For those living under a rock, cinematic universes are all the rage lately as the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe specifically has studios looking for the next big extended series of connected films to cash in on. Probably the most promising so far outside of the Marvel and DC comic-themed universes is Universal Pictures’ “Monster” Universe which the studio has now labeled the “Dark Universe”, releasing a unique universe-wide trailer announcing their extended project just in time for their upcoming first installment in the series, “The Mummy”.
The Universal Monsters’ Universe was first conceived in 2014 with the release of “Dracula: Untold” which saw numerous re-shoots with plans to tie the titular character into the upcoming “The Mummy” film. Since then however “The Mummy”, which will not be connected in any way to the popular Brandon Fraser-led trilogy, has been announced as the true first film in the universe, which at the time held the Universal Monster-verse name. The mummy character first gained major popularity in 1932 with Boris Karloff in the lead role and was part of a series of iconic monster films that helped legitimize and popularize the horror genre. The mummy will be the first official monster from Universal to see a universe-based theatrical treatment as “Dracula: Untold” will now stand as a film on its own without being included in the universe, meaning Dracula and other monsters will see reboots in the coming years that will all be connected by intertwining details and story lines.
The trailer released by Universal Pictures on Monday, May 22 is a very unique marketing tactic as it’s the first trailer to announce a full-fledged universe while other cinematic universes were revealed or conceived after the first film, the most popular reveal being the post-credits scene of “Iron Man” in 2008. The trailer makes an immediate bold statement. “Look…look and wonder. I shall awaken memories of terror and triumph. Of love and crime and death,” a voiceover says, a direct audio quote from “The Mummy” in 1932 chosen likely due to it’s perfect description of what Universal has in store for its franchise and because, as I already discussed, “The Mummy” will be the first film to be rebooted for the series.
The trailer includes clips from countless classic Universal Monster films as it delves into the nostalgias that is the horror legacy Universal has achieved as a pioneer of the genre over the years. The studio owns the rights to many of cinema’s most iconic horror creatures including, of course, the mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, monster hunter Van Helsing and many more characters associated with these famous monsters. So far plans are in the works for all of these characters, as well as the Bride of Frankenstein, to be featured in upcoming films. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will also be a part of the universe as a connecting individual between the films and possibly a foil to the monsters as a whole, assuming Universal wants to explore a more superhuman oriented universe.
The Dark Universe trailer promises to take “the superstition of yesterday can become the reality of today” capped off by a toast quoted from the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein”, “to a new world of gods and monsters,” a direct toast to the viewer welcoming them to the next generation of horror. This appears to be the tagline Universal will carry through the franchise as it has been used in some form in advertising for “The Mummy”. Universal is upping the anti with this surprise trailer because it really is a new and unique way to get fans hyped to see the universe play out. It promises to bring these iconic monsters to life on a much more epic scale, harkening back to their legendary origins a remind us all why Universal is so beloved as a film company in the first place. They’ve had a lot of successes, but it was these monster films that established the studio’s legacy.
The Dark Universe will be an interesting experiment for Universal Pictures. Thus far we have seen three cinematic “universes” really take off, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, DC’s troubled DC Extended Universe, and Legendary’s Legendary Monsterverse, which includes Godzilla and King Kong. The Dark Universe could be the fourth major franchise universe to take advantage of a relatively new filmmaker tactic that creates big-budget film series and ties them together as one. Gone are the days where a single centric character was required to tie films together. We are seeing a new age of film where numerous individual characters and heros come together for a common goal. I for one am rather excited to see what this universe has to offer. “The Mummy” looks to be a promising first entry in the franchise, already foreshadowing a very unique take on the traditional mummy monster of legend. Universal has a lot riding on this venture. We shall see if they can live up to the hype they are trying to build in bringing some of the most legendary horror properties of all time to life once again.
Watch the announcement trailer for the Dark Universe below and let me know what you think of this new potential horror franchise. “The Mummy” will kick of the Dark Universe when it hits theaters on June 9.