Tom Cruise’s The Mummy reboot has been panned by critics – is the entire Dark Universe franchise at risk?
“A mess,” cried CNN. “Stunningly bad,” sobbed Little White Lies. “Cruise is totally on cruise control,” claimed The Huffington Post. “No amount of clunky expository dialogue can untangle this mess of bones, bandages and bald commercial cynicism,” lashed the Observer.
Let’s just say the reviews for Tom Cruise’s reboot of The Mummy franchise aren’t exactly Wonder Woman. Beaten about the head and body with one and two star ratings, it’s slithered to a meager 17 per cent on reviews aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics suggesting it might see the entire Dark Universe franchise canned early. Despite taking $169 million worldwide in its opening weekend – Cruise’s biggest ever opening – it only reached Number Two in the box office charts, behind the unbeatable Wonder Woman, but is that enough to save Universal’s new classic monster franchise?
The Mummy reviews
To say that The Mummy got its ass wrapped in rotting bandages and handed back to it would be an understatement. “Half of it is devoted to creaky exposition and labored set-up for future pictures, including the appearance of Crowe as Jekyll and Hyde,” writes The Atlantic’s David Sims in a review headlined ‘The Mummy Is A Monstrous Flop’. “The other half is given over to Cruise, who bounces from one high-octane action set-piece to the next with a manic glint in his eyes. As an entry in that movie star’s personal canon, it’s a fascinating misfire. As the beginning of an ongoing series, it’s an utter bore, one with only the faintest grasp of what made Universal’s monster pictures so iconic all those decades ago.” Sims also suggested the franchise might be a non-starter. “It’s one thing for Hollywood to offer us sequels to films that weren’t really hits. But it’s quite another to try and set them up before the horse has even left the barn. The Mummy is bad enough; its promise of future editions is even tougher to take.”
The Evening Standard’s Matthew Norman agreed. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” he wrote, “say hello to the Dark Universe. And now, having graciously welcomed Universal’s attempt to milk the cash cow of interconnecting heroes and monsters, à la Marvel and DC, bid it farewell… on this form the Dark Universe should prove easier to kill off than Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella).” And, to be honest, these are some of the better write-ups.
What is the Dark Universe?
In The Mummy, Russell Crowe plays Dr Jekyll, leader of an underground group of archaeologists tracking supernatural monsters across the globe. The idea being that The Mummy is the first in a series of interconnected films about each of the classic 1930s movie monsters which may or may not end up with all of them coming together in an all-star Dark Universe film eventually. "There might be reasons for this character and that character to come together, because the story tells us that's what the story wants,” said The Mummy’s director Andy Kurtzman. “The story is what drives the choice. And if down the line, there's a big reason to bring them together, then great. But I promise, we're not starting there."
What other monsters are due in the Dark Universe franchise?
The series has already had one false start with 2014’s Dracula Untold, starring Luke Evans as Vlad The Impaler becoming the immortal vampire of legend. The film was a success but the studio played down its link to the franchise, presumably intending a different Dracula for the official franchise. Otherwise, expect some familiar old ghoulish faces – The Invisible Man, Dr Jeckyll And Mr Hyde, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and The Phantom Of The Opera, among others.
Which monster is coming next?
The second Dark Universe release is due to be The Bride Of Frankenstein, directed by Bill Condon and set to his cinemas in 2019. But with budgets still fluid on forthcoming films in the series, could that be the last? Not according to Kurtzman, who told The Hollywood Reporter about his vision for the ongoing series.
“I think that variety is going to be our good friend when it comes to the evolution of Dark Universe,” he said. “You obviously want to set a somewhat consistent tone, so that people know what to expect when you see these movies, but it would be ideal for each movie to have its own identity, which is largely going to be dependent on who is directing the films and who is starring in the films. I'm really excited to see what Bill Condon does with Bride of Frankenstein… I'm open to anything. I'm open to whatever feels right, and I'd like to see how the world reacts to The Mummy.” Hmmm, profit aside, any second thoughts yet Andy?
For more on the Dark Universe, read our explanatory blog.