Universal appears to be operating in two different realities at the moment:
One in which The Mummy has already come out, wowed fans around the world and more than made back its $125m budget thus paving the way for the Dark Universe, i.e., Javier Bardem’s Frankenstein’s Monster, Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein, Johnny Depp’s Invisible Man and Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and whatever other madlibbed famous actor + public domain monster they can throw together. Jennifer Lawrence, Dwayne Johnson, Angelina Jolie and Michael Fassbender are going to be a part of this, too? Have you actually asked them if they want to be? Whatever. I’m sure they’ll love to take part in one of those clearly faked group photos.
Let’s call this the super, happy fun reality.
Then there’s the messier, not super and definitely not fun reality where The Mummy is on seriously shaky ground right now and is in no way guaranteed to be the franchise starter Universal so desperately wants it to be.
Let’s call this the “really? this shit again?” reality where yet another studio is getting seriously ahead of itself, stuck in a transparent Avengers-knock-off mode that presupposes Avengers-like success is guaranteed when it so isn’t. Just ask Sony how well those Venom and Sinister Six movies worked out for them after The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Oh, that’s right. You can’t because The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was such a disappointment it led Sony to scrap everything and beg Marvel Studios to clean up their mess.
Or ask WB how stoked they are to make those King Arthur sequels and spin-offs they were bragging about before their first King Arthur movie turned into such a nightmare they left it on the shelf for over a year to see if Guy Ritchie could fix it (yeah, he couldn’t).
Hey, Paramount. How’s that Terminator: Genisys sequel AND TV show coming along these days?
You get the point.
It’s one thing to plan for the future in relative secrecy, always making sure to stay two steps ahead but not to the point that you overshadow what’s happening in the present. It’s another thing to arrogantly negotiate in the press with A-listers, trumping up a cinematic universe when you’ve tried this before (The Wolfman in 2010, Dracula Untold in 2014) and failed quite spectacularly.
That didn’t stop Mummy director Alex Kurtzman, though. The Bad Robot/Transformers/Amazing Spider-Man writer recently told Fandom, “We know we’re going to do Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Invisible Man. There are characters within those films that can grow and expand and maybe even spin off.”
Whoa. Slow your roll there, Kurtzman. Keep that shit to yourself. We’ve seen this movie too many times before, the hilariously ambitious, but failed franchise starter that had its creators planning out kids college funds and vacation homes due to an assumed decade of solid employment but had most of the moviegoing public thinking, “Yeah, whatever they’re selling I’m not buying.” Hell, we’ve seen this very thing from you before, Kurtzman, what with your time in the ill-fated Amazing Spider-Man 2 writer’s room that led to a whole lot of promised movies which amounted to nothing.
Kurtzman apparentky failed to learn anything from that experience. Why would he? He’s actually failed upward, getting to fail there and with Star Trek: Discovery before getting to make his big budget directorial debut with Mummy ( he’s directed one prior film, People Like Us), and his wish list of future Dark Universe stars sounds like the deluded ramblings of a man who hasn’t yet seen his own box office tracking figures “I’d love to bring Michael Fassbender in, I’d love to bring Jennifer Lawrence in, I’d love to see Charlize Theron in there, Angelina Jolie…”
Sure, Kurtzman. We have Theron’s agent on Line 2. She needs a minute. While we’re waiting, let’s look at Mummy tracking figures from THR:
Last month, early tracking for Universal’s The Mummy suggested the summer event film would debut to $40 million or so when opening in North American theaters this weekend, a tepid start for the first title in the studio’s planned stable of films built around its iconic monster characters.
The forecast for the reboot has only gotten scarier from there — at least domestically. One of the industry’s most respected polling services, NRG, downgraded its projection to $38 million last week and to $35 million on Monday. Such surveys can certainly be unreliable, but if NRG is correct, The Mummy will lose this weekend’s domestic box-office race to holdover Wonder Woman.
Well, that’s funny. Theron’s agent just hung up, and Fassbender, Lawrence and Jolie’s people won’t answer our calls.
Maybe, but maybe not because, well, Tom Cruise is still a big deal everywhere else in the world. His non-Mission Impossible movies keep on disappointing domestically, yet they keep on overperforming internationally. That’s why we’re getting an Edge of Tomorrow 2, and it’s why this Dark Universe might still happen regardless of what Mummy does stateside. The Mummy is trending in the wrong direction domestically, but it just enjoyed the biggest opening day of all time in South korea.
So, um, we have Angelia Jolie on Line 1. She’s willing to play the titular Bride of Frankenstein but only if you fire Bill Condon and let her direct. Is that a dealbreaker?
Okay. I just made that up, but if they let Jolie direct one of these movies I would suddenly be a bit more interested.