It isn’t surprising that every major studio wants their own Avengers franchise. After all, Marvel is the king of the box office at the moment, and no matter how crazy of an idea they come up with, it still makes oodles of money. So when the opportunity came up for Universal to reboot some of its classic monster movies, someone at that meeting looked up from a massive mound of cocaine and whispered… why not us?
It sounds like a joke, but Universal is taking the idea very seriously. They’ve hired Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan to be the masterminds behind a shared cinematic universe of monster movies. Even if those names don’t ring a bell, you’re almost certainly familiar with their work.
Alex Kurtzman has had a hand in writing over a dozen of the highest-grossing movies of the past 10 years including 2009’s Star Trek, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Mission Impossible III, Watchmen, and Transformers.
Chris Morgan meanwhile has written the last five Fast & Furious movies, including the upcoming seventh installment. That might not sounds very impressive to most people, but fans of the franchise know just how interconnected and elaborate that movie universe has gotten since Morgan took over. And let’s not forget the fact that it’s one of Universal’s big cash cows right now, with over $2.3 billion in box office receipts so far.
With talent like that behind it (undoubtedly expensive talent at that), Universal is banking hard on this idea of a movie monster-verse.
What do we know so far?
Well for starters, it won’t be straight horror. Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley recently revealed at a roundtable discussion that it will be more action-adventure; which isn’t surprising considering that the horror movie landscape is pretty exclusively focused on microbudget projects at the moment.
We’ve tried over the years to make monster movies — unsuccessfully, actually, and we settled upon an idea, which is to take it out of the horror genre, put it more in the action-adventure genre and make it present day, bringing these incredibly rich and complex characters into present day and reimagine them and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience.
So where did this all begin?
The Other “Batman”
The official groundwork for Universal’s monster-vengers ™ was laid during 2014’s Dracula Untold, a reimagining of Dracula/Vlad the Impaler’s origin story (spoiler: he’s basically a superhero now).
The film was originally planned as a standalone story (with room for lots of sequels of course), but at the last minute, Universal scheduled some reshoots to add a hastily tacked on “stinger” scene.
The scene is set in the present day (the rest of the movie takes place in the Middle Ages), with Dracula walking around a modern city before bumping into a woman named Mina (get it? get it?! -Universal). Then, we see that the vampire who originally turned Dracula way back when is watching them, before ominously telling no one in particular, “Let the games begin.”
Yeah, it’s no Nick Fury scene, but it’s not especially subtle what Universal was trying to accomplish with this.
Next on the slate is a reboot of The Mummy, sans Brendan Fraser. I’m not entirely sure why they’re going for a complete reboot, especially considering the 1999 version was pretty good, and its action-adventure tone sounds pretty much in line with what Universal is building with the monster-vengers.
As of now, we don’t know too many specifics about this one, but we do have fairly solid confirmation that Alex Kurtzman himself will direct the film, with Universal hoping for a 2016 release.
What’s it about? Well, you might want to sit down for this one, because it’s a doozy.
The last we heard, Universal’s most recent draft of the script followed a team of Navy SEALS who are sent in to infiltrate a supposed terrorist bunker (in Egypt presumably). They get more than they bargained for when it turns out the bunker is actually a cursed tomb (I’m not making this up), and that the “terrorists” were actually just grave robbers who are already dead. Whatever killed them begins to prey on the soldiers, until only one guy is left.
That guy ends up getting cursed with visions of the titular “mummy,” and is the only one who can stop the monster when it eventually awakens.
Yeah, it’s pretty bonkers. Granted, a lot can change between now and 2016, but if not, the Universal Monsters are heading to some weird places.
What the heck does that have to do with Dracula?
Not a whole lot presumably, other than to set up the fact that this movie universe has a lot of supernatural stuff going on. Earlier this year, Dracula Untold producer Alissa Phillips did say that she hoped Luke Evan’s Dracula could make a cameo though, so there’s that.
Next, in 2017, we’ll be getting a reboot of The Wolfman. Universal has hired Prisoners writer Aaron Guzikowski to draft the screenplay, but again, we have no idea who might direct or star.
A Dracula Untold sequel is likely in order as well, although that’s only been hinted at so far. After that, who knows? Maybe the Invisible Man? Jekyll and Hyde? The Phantom of the Opera? The Creature from the Black Lagoon? Ape Woman? Please be Ape Woman.
Where is this all going?
Predictably, Monster Avengers. I’m not kidding.
In 2012, Universal announced plans to reboot Van Helsing with hopes that Tom Cruise would star as the titular character. At one point, Rupert Sanders’ (the guy who directed Snow White and the Hunstman) name was also in the mix as a potential director.
The film will likely bring together the characters introduced in the previous films for some kind of crazy adventure. That idea didn’t work so well the first time, but alright.
How is anything of this going to work?
It probably isn’t, but it is going to be really entertaining to see where this goes. Bringing the Universal Monsters into the modern day is already kind of an intriguing idea, but somehow managing to rope them all into some kind of super-team is so batshit insane that I can’t help but be on board.
But how likely is all of this, really?
Well, Universal seems pretty hellbent on the idea, and it’s not that hard to see why. They’ve been sequel-izing, rebooting, and reimaging their monster franchises for almost a century now (no joke), and there’s little reason for them to stop now.
While 2010’s Wolf Man was a disappointment for the studio, The Mummy was not, with the franchise collectively bringing in over $1.5 billion.
The “Iron Man” of this new initiative was no slump either. Dracula Untold banked over $200 million on a budget of around $70 million, which in this day and age, usually guarantees at least sequel of some kind.
All told, no matter how dumb this idea of a Universal Monsters shared universe sounds, we’re almost certainly going to see how it plays out over the next few years. And frankly, if Universal was somehow able to turn The Fast & The Furious into one of the most compelling ongoing movie series out there, I’m willing to see where this goes.