I have never seen a movie work harder or more hopelessly than Universal’s new The Mummy, not merely to launch a new franchise, but to jump from a standing start into a full-blown Marvel-style shared cinematic universe in one go.
Even Batman v Superman, as hard as it worked to get within striking distance of Justice League, at least had Man of Steel to build on. (The Mummy was originally supposed to build on Dracula Untold, just as Kong: Skull Island was a prequel to Godzilla, but that idea was staked through the heart.)
Another thing Batman v Superman had going for it was that the DC universe is well-established, much-rebooted terrain, so there’s a lot to draw on. If you want to put the Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and all the other Universal Studios monsters all baked into the same narrative pie, you’re working from scratch, and to do that you must first create the universe.
Or you could just do what Kong: Skull Island did, and what The Mummy also does, which is steal from Marvel’s template.
Both films include covert S.H.I.E.L.D.-type organizations as the hub of their universal premise, only instead of recruiting superheroes they investigate monsters.
In the “MonsterVerse” of Kong there’s a government agency called Monarch (introduced in Godzilla). In the “Dark Universe” of The Mummy it’s a private operation called Prodigium run by Russell Crowe as Universal’s answer to Nick Fury, Dr. Henry Jekyll. Yes, that Dr. Jekyll — and he plays the other guy too, so he is also kind of the Dark Universe’s answer to Bruce Banner.
Both films also drop Easter eggs promising, or threatening, characters we haven’t seen yet. Kong drops hints of Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. The Mummy, which is set in what Universal is now apparently calling the “Dark Universe,” offers relics hinting at Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I saw no relics of Frankenstein’s monster or the Wolf Man. If there were any Invisible Man relics, how would we know?
If you’re having trouble telling them apart, just remember: The MonsterVerse is where the building-sized monsters live, and the Dark Universe is where the human-sized monsters live. If you’re still having trouble remembering, why are you trying to remember in the first place?
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.