5 Ways to Prep: The Mummy
By George Rose
June 8, 2017
3) Dracula Untold (2014)
2017’s The Mummy may be the first attempt to relaunch the Mummy franchise in almost 20 years, but it isn’t the first time since then that a Universal Monster Universe has been attempted. That horror (I mean honor) belongs to 2014’s Dracula Untold. Starring up-and-coming actor Luke Evans, it was the first test to see if they could retell all the legendary monsters with updated stories that linked into one mega monster movie. Dracula cost $70 million to make, starred a B-list actor and made $217 million worldwide, which was barely enough to break even. The Mummy cost twice as much, has twice the star power and needs to earn twice as much to break even. All the pieces are there for an equal profit percentage, but if that wasn’t enough money back then to create a Dark Universe, then one has to wonder if anything less than $400 million worldwide is enough for The Mummy to kick it off either.
Where The Mummy trilogy was tied up in a golden bow, Dracula Untold (and the new Mummy update) are dripping in dreary tones. Gone is the sense of joy and excitement, which has been replaced with “gritty” grayscale storytelling. It wasn’t successful for Dracula and I don’t see it working here for The Mummy. Untold was yet another origin story of the Dracula character, but at least it made for a moderately entertaining star vehicle for Luke Evans, who hasn’t quite broken out from B-list bad guy (Fast 6 & Beauty and the Beast) into A-list territory. Cruise can still certainly be considered A-list, especially in the international marketplace, but I fear an undead acting career won’t be enough to resurrect the idea of a Universal Monster Universe.
4) Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde (1995)
The mummy isn’t the only Universal icon to be making it into The Mummy movie. The famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will be there as the leader of a group that searches for these monsters, similar to the Nick Fury character in the Avengers movies. He will rally the troops to work together, or something, to battle evil… or good?... or something. I don’t know. We just know he’s also in this movie and is being played by Russell Crowe. And we know the character won’t be anything like the version in Ms. Hyde.
In that version, the gentle and kind Dr. Jekyll makes a serum that turns him into pure evil. I mean, he turns into a woman. It’s meant to be a comedy, sort of a Dr. Jekyll meets Freaky Friday kind of thing. It asks the big questions of the universe, like “What would it be like to switch genders?” and “Can a man ever perform sexually again after he knows what it’s like to have other men making nasty with his temporary vagina?” Probably not the stuff a ten-year-old like me in 1995 should be thinking about, but this is what they had on TV. Parental controls didn’t exist back then. For such a provocative premise, I remember it being quite funny and very interesting. Considering gay was barely acceptable in the mid-90s, it was very progressive to have such a gender-bending, transexual experience wrapped up in a magical comedy.
You may be wondering why anyone would take such a classic tale and turn it on its head like that. First of all, why not? Everything else these days gets retold and reconfigured and completely botched. Second, there are bigger concerns at work here, like why would Universal plan to cast a bunch of true Hollywood monsters in their new Dark Universe? Tom Cruise (crazy Scientologist leader) is in The Mummy, Russell Crowe (ruined Meg Ryan’s marriage to Dennis Quaid) is Dr. Jekyll, Johnny Depp (beat his ex-wife Amber Heard) will eventually be the Invisible Man, and they have hopes Angelina Jolie (ruined Brad Pitt’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston, then ruined her own marriage to Pitt) will play the Bride of Frankenstein. Though once considered A-listers, this rag-tag band of Hollywood white trash aren’t as bankable as they used to be. It is no less insane to think they can lead the Dark Universe than it is to believe you can enjoy watching Dr. Jekyll toil with his inner demons and with Ms. Hyde’s lady bits. If you want to prep for the Dark Universe, this is one film that is sure to readjust the bar set for the insanity ahead.
5) Van Helsing (2004)
In 1999 and 2001, Stephen Sommers directed the wildly entertaining first two Mummy movies. In 2000 and 2003, Bryan Singer directed the amazing first two X-Men movies. Both franchises would lose their director for the third outing and both would go on to be pretty bad movies. However, something happened before both franchises third entries. In 2004, there was an idea: take the director of the recent Mummy smash hit movies, give him X-Men’s most famous character (Hugh Jackman) and make a monster mashup movie. More monsters, bigger stars, an even bigger $160 million budget… how could this not be successful?! It opened to a strong $52 million, but that’s where the good news stops. It faded fast and died with just $120 million domestically, a disappointment over a decade ago and now a total 2017’s The Mummy prays for.
Monsters don’t make a movie. Celebrities don’t make a movie. Big budgets don’t make a movie. Good storytelling is a great start to making a fantastic movie, with star power and fun creatures helping enhance that interesting story. Van Helsing took the great Hugh Jackman, threw in a convoluted back story for his Van Helsing character, and put him against the bat-shit crazy Dracula, who used werewolves as henchmen and Frankenstein’s monster as a power source to energize his baby vampire fertility clinic. It turned off the sunny glow of The Mummy movies and turned up the depressing moonlight in favor of darker, nonsensical action.
However, the upside to Van Helsing is that there is a pretty good chance it is the only monster mashup movie we get for a while. If The Mummy doesn’t earn at least $400 million worldwide, we may not get to see the rest of Universal’s Dark Universe. With worldwide earnings taken into account, I see that number being possible. Only time will tell if The Mummy answers Universals prayers. They have the Fast and Furious franchise as well as Jurassic Park keeping money in the pipeline for the next decade so they won’t go bankrupt anytime soon. But this may be their last chance to keep life in the longest living classic franchise to date.