universal monsters universe

Cinematic universes are all the rage right now.

Which is why it was met with little surprise — but much chagrin — when Universal Studios announced their plans to create a movie franchise out of classic monster movie reboots. Another cinematic universe? Haven’t we had enough interconnected franchises, with Marvel and DC at each other’s throats over superhero sequels, Warner Bros creating their own MonsterVerse with Godzilla and King Kong, and whatever the heck is going on with that Man in Black/21 Jump Street crossover?

But producer Chris Morgan, one of the minds behind the whole Universal Monsters operation, assures audiences that Universal’s movie universe will be as different from the MCU and DCEU as possible.

In an interview with Collider, Morgan explained why the Univeral Monsters universe is being made in the first place, starting with this year’s The Mummy,, and how these movies aren’t just superhero flicks in different clothes:

I think why people will love these monster films is the they are an homage to the originals, which means you’re gonna get complex characters. And the thing that I think is interesting about monsters is that they are always exaggerations of human attributes or human fears. For example, Frankenstein was a result of the kind of industrial and scientific revolution—are we playing God? Should we be playing God? And with the Wolfman there’s that worry of what happens if I lose control? What happens if I hurt the things around me that I love? There’s very human questions and worries and fears and darkness and cravings.

We live in a world of superhero movies now—and by the way, I love them and I see them all and I have a great time, but I can’t identify with them as closely as I want to because I know I’ll never be perfect like that. Whereas the monster movies are saying that everybody has darkness in them, everyone has secrets and things they are ashamed of and don’t want to say or something that feels monstrous and dangerous about them. We’re just kind of embracing that and saying, ‘That’s ok.’ The films are just gonna be interesting, emotional, action-y, largely global sorts of films. I think The Mummy trailer sets up, in a really good way, kind of the tone of these films.

Despite the potential for these movies to be kitschy, it sounds like Morgan is planning for these films to dive a bit deeper into the philosophies separating human and monster. To be sure, that’s different than what you can do with a superhero film, which have the ability to delve into the darker side of human hubris and failings, but are often weighed down by big action setpieces and callbacks to comic book lore. While the monsters have their own mythologies to deal with, it is true that they — especially Frankenstein or Wolfman — are rooted in questions about humanity and society. It would be fascinating to see a big blockbuster franchise try to explore that, though I doubt we’ll see that with The Mummy, since Cruise’s human character appears to be the focus of the film and not Sofia Boutella’s “Mummy #1. Hopefully, the actual movie will offer something different.

Another way that Universal Monsters is separate from Marvel and DC? Morgan also said that they’re still working on getting the order of the films down. A few have been cast, such as Johnny Depp in The Invisible Man and Javier Bardem in Frankenstein. A franchise interconnectedness is implied with Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jekyll (no word yet on whether Mr. Hyde will make an appearance) in The Mummy, but Morgan stressed that they weren’t going to try and force anything.

“We kind of designed them all to be kind of standalone sorts of franchises that have kind of similar things between them. And as the scripts came in, then we started putting them in a, ‘Well this would be a good order. We reveal this here’ so now it really comes down to, again, it’s a studio decision on which film is coming out next. Just with all the films we’re working on, Bride of Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, Invisible Man, and on and on and on, it’s a real embarrassment of riches in terms of awesome, fun characters.”

Honestly, the prospect of seeing classic movie monsters like Frankenstein and Wolfman interact sounds more appealing in concept than seeing The Mummy, which will have a hard time living up to the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz-helmed 1999 The Mummy, which is an underrated action movie classic (and that’s before you even get to the original 1932 classic).

The Mummy hits theaters June 9, 2017.

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