Shared universes are all the rage these days. With Marvel Studios leading the way (and DC Comics and Star Wars following closely), it seems like a new one is announced every other day. Seriously, just look at this story we reported on Monday. But while it may seem like a modern phenomenon, Universal Pictures actually got the shared universe ball rolling over 70 years ago. Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, released in 1943, featured the first ever crossover between two of Universal’s most popular monsters. The following year they upped the ante by adding Dracula and several others to the mix in House of Frankenstein. So it comes as little surprised that they’ve announced plans (via Variety) to bring back their classic monsters in a new, shared franchise.
As it stands now, the plan is to release a new film every year beginning with 2017’s reboot of The Mummy. This will be followed by a new Dracula film (possibly tied to 2014’s Dracula Untold or another reboot), The Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, and a Van Helsing reboot (unsure whether this will tie in to the new series on SyFy). The whole thing is being overseen by Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, Star Trek) and Chris Morgan (Furious 7, 47 Ronin), who have enlisted a team of writers to modernize these classic properties.
“The characters will interact with each other across movies,” says Donna Langley, chair of Universal Pictures. “We’re incubating it at the moment, and we’re taking the time to get it right.”
There’s plenty of potential here, and it’s good to see Universal isn’t rushing into things too quickly. These characters have been appearing on the silver screen since the vaunted Golden Age of Hollywood, with Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula becoming true icons whose impact can still be measured today. Plus, the Mummy franchise that began in 1999 was hugely successful. Universal’s monsters have been finding an audience (though the size of that audience has varied) for about three-quarters of a century. If these new films can return those creatures to their former glory, this could be the beginning of something truly special.
Of course, these shared universe franchises are typified by big, effects-laden spectacles. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, there does appear to be a bit of fan fatigue beginning to creep in. It sounds like Universal is aware of this and trying to craft its monsters franchise to be a little different.
“This is not a heightened world,” Morgan says. “We’re exploring issues of family identity and questions of, ‘Where do I belong in the world?'”
The original Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, etc. films skewed towards more human drama and horror. In an age of superheroes and interstellar battles, keeping things more grounded could very easily help these films from standing out and not getting lost in the summer blockbuster shuffle. The key would be to keep the human drama of the original films while updating the creatures for this modern age.
“We’re creating a mythology, so we’re looking at this canon and thinking, ‘What are the rules?’ ” Kurtzman says. “What can we break and what are the ones that are untouchable?”
I mean, Frankenstein HAS to have neck bolts, right?
“Heroes tend to be perfect, but most people in an audience aren’t ever going to know what it’s like to be the smartest, strongest or fastest person alive,” Morgan says. “But there’s a darkness inside everybody. And everyone wants to be able to turn a curse into empowerment. The monsters have been in the shadows, and now it’s time to bring them out into the light.”
It sort of sounds like some or all of the title characters will be portrayed as anti-heroes, which works for many of them given their various origins. And, of course, seeing Dracula, Frankenstein and his bride, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy interact with each other sounds immensely cool. Fans of these iconic monsters should be incredibly excited by this news. I know I can’t wait to see what Universal comes up with.
The Mummy is set for release on March 24, 2017.
Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.
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