the horror element would be there.
“Yeah, I think [fans being upset is] a fair response and it’s actually not [going to be devoid of horror] — I think there was some lost in translation quality to the way it was received, because I promise you there will be horror in these movies. It is our life goal to make a horror movie. The tricky part is actually how you combine horror with either adventure or suspense or action and be true to all the genres together. In some way, Mummy, dating all the way back to the Karloff movie, was the first to do that. It was the first to combine horror with — I wouldn’t say action, but certainly a lot of suspense. So it’s more about how you blend the different elements and stay true to each one, but there will definitely be horror in the monster movies…We will hopefully serve it up good and plenty.”
Admittedly, I’m one of the folks who was disappointed at the action-adventure angle. While it could be a great deal of fun, there seemed to be a missed opportunity in leaving out the horror element. Hearing that horror will indeed be present is nice, but I still think it misses the mark a bit.
Modern horror films are generally low budget, with an almost-guaranteed return on investment for studios. It almost seems like a mistake to make these things for as big a budget as they seem to be, especially since they can be so hit or miss. “Dracula Untold,” while it did okay for its budget, didn’t exactly reel in the cash. I’d be all for making these guys for $10-15 million apiece, really capitalize on the horror aspect, and let the $100 million plus roll in. While it’s not quite comic book movie money, it’s a safe investment, and could perhaps give the franchise great longevity.
What’re you hoping to see out of this Universal Monsters franchise? Let us know your thoughts below!