Somewhere in Bavaria, electricity crackles and dead synapses fire instantly back into life. Deep in the Amazon jungle, a loathsome gilled monstrosity emerges from the swamp and sets out on its reign of carnage. In rural England, a hideously bandaged man tries to hide from sight in the remote countryside.
Universal’s classic monsters are all returning to the big screen, and this time they will all be part of a single Marvel-style shared universe – with stars such as Johnny Depp (The Invisible Man), Tom Cruise (The Mummy) and Javier Bardem (Frankenstein) lined up to get their freak on. Here’s what we learned about the studio’s plans from the first trailer for the debut instalment, The Mummy.
The new Mummy is unearthed in the war-torn Middle East
Universal’s previous Mummy films, the classic 1932 version starring Boris Karloff and passable 1999 remake with Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser, centred on archaeologists whose unwise delvings unleashed the cursed Egyptian priest Imhotep back into the world. This time around, the setting is updated, with Sofia Boutella’s powerful undead creature apparently brought back as a result of current military conflicts in the Middle East. Whether the monster was unearthed by Islamic State or released into the world following the looting of ancient burial sites by other factions, we don’t yet know.
Cruise is the biggest beast in the new Universal monsters cinematic universe
Forget Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Invisible Man. This first look at The Mummy suggests Cruise is the only Hollywood behemoth in town. The debut trailer for Alex Kurtman’s movie seems to have the Top Gun star’s DNA built into its very fibre, the familiar blend of blitzkrieg action and shadowy intrigue instantly recalling the actor’s recent turns in Mission: Impossible films or alien attack movie Edge of Tomorrow. There is little of the gothic intimacy of the early Universal monster movies.
Russell Crowe’s Henry Jekyll is a Nick Fury figure
We all know what happened to the original Jekyll, but Crowe’s version looks a little different. Evidence suggests he’s the mysterious kingpin of this new world of supernatural awakenings, rather than the meddling overreacher of yore. Kurtzman says the doctor will be revealed as a member of a shadowy group known as Prodigium and may have attained some form of immortality. “He is really the central voice of that organisation. He’s dedicated a lot of his life resources and work to it,” the film-maker told IGN. “The question of how old he is, the question of how long he’s been around, that’s another conversation.”
Tom Cruise is a monster
Unless the trailer is playing tricks on us, Cruise’s Nick Morton appears to die when a flock of birds crashes into his military jet, then finds himself awakening, very much alive, in a morgue. What’s especially strange is that our hero doesn’t appear to be particularly surprised or upset by the experience: it’s as though this has happened many times before.
Kurtzman’s revelation in the IGN interview that Morton has his dark side – the director calls him a “bad man” – may shed some light on the matter. “Things happen to him in this movie that really test where he is on the morality scale,” says the director. “He starts at a zero. The question is, weirdly, by becoming a monster or moving into that territory, will he find his humanity?”
We’re no closer to understanding Universal’s more intimate monster stories
The Mummy, with its vision of all-powerful ancient monstrosities seeking to take back control of the world, looks like the perfect epic-scale opener for the studio’s new cinematic universe. But it remains to be seen how creatures such as Frankenstein’s monster and The Invisible Man – stories that are naturally rather more low-key – fit into the studio’s vision of ultra-modern, widescreen, world-straddling action adventure. Both seem to belong to a bygone age, when it was easier to believe in supernatural phenomena happening somewhere far, far away, in some rural idyll or mountainous European backwater.
The existence of Prodigium, and evidence in the trailer, suggests the freaks are coming out of the shadows, taking over our cities and wreaking havoc on humankind. Whether they remain quite so terrifying when seen in the full light of day will presumably determine whether Universal’s ambitious plan to resurrect its classic monsters sinks swiftly back into the hell whence it came or awakens – eyelids flickering into life, pulse racing anew – to mount a fresh assault on the global box office.
(via The Guardian)