The Mummy, the Tom Cruise-headlined of the classic Universal franchise, isn't just going to be another Egyptian-themed adventure in the vein of Boris Karloff and Brendan Fraiser. It's also intended to kick-start a Universal Monsters mega-franchise, a shared universe to rival Marvel and DC's superhero efforts. A lot is already planned - The Invisible Man (starring Johnny Depp), Creature from the Black Lagoon (starring Scarlett Johansson), Jekyll and Hyde (starring Russell Crowe), Bride of Frankenstein (alleged to star Javier Bardem), The Wolf Man (with Dwayne Johnson rumored) and Van Helsing are all in development under the franchise banner - so the pressure is high on Alex Kurtzman's film to get the ball rolling.
This is especially true now that the series won't include Dracula Untold, which was once intended to be the monsters' Iron Man; The Mummy will be laying a lot of groundwork for an awful lot of movies. Some of that franchise set-up was seen in the recent trailer in the form of Russell Crowe, appearing as Dr. Jekyll long before his own movie arrives. In the film he's the overseer of The Prodigium, an underground vault where various magical creatures are stored, including Cruise's suddenly immortal Nick and the titular Egyptian Queen. Crowe had been confirmed in the film earlier this year, but seeing the scientist with a dark secret in the flesh certainly prompted a lot of questions.
While talking with director Alex Kurtzman, Screen Rant got to learn a little more about the decision to have Dr. Jekyll in the film and how he was chosen to be The Mummy's expansion into the wider world:
"In looking to figure out how to place The Mummy in a larger context and setting up this organisation that has actually been dealing with monsters for longer than any of us have been around, it became clear that we needed somebody to be the voice of that organisation. The next thought was like, ‘Well, it could be Joe McGillicuddy, or we could actually go into another character that makes sense organically.’ It was a real point of conversation with Tom."
This does point towards Jekyll filling a Nick Fury role in the series, with The Prodigium almost acting as S.H.I.E.L.D., bringing together the disparate monsters into one big story. While it's not what Robert Louis Stevenson probably had intended for his legacy, it makes a lot of sense for the character's involvement here; having a slightly stronger evil side doesn't match immortality or becoming a literal wolf.
That said, because the film is dealing with such a well-known character - the twist with Jekyll is so iconic it's legitimately OK to spoil - played by an Oscar winner, there was still a concern that Crowe's presence could overshadow the main events of the movie, leading to the filmmakers striving to work him into the story more organically:
"If we’re going to bring in Henry Jekyll, how is bringing Henry Jekyll into the mummy story not detract from the mummy story? How does Henry Jekyll become part of this story in an organic way? And part of what Tom’s character, Nick, learns about the mummy and about the history of the mummy comes through Jekyll’s very deep understanding of monsters and how monsters have existed quietly in this world for eons."
Bringing in such a big character into a separate movie could easily feel like simple franchise-bait and ring cynical, so this concern being addressed at his introduction is refreshing. It is, of course, unclear how much presence Jekyll will actually have in the film - Crowe only appeared briefly in one location in the trailer and as the character didn't always fill this narrative role, he's unlikely to be focused on too heavily. That makes it seem unlikely we'll get to see Mr. Hyde in the flesh, although who knows what tricks The Mummy has up its bandages.
- The Mummy (2017) release date: Jun 09, 2017