Posts Tagged ‘Universal Monsters’

The Mummy is Universal’s quasi remake of their own 1932 Boris Karloff film. It is the first entry in what they call the Dark Universe, a planned series of interconnected monster films, set to include Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Mummy in fact opens with a new Dark Universe logo.

The plot is similar to the original. An Egyptian tomb is (accidentally) found, and the titular Mummy awakes and is on a quest to bring back her ancient lover. In the original the Mummy was male but had a mostly similar scheme.

There’s a little more to the plot than that, but basically Tom Cruise is the host for the Mummy’s lover, and the film has him being chased around by the Mummy in various action scenes.

While it attempts to retain its horror roots, the tone of this movie goes all over the place. Tom Cruise’s intro is an action comedy scene. More humor follows, including scenes where a dead friend of his that only he can see keeps pestering him. I doubt anyone came to the Mummy for laughs.

More of a sense of mystery is lost as we get the Mummy’s backstory almost right away via narration by Russel Crowe. It would have worked better for the audience to learn said backstory along with the main character.

Russel Crowe is the link to the wider Dark Universe that this film tries to prepare us for. He is the shady leader of a secret organization that fights monsters throughout the world. Basically it’s to the Dark Universe what SHIELD is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Crowe filling in as this world’s Nick Fury. At headquarters of said secret organization we get our Easter Eggs/nods to other monsters. We see skulls with vampire teeth, an encased hand from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many other items in the background. Also, I don’t know if this was meant as a joke or not, but a book that appeared in Brandon Fraser’s 1999 Mummy film is shown.

Also regarding Crowe, they tease it at first, but after not very long he is revealed to be Dr. Jekyll, who of course has the sinister alter ego of Mr. Hyde, which does play a minor point in the plot.

We’re in an interesting time in Hollywood now, as studios are trying to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Brothers has finally established a DC Universe while also doing the Monsterverse with King Kong and Godzilla. Hasbro is also working on a shared film universe with various toy properties they have. It’s a wonder why Marvel thought of this first. This Dark Universe in particular could have been done years ago. They did in fact, cross over their monsters in the 1940s, with Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula. However those movies were made after ten plus years of making separate monster movies, that whole world was not planned from the ground up.

It is notable that the Dark Universe takes place in the present, where many of the original Universal Monster movies took place in the past. However, due to the aforementioned Easter Eggs, it is evident that monstrous events have taken place already in this world. Should they choose to do so, some of the other upcoming Dark Universe pictures, such as Creature, could take place before Mummy. The timeline could be spread out a bit.

I’m still curious to see other Dark Universe films, but they need to get really good really fast if this universe is to be sustained.

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Marvel Studio’s upcoming film slate of Iron Man II, (2010) Thor (2011) and Captain America (2011) will lead up to the Avengers (Featuring all three characters and probably the Hulk) in 2012.

Marvel’s movie universe began in 2008 with Iron Man and the Hulk. The Marvel spy group SHIELD appeared in both movies. “The Avengers Initiative” was mentioned in Iron Man’s post credit scene. Hulk had references to Captain America, and Tony Stark/Iron Man appeared at the end. This is the first time a shared film universe was made from the ground up. There are other shared film worlds, but they werent initially designed to be such. The four I know of are;

Universal Monsters

Universal Studios was famous for its Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and Wolfman (1941) movies. 1943 saw the movie Frankenstein meets Wolfman, and the two met Dracula in 1944s House of Frankenstein and 1945s House of Dracula. Universal made other movies like the Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. They are also considered Universal monsters, but during that time never met Dracula, Wolfman, or Franksenstein.

The three monsters met in various media throughout the decades, including a failed attempt to start a franchise with 2004s Van Helsing movie. In 2010 a remake of Wolfman also flopped. No further re-makes have been announced. A horror based film universe with these characters would have been cool.

Godzilla

The Godzilla franchise started in 1954. He once fought King Kong, and met Rodan and Mothra, prior to which both monsters had their own movies.

Also included in the Godzilla-verse are characters from the following Japanese monster/science fiction movies;

Atragon
Battle in Outer Space
Dogora
Frankenstein Conquers the World
Gorath
The Mysterians
Space Amoeba
Varan the Unbelievable
The War in Space

Friday the 13th/Nightmare on Elm Street.

