In a time where the movie industry is composed, in its majority, of remakes, adaptations, and shared universes, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the biggest studios are coming up with new products that fit into those categories. With highly successful examples in shared universes such as Marvel and DC, other companies are looking to give this field a try with a touch of nostalgia.
Universal Studios is the house of some of the most successful franchises in cinema history, such as Jurassic Park and Fast & Furious, but it's also home of horror classics Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and The Wolf Man (1941). Once upon a time, Universal had even established its own Shared Monster Movie Universe - and now, that franchise is being revived for the modern age.
Variety reports that Universal is staying away from superhero franchises with shared universes and will instead bring back those classic monsters in their own rebooted universe. The plan consists of releasing a new monster movie every year, starting with a reboot of The Mummy, currently slated for a 2017 release. Other monsters included in this universe will include (possibly in order):
- Dracula - either Luke Evans' Dracula from Dracula Untold will return or the property will be rebooted (again).
- Van Helsing - the film reboot featuring this character recently gained a pair of new writers.
- Bride of Frankenstein - the writer(s) for this project have yet TBA.
- The Wolfman - it also remains to be seen who scripts this project, though there are a handful of possible candidates.
Universal has chosen screenwriters Alex Kurtzman (Transformers) and Chris Morgan (Furious 7) to bring these iconic monsters back to the big screen. Kurtzman and Morgan are overseeing a team that is mixing iconic elements of the classic films, such as the bolts in Frankenstein creature's neck, with a modern setting and contemporary themes. As Morgan told Variety:
“This is not a heightened world. We're exploring issues of family identity and questions of, 'Where do I belong in the world?'”
“We're creating a mythology, so we're looking at this canon and thinking, 'What are the rules” What can we break and what are the ones that are untouchable?' […] The idea is that we have a deep bench of brains to consult with about how their monster fits into our world as we go forward."
While neither Kutzman or Morgan have experience in the horror genre, they are both self-proclaimed horror enthusiasts, making them valuable choices to make this monster shared universe a reality. As Morgan put it:
“I was raised on monster movies. I used to make my own fake puke, so I wouldn't have to go to school and could stay home and watch things like Cat People on TV. I can still tell you what I used – orange juice, Saltines, Pepsi, and milk."
Marvel rules the market with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and WB/DC is hoping that its DC Extended Universe will soon become equally successful. Nevertheless, Kurtzman and Morgan feel the audience is ready for a new take on cinematic shared universes since, as Morgan argues, monsters films make for a different type of shared universe storytelling than superheroes:
“Heroes tend to be perfect, but most people in an audience aren't ever going to know what it's like to be the smartest, strongest, or fastest person alive. But there's a darkness inside everybody. And everyone wants to be able to turn a curse into empowerment. The monsters have been in the shadows, and now it's time to bring them out into the light."
Universal's revived Monsters Universe could be a breath of fresh air amidst all the superhero universes we have gotten (and will continue to get in the future), for the reasons Morgan cites. After all, we love our heroes like Captain America and our fantasy adventures such as Star Wars (where we too root for the heroes to win out), but we also love flawed characters that show us that humanity is not exclusive to human beings.
The Mummy opens in U.S. theaters on March 24th, 2017, followed by a currently-untitled Monster Movie on March 20th, 2018.