Universal’s efforts to create its own connected movie universe is off to a rocky start with the lackluster reboot of The Mummy. Despite a star-studded cast featuring both Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, it failed to capture the imaginations of movie-goers. The movie was widely derided as a hodgepodge of action set-pieces with little to hold the attention of movie-goers. In a lot of ways, these seem like the same criticisms that were levied at movies in the DC universe like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
It would appear that in an effort to cash in the popularity of brain-dead action extravaganzas like Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, Universal has forgotten what made its cavalcade of supernatural stars such big hits to begin with. Having strong, relatable characters supported by a gripping story can go a long way. DC learned the hard way that bigger and louder isn’t always better, and the reviews said as much. With Wonder Woman the studio discovered that fun movies that are actually good tend to do pretty well for themselves. There’s no question that The Mummy was an incredible flop, but there’s still an opportunity to make it right, and that’s going to come with The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man.
The next planned movie in the so-called “Dark Universe” is Bride, which is currently set for an early 2019 release. Early reports make it seem like Universal might be making the right moves. Bill Condon is set to direct and while he might be best known for the Twilight series, he also wrote and directed the critically acclaimed 1998 film Gods and Monsters. The latter is actually about the last days of James Whale, who famously directed classics such as Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man. Condon clearly shares a reverence for the source material.
The Universal monster movies of the 1930s are fondly remembered by generations of fans and are still considered some of the greatest films ever made. A slew of masterful directors including the likes of Tod Browning, Karl Freund, and James Whale shocked and chilled audiences while crafting unforgettable art. They also established some of the most recognizable characters in cinema in the process. These monsters continue to resonate with fans today and this can be seen almost everywhere.
Whale’s 1933 take on the classic story by H.G. Wells is still revered as a classic and its influence can still be seen in many different formats. In addition to the original book and the iconic film, The Invisible Man can also be seen in the world of video games. A slot reel based on the movie was developed, and it adapts most of the major characters and other themes from the film into an easy-to-play casual game made to appeal to the masses. This game and others like it are afforded prime real estate at many of the major online platforms thanks to their strong followings. The fact that a game based on a movie from the ’30s is in such high demand reflects the continued popularity of the story. It shows that there’s clearly an audience for these properties, and they’re just waiting for Universal to actually get them right.
Universal’s idea to cash in on the connected universe craze isn’t necessarily a bad one; it just lacks the right execution. If the studio can figure things out and provide fans with a genuinely moving monster movie then word of mouth will do the rest of the work for them. There’s a huge opportunity with Bride of Frankenstein, and we’ll just have to hope that it does the original film justice. We’ve already seen a female-driven movie with a heart save one movie universe—it could happen again.