Universal’s rebooted monster movie universe, as spearheaded by Star Trek franchise writer/producer Alex Kurtzman and Fast & Furious series writer/producer Chris Morgan, has been in the works for a couple of years now – following rumors that it was happening, back in 2013. Over that time, there has been some back and forth about whether or not Dracula Untold – the 2014 film that gives Luke Evans’ Vlad the Impaler an origin story – would be included as part of the new monster-verse.
Dracula Untold was positioned to kick-off Universal’s new monster film universe just before it opened in theaters and (reportedly) even underwent reshoots that were meant to better position the movie as the start of a cinematic universe. However, the film proved to be a critical disappointment – and while it was a profitable venture (it grossed $217 million worldwide against a $70 million budget), it wasn’t enough of a success overall to jump-start the new Universal monster movie universe the way that the studio had hoped for.
2017’s The Mummy, which Kurtzman is directing, has been positioned as the real start of Universal’s rebooted monster-verse for a while now. At the same time though, Kurtzman has remained noncommittal about whether or not Dracula Untold will be part of the same canon as The Mummy and other developing monster films – similar to how Man of Steel served as a prologue to the true launchpad for the DC Extended Universe, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Kurtzman finally provided a concrete answer during the press event for The Mummy‘s trailer debut, saying “No” point-blank when asked if Dracula Untold and his own supernatural horror/adventure film are connected.
A frequent criticism of cinematic universes is that they give rise to movies that prioritize setting up a shared universe and/or a larger franchise over developing their own standalone narrative – something that everything from Iron Man 2 to Batman V Superman and even the Wizarding World adventure, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, have been taken to task for doing. Kurtzman, when asked about how he sets up the new monster movie universe with The Mummy at the trailer premiere, had this to say – with regards to how he’s striving to not make the common mistakes with his own shared universe movie:
“I believe strongly that the only way you can build a universe is not to start by trying to build a universe. If you want to get there, the only way you’re going to get there is if the audience allows you to get there. Meaning, you have to do great individual films first. The audience has to fall in love with those movies first, and those characters first, and if they do and you develop an organic story reason to start bringing them together, great! But you can’t start with ‘Let’s just mash everybody together’…In order for you to enjoy The Mummy, you have to have a satisfying mummy experience. If we are then in that context able to set up a larger world? Great! But the setup of that larger world and whatever characters [star Tom Cruise] may meet over the course of the mummy movie have to be part of the mummy movie. It cannot take you out of that.”
The trailer for The Mummy suggests that one such character who will be an important player in the monster-verse in the future – Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll – is, in fact, essential to the narrative for The Mummy and doesn’t just make a glorified cameo, for the sake of world-building. Assuming that is the case, then this illustrates that Kurtzman and the film’s screenwriters Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange) and Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) are indeed walking the walk, when it comes to what Kurtzman said at The Mummy‘s trailer debut. This also suggests that Jekyll may be the only non-Mummy “monster” who appears in the film.
Dracula is (as one would expect) going to be part of Universal’s relaunched monster universe at some point, but the news that he won’t be played by Evans no doubt comes as disappointing news for those who liked the actor’s version of the character in Dracula Untold. As Kurtzman noted, however, it will be the filmgoing masses that ultimately decide whether The Mummy succeeds or fails as a cinematic universe launchpad – so best to wait and see how the film turns out, before we get too far ahead of ourselves and speculate about what comes next in the monster universe (be it a film starring anyone as Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, or something else altogether).