In Defense of The Mummy & the Universal Monsters Reboot

4 Dec

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By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Should I be angry over the fact Universal Studios wants to reboot their entire monster franchise? I say no. To get a modern update is inevitable and I would rather go with the flow to see how producers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Chris Morgan’s vision are going to put all of them together. The teaser trailer from a few days ago wetted my appetite.

According to The Collider, a full blown trailer is supposed to be out on Sunday. I suspect it will arrive in the evening, and I will be following up with a shot by shot analysis. I enjoy following The Mummy craze since the opening of King Tut’s tomb fueled my interest. No, I’m not that old, but I love this ancient world and will absorb any kind of treatment into my own Sphinx’s vault of collected treasures. From the Boris Karloff days to Arnold Vosloo, and including ITV’s Tutankhamun, I will want to see or read about it.

I am more disappointed that the prior films, The Wolfman and Dracula Untold are not included. Understandably, they were made before the studio heads may have thought of a shared universe and despite the travesty of the latter film, I appreciated The Wolfman more and want to see him return. Benicio del Toro as Lawrence Talbot/The Wolfman is perfect.

While the expectations for where this world reimagining is going will thankfully not be comical — especially when compared the pinnacle of the prior era is with the deliciously hilarious Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein — I am too morbidly curious to see how the monsters will all meet and if there is a single foe they all have to face. Such is the problem with shared universes. Because of Marvel Comics’ Cinematic Universe, everyone knows the highlight will be the Infinity War. The suggested order of Universal Monster films cumulates to the Bride of Frankenstein. The original creation has to be not too far behind!

The build-up to whatever Universal / the producers have in mind is going to be a long wait, perhaps not going to be seen until 2028. As for whether it will happen depends on box office dollars moreso than reactions to the individual films. The original run lasted for three decades, and not every film is considered essential because back then, the studio did not think about a shared universe.

This reboot begins with The Mummy. While the teaser trailer hints at a female version, with Sofia Boutella playing an undead Egyptian princess Ahmanet, I am wondering if the comic book writers at Titan Books are venturing into dangerously close story infringement territory with their Hammer Comics’ version? The first issue sets up a cult of Anubis who feeds on the blood spilt from a female mummy — to which they need a victim who bears the mark (and oddly, not of royalty) — to grant them immortality. The latest victim to be bandaged up has awakened with memories “of a past life” intact and is wandering, if not ravaging, around modern London lost. Whether a lawsuit happens or not because the stories are too similar can cause problems for Universal Studios.

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The teaser trailer suggests very little. Between the straps holding the sarcophagus down (as seen on the movie poster, top left) are bindings around the coffin. They seem to be more than decoration. Perhaps, like in Sommer’s trilogy which described unleashing Imhotep from prison is bad — which needed a lock and key to prevent from releasing — this incarnation is Hell incarnate. People who know Lilith as she’s depicted in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Role Playing Game might cringe at the fact this new mummy’s pupils dilating into a twin pupil effect. It’s almost spider-like (just four more are needed for a true effect). This new threat certainly looks bad!

Everyone has an opinion about Tom Cruise, and I’m willing to give him a chance. Some of his characters are more memorable than others. As Ethan Hunt, he’s an action star. I never got into the Jack Reacher films, and as Lestat, Anne Rice was impressed. When considering her praise, sadly the studio took a massive misstep in handling the sequel by not including her in pre-production. I am worried this 2017 film may be another Queen of the Damned, but of the mythos are handled right, I do not mind being wrapped around Universal’s (or rather this lithe female mummy’s) fingers.

Since Cruise did not reprise his role and whatever the politics that happened to prevent it from happening (or the heads were too cheap to pay this rising star’s price tag), at least Universal has confirmed whom the leading cast of this world will be. Confirmed are Cruise as Tyler Colt, Boutella as The Mummy, Russell Crowe as Dr Henry Jekyll, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man (at least in voice initially).

Hopefully, schedules will not conflict when considering Depp’s eventual larger involvement in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. It would be sad to see Universal’s plan get cut short because this particular star is needed. Production schedules can sometimes be rearranged, but the big question is: at what cost?

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