Marvel Studios has recognized that people enjoy getting to play in the same (figurative) sandbox all year round, which is why the comic book organization has begun to expand its Cinematic Universe across the realm of television (beginning with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., now airing on ABC). The logic is that by allowing fans to visit the Avengers-verse throughout the year – rather than just on the 1-2 occasions when a Marvel film is released in theaters (annually) – you not only prevent their interest from waning, but also generate more room for diversity of characters and worlds that are realized on either the big and/or small screen.
We’ve already seen the domino effect that Marvel’s success is having on its fellow studios, be it Lucasfilm’s plans to usher in a new era of Star Wars entertainment – with spinoff films releasing in between the Episode installments every 2 or so years (while shows like Star Wars Rebels air on a yearly basis) – or Sony mapping out the future of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise to potentially include installments centered around characters like Venom and the Spidey villain rat pack known as the Sinister Six. Interestingly, the prolific writer/producer duo that is working on the Amazing Spider-Man series, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci might be planning a similar cinematic universe with Universal’s catalog of classic horror genre creatures.
Orci, during an interview alongside Gavin Hood with IGN for the upcoming Ender’s Game (which Hood wrote/directed, while Orci co-produced), was asked about the Mummy and Van Helsing movie reboots that he and Kurtzman are producing (but not writing… yet, anyway). Although Orci didn’t formally announce that a cinematic universe featuring Universal’s monsters is the final goal, he seemed to indicate as much is the plan, through his response.
Read what he had to say and see if you agree:
“There’s an interesting thing that could happen at Universal where they have this amazing library of their old monsters and these kinds of heroes, and the idea of trying to create a universe [with] Van Helsing, and we’re also producing The Mummy for them. We’re kind of imagining updating these kinds of things. You don’t want to just make remakes when you’re doing a thing, unless it’s worthy of being a remake, but when you have an idea for something that can actually be made different and yet be true to what it was. We just had a notion of how to make it modern and have a slightly different tone. It’s not going to be just a remake.”
Filmmaker Stephen Sommers was successful with his re-invention of The Mummy franchise in 1999 (ultimately culminating in a new film trilogy), but his attempt to do likewise with Van Helsing (starring Hugh Jackman) five years later didn’t work out so well, either critically or financially. Similarly, Joe Johnston remade The Wolfman in 2008 but, even though the film earned praise in certain quarters for being an entertaining throwback to 20th-century Universal horror cinema, the overall response was more lukewarm and left the film hanging as a one-shot.
Point being, Universal has attempted to re-imagine its horror monster gallery for the 21st century, with mixed success to date. As such, the studio has good reason to try and emulate Marvel’s cinematic universe model, which started with the hiring of Kurtzman and Orci – who are riding high thanks to the popularity of their Sleepy Hollow television series – to do what Kevin Feige does for Marvel: seek out promising writing and directing talent, in order to put a fresh spin on the monster stories that’ve been told and re-told many times in movie/TV show form over the last century.
Next year, Universal will start its parade of rebooted monster properties with Dracula Untold, an origin story for the eponymous vampire that is being headlined by Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6); though, as far as we know, Kurtzman and Orci aren’t involved in producing that feature. Then again, the pair didn’t become involved with the Amazing Spider-Man franchise until after the first movie released in theaters, so that doesn’t rule out the possibility of Dracula Untold being a part of the larger plans for a shared universe shepherded by the dynamic Star Trek writer/producer duo.
Meanwhile, Fox is putting together a new Frankenstein movie – starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy, with a script written by Max Landis (Chronicle) – for release in early 2015. However, Orci also specifically mentioned that he is looking forward to a new Universal-backed take on Mary Shelley’s novel.
To quote Orci directly:
“I love Frankenstein just cause it’s such a twisted, complicated monster. A monster that’s not really a monster.”
Does a cinematic universe for Universal Monsters – laying the foundation for potential cross-overs and/or team-ups in the future – sound like a good idea to you?