It’s been in the works for a while now, but for the last several years, Universal Studios has been looking for the appropriate way to relaunch their series of world-famous monsters. It hasn’t been easy.
Francis Ford Coppola’s DRACULA was a stellar and proper adaptation of the original Bram Stoker book, but that came out way back in 1992. Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 version of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN was interesting but fell short of both the critical and box office success of Coppola’s update. And while not really connected, the Jack Nicholson WOLF, also of the same year, paired with the other two make up a somewhat unique updated Universal Monsters trilogy.
More recent attempts included Joe Johnston’s 2010 gothic period-piece retelling of THE WOLFMAN with Benicio Del Toro doing his best Lon Chaney Jr. And Luke Evans starred in the 2014 UNDERWORLD-esque action spectacle known as DRACULA UNTOLD. Despite the moderate successes of those takes, neither were as big as Universal were expecting. Well, if you want big, you have to think big.
This past weekend, the first teaser trailer for THE MUMMY dropped. And well… it was certainly unexpected. It looks like a big-budget summer blockbuster, filled with action, Tom Cruise running around a lot, and mass destruction courtesy of the finest CGI a studio can buy. But… does it look or feel anything like the 1932 MUMMY movie or any of its sequels? More importantly, it is a “horror” movie like it’s inspiration was? Not exactly. And yet I remain cautiously optimistic.
Let’s take a look at the trailer one more time before we discuss what’s come out in light of the teaser’s debut.
Now, we have to keep in mind that THE MUMMY is still a good 7 months away, and this is only intended to be the first teaser trailer for it. So, it’s difficult to encapsulate the feel and tone of a movie this early on, however people recognize “The Mummy” brand, although more than likely because of the Brendan Fraser-fronted movies, and they sure as hell know Tom Cruise and what to expect from a Tom Cruise movie. What’s presented in the above is, first and foremost, a Tom Cruise summer blockbuster. That’s totally fine. But as I skim most of the comments, I see the same questions and concerns… what does this have to do with the mummy? How is this scary? Is this Mummy: Impossible? Etc.
It’s not a secret that this is intended to kick off a series of new Universal Monster films that are all interconnected and part of the same “shared universe.” MUMMY director Alex Kurtzman is overseeing these films, and judging from this excellent interview conducted with Coming Soon.com, he seems to have a great understanding of what makes the original Universal Monsters movies so great & indelible, while also showing a tremendous amount of reverence for the source material.
Of note is this one line in the interview – when asked if those original Universal Monster movies were part of THE MUMMY’s canon, he reluctantly confirmed “You know what? I will say, absolutely. Those movies exist in continuity.” That can literally mean anything. Who knows if anywhere in the movie itself, the original Imhotep will be referenced or name-dropped? (In the new movie, the mummy is Ahmanet played by Sofia Boutella.) But knowing this is a modern story built upon those pre-existing movies is a huge step in the right direction to ease the worried minds of “monster kids” everywhere. And while I doubt Kurtzman literally means that above quote, Daniel Baldwin over on Cinema Runner speculated on all the fun possibilities of incorporating the original Universal Monsters into the upcoming film’s canon if they so should desire.
After the teaser debuted, Universal released this behind-the-scenes “Inside Look” featurette. It’s what inspired this entire piece, so have a look.
The thing I keep latching onto, or that they seem to continually push in this promo, is the idea that this is a “monster” movie. They owe the audience a “monster movie.” The original Universal Monster movies were “utterly terrifying” to Tom Cruise growing up. The things that this new Mummy does are “horrifying.” Sofia Boutella, the Mummy herself is quoted as saying, “the audience can expect to be excruciatingly terrified.”
So, to me, these interviews and this featurette are trying to sell me on the fact that this is indeed a horror movie.
Right now, it doesn’t look like one to me. But again, we’ve got half a year before this thing actually comes out.
So, my hope is that as we get closer to release, the future trailers play up the “monster movie” angle of it, and focus on the “horror” of this updated horror classic.
What do you guys think?