This weekend sees the release of Universal Pictures’ reboot of The Mummy. Completely disconnected from the Brendan Fraser trilogy of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, this next reimagining of the Boris Karloff horror classic is headlined by megastar Tom Cruise, as he attempts to save the world from the undead menace (this time played by Star Trek Beyond‘s Sofia Boutella). The action/horror blockbuster’s success at the box office is critical for Universal, who is banking on the film to kick off their recently announced “Dark Universe”, a series of films dedicated to remaking legendary horror films for a contemporary audience.

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Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella star in this weekend’s The Mummy.

Last month, the studio officially announced their efforts to reintroduce some of the most famous monsters in film history into one combined universe with a video showcasing the history of the properties. The video features bombastic musical fanfare by composer Danny Elfman, known for dozens of famous film scores like Edward Scissorhands, Mission: Impossible and Big Fish, then transitions into a logo reveal.

The video touts “a new world of gods and monsters”, celebrating the brand’s legendary canon. In addition to the Mummy, the films will include monsters such as the Invisible Man, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. According to the studio, the films will not all be blockbusters in the size and scope of The Mummy. Some of the releases will be more modest, focused on the horror elements of the franchise rather than action/adventure.

According to official projections by BoxOfficePro.com, The Mummy is on track to make $45 million in its North America opening weekend and about $120 million in the domestic run. The film cost roughly $125 million without marketing expenses factored in, so the film would need to make a considerable sum in international release to be considered more than a moderate success. Fortunately, Tom Cruise is one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world, so worldwide breakout for The Mummy is a possibility.

Even if The Mummy is only a mild success, Universal seems completely dedicated to building this universe, a confidence confirmed by casting and release date announcements. Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, who appears in The Mummy as Jekyll/Hyde, may serve as a bridge to the other films. Along with the fanfare video, the studio also released a cast photo, featuring not only the stars of The Mummy but Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales co-stars Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem. Depp has been cast as the Invisible Man for a tentative 2020 release, while Bardem will play Frankenstein’s monster.

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The confirmed stars of the Dark Universe. From left to right, Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Sofia Boutella.

In addition to these casting announcements, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon has signed on to direct a Bride of Frankenstein film from a script by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man). Writer Will Beall (Gangster Squad, the upcoming Aquaman) is working on a Creature from the Black Lagoon film, while Dan Mazeau (Wrath of the Titans, the upcoming Flash film) pens a Van Helsing reboot.

In a joint statement, The Mummy writer/director Alex Kurtzman (best known for co-writing blockbusters like Star Trek and Transformers) and writer Chris Morgan (writer of the last four Fast and Furious films) expressed their excitement in heading this ambitious project (courtesy of Slashfilm.com):

When Universal approached us with the idea of reimagining these classic characters, we recognized the responsibility of respecting their legacy while bringing them into new and modern adventures. The studio and our fellow creative collaborators have championed and challenged us as we’ve begun to spin the web of Dark Universe.  It’s our hope these movies will engross longtime fans and spark the imaginations of brand-new ones.

It is unclear whether or not 2014’s Dracula Untold will be involved in the universe. Starring Luke Evans in a Dracula origin story, the film underwent reshoots at the time to strengthen the connection to other potential films. Despite being a box office success with over $200 million worldwide on $70 million dollar budget, the film was critically maligned, only earning a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes.

As the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has demonstrated, general audiences are open to the idea of characters from similar properties crossing over in big event pictures. Just this past week, the DC Extended Universe scored a big victory in their buildup to a Justice League film with the critical and financial success of Wonder Woman. Additionally, Warner Brothers’ Monsterverse took a big step forward, as Blair Witch director Adam Wingard was tapped to direct the big on-screen battle between King Kong and Godzilla in 2020 (considering that’s an election year, does the winner get to be president?).

The Mummy opens in 4,000 plus theaters across the country on Friday (or, more accurately, Thursday night). In addition to Cruise, Boutella and Crowe, the film stars Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, and Courtney B. Vance. If you choose to see the film this weekend, be sure to look for assorted Easter Eggs referencing the “Dark Universe”.

 

 

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