Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have been tapped by Universal, to serve as the architects on a rebooted classic monsters universe which would include Universal's most revered movie monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Creature Of The Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, Bride Of Frankenstein and The Mummy.
Back in 2012, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Transformers) were in talks to develop a reboot of The Mummy with director Len Wiseman (Underworld) and written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus). Since that time, Orci and Kurtzman have severed their partnership with Kurztman still attached, Wiseman is no longer involved, and Chris Morgan (screenwriter of the Fast and the Furious franchise since the mid-2000′s) is now co-developing with Kurtzman. The specific nature of Kurtzman and Morgan’s roles on any individual film is unclear at the moment, but Deadline says they will have a hand in everything moving forward, from selecting writers and directors to marketing.
While nothing is yet set in stone, it appears the franchise will begin with The Mummy reboot, slated for an April 22nd, 2016 release. Kurtzman talked about The Mummy reboot a couple of years ago stating:
“We’re reaching into the deep roots of The Mummy, which at its beating heart is a horror movie and then an action movie, and putting it into a context that is real and emotional… It’s still a four quadrant film but as a lot of recent movies have proven, audiences are hungry for more than they used to be. You can still have a family movie, an action movie that’s more grounded than these used to be. Without saying too much, we’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Michael Crichton’s books, and how he ground fantastical sales in modern day science.”
The “four quadrant” part implies that the film must hit four aspects of a PG-13 movie in order to stand a chance at the box-office. In today’s industry, that means lots of CGI, a thick layer of sheen and gloss, an abundance of background noise, state-of-the-art 3D and no practical make-up or set-designs. In essence, everything that is not the original Universal monster films but a vapid re-hash that will look more like a blockbuster action film than an eerie Gothic ride through the macabre.
It’s great to see Universal is again paying attention to one of their most legendary aspects, and it’s still up in the air as to how these films will pan out. Given the flack that Kurtzman has received for his treatment of the Star Trek universe and the relative silliness of the Fast & Furious franchise (though, if you ask me, they are better now than they ever have been), it doesn’t look good for the integrity of these classic monsters. The upcoming Dracula Untold will apparently be an outlier of this new connected universe of classic monsters, which means Dracula is still fair game for a new film shortly after the release of the Luke Evans vehicle.
What’s interesting is that Universal has already tried this a few times before. In the mid-90s there were several remakes of classic monster properties in the guise of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (albeit, at Columbia Pictures), Kenneth Brannagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the successful Mummy franchise starring Brendan Fraser. Universal tried again with The Wolfman in 2010 starring Benicio del Toro as the titular character. That film reportedly cost over 100 million dollars and was abysmal both in quality and at the box-office (though I personally thought it was a lot of fun). They even went as far as to reconstitute the classic Universal logo to possibly usher in a new series of monster films from Universal.
This would be the first time that Universal would bring together their roster of classic monsters into a coherent and shared cinematic universe. It would be similar to what Marvel and Disney have been doing or what DC and the Star Wars universe have started. It might seem rather silly for something like the classic monsters of Universal to have a shared narrative universe; that would seem more appropriate for a Saturday morning cartoon than a cinematic franchise, but stranger things have found success and that success lies in striking a balance that works for modern audiences.
Even before the previous reboots of the ’90s and early 2000s, Universal packaged many of their classic monsters in several films together. There was both House Of Dracula and House Of Frankenstein, which featured Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and a myriad of evil hunchbacks and scheming femme fatales all in the same movie. There was also the team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein that capped off Universal’s initial run of their classic movie monsters before Hammer Studios re-imagined them for a more jaded and modern audience in the late 50s.
It’s still a couple years off, but this new monster universe from Universal is an intriguing and ambitious idea with a multitude of aspects that could go wrong. Couple that with the varying degrees of success from the previous times Universal has tried to reboot this series and it’s tricky territory indeed. If they could slip in a bit of schlock, some practical effects in the form of make-up and maybe some animations — give the films a real nostalgic feel — they might find an audience who appreciate it. However, knowing the amount of money Universal will throw at this series, they will want to make sure they see the most return on their investment as possible. It means we’ll probably be getting more films like Van Helsing, Dracula Untold (not yet released so maybe there’s a chance for this one) and The Wolfman.
Images: Universal Pictures