Monster movies have clearly evolved since the original Universal characters first hit the big screen with The Hunchback of Notre Dame way back in 1923. Just so you know, Lon Chaney dropped silent acting bombs on folks as Quasimodo and then followed it up with The Phantom of the Opera in 1925. Both were big hits at the box office for their time. Universal realized that the general public craved images of things that frightened and captivated them (Boy I wish those Nanas and Pawpaws could’ve seen the chilling film Leprechaun in the Hood. I still have nightmares.)
Universal reached the 1930s and brought cinema’s arguably most famous monsters to the masses as the legendary Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff starred in Dracula (91% RT) and Frankenstein (100% RT) respectively. Boris Karloff, (who was English and born William Pratt btw…can you imagine anyone changing their acting name to something Russian today???? I think hockey players have started going by John Smith,) continued his contribution to the Monsterverse by starring in the original film for The Mummy.
Now we’ve seen a few iterations of this character over the years. The most popular since this first performance was the somehow now legendary Mummy series starring Brendan Fraser (may his career rest in peace.) I’ll admit, those first 2 films were enjoyable. That third one with the Chinese figures was…special. But they at least had 2 fan loved movies out of that series. Then Universal decided to reboot their Monsterverse…
Let’s start with what was supposed to be the beginning of the brand new, hot off the press Monster series brought to us by the wonderful visionaries at Universal. Dracula Untold was supposed to be the kickoff of a fresh era to introduce a whole new audience to the old school monsters that their great-grandparents and grandparents experienced. Then they actually wrote, and produced, and released that complete and utter disaster of a movie. I actually really like Luke Evans as an actor and he did a good job as Dracula but as we all know, there are movies that are so bad no actor can save them. This movie was so horribly received that the folks at Universal determined that it was not going to be a part of the new Monsterverse. Truthfully I had no idea that film was significant in any way possible to any film franchise and it turns out no one else did either. And that’s for the best because Universal can write it off as just a miss and work a new Dracula film into the series.
So with Dracula Untold officially ousted from the Dark Universe, the studio rested its hopes on the much hyped, Tom Cruise led reboot of The Mummy. Universal had a smart idea to put bankable stars as a part of the franchise and market the living (or unliving) crap out of the movies. They certainly did this with The Mummy and honestly, there’s always a chance the film will be decent if Tom Cruise is attached. For all his craziness outside of his roles, Cruise has very rarely put out a movie that was just a complete dumpster fire. Until now…
What made the Brendan Fraser Mummy films so popular was that they didn’t try too hard to be serious. It was that general campiness (of the first 2 at least) that was most appealing. They became movies that if you see they’re on TV on a random afternoon you’re not doing anything, you will sit down and watch them. That can’t be said for the newest attempt at introducing this classic monster. With a resounding 17% by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the Tom Cruise Mummy film is being Universal-ly panned (heh, get it?) Now that’s not always an indication of how the audience will react to a movie. However even the people that are paying to see this limping cinematic experience aren’t impressed as only 45% of them gave it a passing grade. So to say that the Dark Universe is off to an inauspicious start is a large understatement.
Most people under the age of 60 or who aren’t cinefiles like myself probably aren’t familiar with the original Universal monsters that introduced us, as I mentioned before to Dracula, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, the Mummy, as well as the Bride of Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. What made these characters so iconic is that they introduced the world to something no one had seen before and it elicited nightmares for those in the early days of cinema. But it was the focus on the monsters as main characters themselves that was unique. You can understand the positivity of Universal with snagging Tom Cruise to officially relaunch the Dark Universe with their updated take on The Mummy. Then the previews came out and there wasn’t really anything that just screamed monster movie. It appears as if they bottled a Mission Impossible style script, gave Tom Cruise another name rather than “Ethan Hunt”, gave the Mummy the ability to have 2 irises in each eye, and Russell Crowe coming in all Nick Fury style as Universal’s Dr. Jekyll.
This is such an odd choice of a role by Tom Cruise. Action films are his forte that’s for sure,
especially with the solid Mission Impossible films. But this movie is just a generic and kind of soulless creation that failed to deliver. It takes away that focus on the Monster like the originals intended and doesn’t present the fun tone that the more recent remakes did. Very disappointing for the Dark Universe as it tries to play catchup with the other mainstream movie franchises. It’ll be interesting to see how Universal follows up such a lackluster beginning. Because if Tom Cruise can’t produce, its going to be an even steeper climb to success for the Dark Universe.