In the 80s the Friday the 13th  and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises were developed by Paramount and New Line. The two companies actually planned a crossover at the time, but plans fell through. New Line acquired the F13 rights and made Jason Goes to Hell in 1993. At the end of that movie Freddys gloved hand is seen reaching out of the ground, and his laugh is heard. The two officially met in 2003s Freddy vs Jason. The timelines from both films are presumed to have merged. Two comic book mini-series served as sequels and included Ash from the Evil Dead series. Also of note is that various supporting characters from F13 and NOES films appear in the second comic book crossover.

Aliens vs Predator

Though they fought in comics and video games for years, the two monsters didnt meet on the silver screen until 2004. A sequel followed in 2007, but since then its been announced that both creatures are each getting another solo movie. Again, like Freddy vs Jason, it can be assumed that both timelines are one. That doesnt matter too much as the Alien series took place in the future, and the Predator movies were in the present. AVP was the first movie where Aliens appeared in the present day.

Now lets take a look at the three shared film worlds I think could be possible.

Hasbro-verse.

Hasbro, between its own properties, and the properties of other companies it bought since the 80s, owns a large number of franchises. These franchises cover many genres from military action, to hard science fiction, fantasy, etc. It’s most famous properties are Transformers and G.I. Joe. Lesser known characters that could fit with those two include Inhumanoids, Go-bots, and M.A.S.K. Other properties they own that wouldnt fit as well, but could be whole film series themselves include Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering,  and Alternity. They also own more obscure 80’s toy properties like Sectaurs, Visionaries, and Silverhawks.

Transformers and G. I. Joe of course have their own films now, but they all could have, or could still meet in the future.

The Slasher-verse.

Take Freddy vs Jason up a notch. New Line also owns Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If they got the rights to Halloween, (which was rumored at one point) there could be one cool fright filled world. Throw in others like Pumpkinhead, Chucky, and something to tie them together like Hellraiser and you’ve got a truly disturbing universe.

DC Comics film world.

Weve all spent years wondering why this hasnt happened yet. No point in rehashing it again.

Wolfman is a remake of the 1941 Lon Chaney film, about an American in England who becomes a werewolf. The story of the original is expanded upon as Lawrence is an actor touring London. Here his brother’s fiance, Gwen, writes him informing him of his brothers disappearance. Lawrence returns home to Blackmore, where he reunites with his estranged father, played by Anthony Hopkins. Soon they find his brothers body, which has been ripped apart by and animal. While investigating a Gypsy camp his brother was known to mingle at, he is attacked and bitten by a wolf. Soon he becomes a werewolf himself, and terrorizes the village. Along the way we get flashbacks to his childhood, and learn of the curse on his family, as well as it’s origin.

Werewolf lore is expanded upon, as while still human, Lawrence finds he heals fast, is growing stronger, and his senses are more acute. Before his first transformation, we also get hints of his mind being affected. The silver cane from the original movie is present, but not very important to the story. There’s romantic tension between Gwen and Lawrence. Gwen seeks the Gypsy’s help, hoping to cure Lawrence, but that plot point isn’t expanded upon. Also a bit of crossover is added as a fictional Scotland Yard Detective is present to investigate the murders. It is mentioned that he was on the Jack the Ripper case.

Thankfully the computer effects aren’t overdone. The beginning is a little scary, not so much towards the end. It’s gory too. The Wolfman decapitates, tears off limbs, and leave a bloody mess with each slash of his claws. The gore is kept to brief shots though, making it more effective.
There’s a few odd camera movements, a few parts could have been more scary, but instead it seemed they just tried to make it look cool.

Wolfman has a decent plot to it, but in small parts it could have been better. Little bits of internal logic don’t match, like when we see the villagers preparing silver bullets, but later Wolfman is shot in the shoulder to no effect.  The identities of some of the villagers could have been clearer, and religious themes could have been played out more. Anthony Hopkins plays his father role so distant, that the surprise of his character isn’t much of a surprise.

If this is successful, Universal Studios could relaunch more monster properties like Frankenstein and Dracula. I always thought Universal could make  a shared movie universe with those characters. (Though any studio can do that, as those characters are public domain, and anyone can use werewolves in a general sense.)

Wolfman isn’t a bad movie, it’s just that some parts could have been stronger. 7.5/10