6:00 pm EDT, June 22, 2017

What the Dark Universe can learn from ‘The Mummy’

The Mummy hasn’t received the rave reviews it hoped for, so now it’s time for the rest of the Dark Universe to take note and improve upon its first venture.

The Dark Universe started out with The Mummy, a classic title that Universal was probably hoping would be a strong contender to kick off their shared monster universe. They were wrong. Many fans and critics (us included) didn’t think it lived up to expectations. If only it had been about Ahmanet.

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I didn’t think it was half bad. The only thing the trailers promised us was an action-packed monster movie, and that’s what it delivered. I wasn’t expecting much more than that, so I found myself somewhat entertained for the couple of hours I was in the theater.

The Mummy had its strengths and weaknesses, and considering Universal already has several movies lined up for their Dark Universe franchise, it’s important that they acknowledge what worked and what didn’t, and then learn from that.

Right off the bat, I think the Dark Universe needs to take a good, long look at its name and realize that it’s not trying to invoke the spirit of the Brendan Fraiser-led 1999 Mummy movie. It’s the Dark Universe for a reason. Fraiser’s film had its moments, but it was an action-adventure romp that relied heavily on the lead’s comedic talent, for which he was widely known.

I may be among the few, but I thought Tom Cruise was hilarious in the Mummy reboot — and that’s the problem. This film was much scarier and much more realistic than its predecessor. The humor took away from the sheer terror I felt at times when looking into Ahmanet’s double irises.

The horror aspect of the film is one of its biggest strengths (we can do so much more with CGI these days). This franchise was pitched as bringing about a resurgence of the classic monster movies that scared so many audiences back in the good ol’ days. Jake Johnson’s character felt at home as the slight comedic relief the movie needed, but some of Cruise’s lines, as funny as they were, felt out of place in such dire circumstances.

And I want to see those dire circumstances. I want to see more monsters. The movie is called The Mummy, not Tom Cruise, Again. The filmmakers did a good job setting up Ahmanet’s story, bringing her to life, and making her terrifying, but I still found myself wanting more. Cruise’s character wasn’t particularly likable, even in the end, so I didn’t care what happened to him. Ahmanet’s fight to secure her throne tugged on my heartstrings more than Nick’s desire to get rich quick and never live with the consequences of his actions.

The Mummy

I understand that putting the monster on screen for too long takes away some of the mystery and awe. You need to keep the audience wanting more. That said, I also want to know how this shared universe works. The monsters Universal is promising us after The Mummy (Jekyll, the Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bride of Frankenstein, Wolfman, and possibly more) all come from different origins. How do they co-exist in our world? I want a greater look into Perdigium and the collection of horrors Jekyll has come across.

Not only can the Dark Universe learn from what worked and didn’t work in The Mummy, but it can learn from Marvel’s success of building a shared universe. DC has struggled so much because it hasn’t taken the time to properly set up its characters. They’ve done far less work with origin stories than Marvel, and have suffered because of it.

Marvel knows how to maintain a shared universe. You must set a strong foundation and be patient as you bring in new elements to continue building the world you have envisioned. It sounds like the Dark Universe is attempting to make this model work for them, but they’ll have to be vigilant in monitoring the franchise, making adjustments here and there in order to constantly improve it.

What makes the MCU so fun is the various crossovers and Easter eggs. Given how The Mummy ended, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing several characters popping up in later movies. That’s what will get people coming back (as long as they enjoyed the previous installments). Giving Jekyll such a significant role in this movie will make him all that more interesting when we see him next because we are already invested in his story. It’s not a one-and-done; it’s a constant evolution of the characters and this universe.

The Mummy also did a good job of laying clues for what comes next and paying homage to what came before. Fans of the monster movie genre will certainly find far more nods in The Mummy than I did, but even those who don’t typically watch this kind of film will be hit over the head with the various artifacts seen in Perdigium.

Even that 1999 Mummy Easter egg was a welcome touch, and this is what shared universes are all about. It’s important to keep audiences searching for clues to the next installment.

Tom Cruise’s The Mummy was not the strong start Universal wanted it to be. However, the Dark Universe is not a lost cause just yet. If the studio and its filmmakers can find a way to get in touch with the genre’s roots, put the spotlight on the creatures everyone wants to see, and continue building up this shared universe, they might just find a way to turn this franchise into something notable.

What did you think of ‘The Mummy’ (2017)?

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