Universal’s upcoming “Monsters Universe” may see a shared universe of films much like Marvel and DC, but we’re definitely not getting super-hero versions of the classic characters.
“Monsters Universe“, the umbrella title to the currently in-development film series by Universal, looks to not only borrow a page from the successful playbook of Disney/Marvel, but also redevelop the classic properties that have been around for more than 80 years. Despite the enthusiastic fan base for the iconic monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein, fans have been cautious in their excitement as previous attempts such as 2004’s Van Helsing have been misfires. With cinematic universes being the genre standard for most studios now, especially for super-hero films, will the “Monsters Universe” see the likes of The Mummy and Gill-Man join the likes of Iron Man and Thor?
When Universal’s plan for their Monsters Universe was first detailed in a Variety exclusive, the idea of seeing one monster movie a year, culminating in a team-up movie, seemed to take root in most fans minds. However, despite the plans to release one monster movie a year in a fashion similar to Disney/Marvel and Warner Bros./DC, a team-up film in the sense of what we have seen in The Avengers and, most likely, in 2017’s Justice League was never actually a part of the plan.
Here’s what Brent Lang of Variety originally wrote:
“The films are taking a page from Marvel in certain ways, however. Just as the comic book label launched its onscreen group of heroes in interconnected films before teaming them in one big superstream adventure with “The Avengers,” Universal is planning to create a shared universe for its creatures.”
But here is what Chair of Universal Pictures, Donna Langley, had stated about the Monsters Universe:
“The characters will interact with each other across movies.”
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has undoubtedly served as the template for most studios seeking to develop their own “cinematic universe”, let’s focus on two key aspects. One, Universal Studios were the first to ever present a shared universe on film with crossover movies like Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man & Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein; Two, Donna Langley had said “the characters will interact with each other across movies.” She never said they’d be teaming up or joining forces to combat a bigger threat.
As we’ve been covering Penny Dreadful, this is actually the most modern property to look towards for a sense of what we could expect as films like The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and The Bride of Frankenstein are developed. Characters will interact. We already know that Dr. Jekyll will appear in 2017’s The Mummy and that Russell Crowe will be playing him across movies. Over the three seasons of Penny Dreadful, we saw the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Bride, The Wolf Man, and Dr. Jekyll occupy Victorian London and occasionally cross paths with one another. This past season saw Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll work together, along with The Wolf Man battling Dracula – all concepts which could be replicated on the big screen.
One of the key aspects, above all else, is that the Universal Monsters were deeply rooted in the horror genre. This is something we’ve seen Universal move away from with 99’s The Mummy, its sequels The Mummy Returns & Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and 04’s Van Helsing. Those films were very much of the action/adventure ilk. This is something that has also worried fans, but Alex Kurtzman, creative architect of the Monsters Universe and director of The Mummy, doesn’t believe fans need to be too concerned.
Yeah, I think it’s a fair response and it’s actually not — 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.
Kurtzman also added, “our goal is to have each movie retain the identity and the individuality of the specific monster, but you’ll see how they start to fit into a larger universe as the movies unravel.”
Relaunching the Universal Monsters on screen under a Monsters Universe concept is something we’ve all been waiting for, and a plan Universal has taken a fair amount of time to develop just right. There should be no doubt that The Mummy will start this series in a way that should reintroduce these characters to a new generation while honoring just what made them so iconic in the first place. With The Mummy currently being filmed and scheduled for a June 9, 2017 release date, we don’t have too much longer to wait in regards to what the cast & crew have in store for audiences.
But let’s remember that the Monsters Universe is monsters, not super-heroes. “Heroes tend to be perfect, but most people in an audience aren’t ever going to know what it’s like to be the smartest, strongest or fastest person alive but there’s a darkness inside everybody. And everyone wants to be able to turn a curse into empowerment. The monsters have been in the shadows, and now it’s time to bring them out into the light,” said Chris Morgan.
Are you looking forward to the Monsters Universe on screen? Is there a particular monster you’re most looking forward to seeing? Make sure to let us know in the comments below and, as always, stay tuned to Universal Monsters Universe for the latest news.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)