Is Evan’s Dracula told already?
In summer of 2014, Universal announced plans to reboot their famous Universal Monsters. Technically, their previous shared universe (which might actually have been the first of its kind in movie history) only included the characters of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Ygor, and of course – the comedy duo of Abbott and Costello. These two goofs went on to add more monsters to the mix, especially the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon (in a TV sketch), and Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde. Most recent box sets also include the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera.
Now, when Universal announced their exciting plans for a new shared movie universe, their own Dracula Untold had already been made. The announcement lead to quick last minute reshoots to add an unnecessary epilogue. It lazily makes sure to show that Luke Evans’s Dracula is still alive in present day. Why did they do that? As all of the other Universal Monsterverse movies are expected to take place in the present (ugh), they wanted to make sure everyone got the connection. Dracula was ready to meet a new Mummy to be directed by Alex Kurtzman, to be overseen by Chris Morgan, and to be written by Jon Spaihts.
Except that that might no longer happen.
The Kurtzman Mummy is still on, but Luke Evans’s version of Dracula might no longer be part of the deal. Collider sat down with Kurtzman and went on to write that the upcoming Mummy remake is seen as the very first instalment. Which probably means that they’ll ignore Dracula Untold and just silently reboot Dracula once again themselves. Why would they do that? Dracula Untold wasn’t a failure, but didn’t exactly make tentpole numbers ($200 million worldwide on a $70 million budget). That means they’re looking for bigger numbers, right? Wait, they really shouldn’t, but I’ll come back to that.
They’re promising to respect the horror in “legendary horror icons”
Kurtzman openly promises that each of the movies will respect the horror origins of the specific character and not just be a full blown action adventure summer blockbuster. But is that really the truth? Here are a few good reasons why they might actually do those horror icons justice:
1. Universal has had an incredible record year, and with more Jurassic Park, Pitch Perfect, Minions, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Furious coming up, they can easily restart their Universal Monsters shared universe without any pressure. They could just make classy, quality horror movies that don’t really win weekends, but add to their company image and legacy.
2. Dracula Untold wasn’t big, and both LXG and Van Helsing weren’t either. Maybe the majority just isn’t interested in action versions of these characters.
Now what might be reasons for a broad, commercial take instead?
1. The previous action version trilogy of the Mummy grossed over a billion worldwide. Who wouldn’t try to resurrect that? Also, that 1999 version is so successful that it continues to have successful dtv spin-offs to this day.
2. You know what’s better than ungodly amounts of money? More money.
3. The previous dark versions of both The Wolf Man (The Wolfman) and The Invisible Man (Hollow Man) didn’t succeed big time already, and if you look at similar movies, both From Hell and Sleepy Hollow failed at becoming huge blockbusters as well. Wait, what about the similar Underworld movies, you might say. These bad boys only grossed fragments of what Dracula Untold made, but aside from their last entry all of them cost considerably less to make, creating solid hits.
Guys, just keep the pressure down
I know, it’s the director of People Like Us and if his first instalment turns out to be really bad, I certainly won’t keep defending the future of that very shared universe. It’s just that I really like the idea of a resurrected Universal Monsterverse and I think that even if one of those movies fails to succeed, another director could continue in interesting ways. I’m not saying that The Incredible Hulk is a bad movie, but if they had stopped there we wouldn’t have gotten to Guardians of the Galaxy.
They didn’t outright say it, but I really hope they don’t just ignore Dracula Untold because of its box office numbers. They can’t actually expect to reach higher numbers. No matter how the new Mummy turns out to be (and some say the current script reads like The Pyramid Part 2), it won’t reach much higher. Unless your horror movie involves gorgeous space travel in 3D (Prometheus) it absolutely needs to be a light action adventure with only the slightest bits of horror elements, and if they’re going for the Fraser / Vosloo audience, they should just say so and stop promising quality horror.
It might turn out like Platinum Dunes’s stint with Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface. One or two movies in, then stopping because none of them rakes in $500 million dollars or more.