WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Mummy
The Mummy marks the official launch of Universal’s “Dark Universe” of monsters, borrowing from the shared universe models of Suicide Squad and The Avengers. Ever since Marvel Studios concluded Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by bringing together various superheroes from solo franchises to form The Avengers – and earning more than $1 billion at the box office – the shared universe model has grown increasingly popular in Hollywood. While no other studio or franchise has necessarily copied the model laid out by Marvel Studios (introducing solo characters, then bringing them together for a team-up), Warner Bros. has been building its DC Extended Universe and Fox has continued to expand their X-Men universe with spinoffs from its the main series.
However, the idea of a shared universe has expanded beyond superhero movies. After Transformers: Age of Extinction wasn’t as well-received as previous installments of Paramount’s Robots in Disguise series, the studio announced they were turning the Transformers franchise into a cinematic universe. Paramount assembled a writer’s room to come up with a host of stories, which are being turned into Transformers: The Last Knight and the solo Bumblebee movie. Another high-profile shared universe that’s been in the works for a few years is Universal’s world of classic movie monsters, which was recently officially unveiled as the studio’s Dark Universe.
Although it was thought the Dark Universe would launch with Dracula Untold in 2014, in the wake of that film’s disappointing reviews and box office earnings, Universal announced Luke Evans’ iconic vampire would not be part of the studio’s budding shared universe. Instead, Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy officially launches the Dark Universe that will continue with Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein – the star of which has yet to be cast, though Angelina Jolie was being eyed for the role – and eventually include films for Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Johnny Depp’s Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem’s Frankenstein’s Monster. The Dark Universe will also add Van Helsing, The Wolf Man, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Kurtzman revealed there are plans to bring in the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera in coming years.
In terms of specifically how The Mummy sets up the larger Dark Universe, Kurtzman’s film introduces Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll (as well as his alter-ego Mr. Eddie Hyde) and the organization he heads called Prodigium, which is positioned to be the common thread among all the shared universe installments. Though the specifics of the private organization are unclear, Dr. Jekyll lays out their intentions to research, hunt, and eradicate evil from the world. Jekyll even goes into a theory that evil itself is a pathogen and, if that’s the case, it must have a cure – which, of course, ties into his own condition.
The biggest Dark Universe tease in The Mummy, however, arrives in the final scenes. After Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton willingly accepts the Egyptian god of death, Set, into himself, he kills the mummified Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) – who had previously been positioned as the Dark Universe’s Mummy character – and essentially becomes Universal’s modern Mummy. Then, in a final voiceover conversation between Jekyll and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), they discuss that Cruise’s character is now half man, half monster, with Nick forced to constantly battle the evil Set within himself. And, as Jekyll teases, one day Prodigium may need a monster to fight another monster.
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