Universal Pictures is rebooting its Monster cinematic universe, but the movies themselves will be comparatively “standalone” in nature. The original universe of Universal Monster Movies started in the 1920s, with silent films The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera and continued for nearly forty years, finally concluding with The Leech Woman in 1960. While initially the films were either standalone movies or sequels, over time crossovers were created such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, and the various Abbott and Costello Meet films; where the eponymous comedians encountered various monsters.
Now that the Universal Monsters are getting reboots – beginning with this year’s The Mummy starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella – the plan is to bring them together in a shared cinematic universe, a la the Marvel Cinematic Universe or DC Extended Universe. However, that doesn’t mean that Universal Monster films are going to interconnect the same way that MCU and DCEU movies do, per se.
Chris Morgan, who is planning out the rebooted Monster cinematic universe with The Mummy director Alex Kurtzman, spoke to Collider about the plan for the franchise – suggesting that the Monster movies will not be as closely connected as some might have assumed:
“We kind of designed them all to be kind of standalone sorts of franchises that have kind of similar things between them. And as the scripts came in, then we started putting them in a, ‘Well this would be a good order. We reveal this here’ so now it really comes down to, again, it’s a studio decision on which film is coming out next. Just with all the films we’re working on, Bride of Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, Invisible Man, and on and on and on, it’s a real embarrassment of riches in terms of awesome, fun characters. I always say it this way: I’m in my office right now and I’ve got a Werewolf head mounted on the wall. It’s pretty good to come into your office and—that’s what you’re working with, you’re working with monsters that are 80, almost 100 years old. There’s a real legacy, a real respect, the fact that this studio, I don’t think, would have lasted if it wasn’t for the monsters, it really built up.”
It sounds as though Morgan is saying that there will not be many crossovers and shared films between the various monsters. Instead, their movies will each stand on their own; though his use of the word franchises does seem to indicate that sequels are very possible.
Morgan also compared the monster movies to various cinematic universes in another way. Many of the the universes being created in film deal with heroes, not monsters. Morgan thinks that the monsters may be able to reach people in a way that the heroes can’t.
“We live in a world of superhero movies now—and by the way, I love them and I see them all and I have a great time, but I can’t identify with them as closely as I want to because I know I’ll never be perfect like that. Whereas the monster movies are saying that everybody has darkness in them, everyone has secrets and things they are ashamed of and don’t want to say or something that feels monstrous and dangerous about them. We’re just kind of embracing that and saying, ‘That’s ok.’”
It sounds like Universal is trying to accomplish a few different things with these new movies. By having standalone films, that allows for fans to pick and chooses which movies they see without worrying about missing important plot points. And of course, they can always change their minds and start connecting the films together more closely, some point down the road.