All things considered, #Universal is having a rough time getting its Dark Universe franchise off the ground. Once Dracula Untold proved to be a dud, the studio hunkered down and spent the last three years determining how to move forward without causing any more damage. It seems that those three years weren't enough, as The Mummy, its first "official" entry into the series, scored a 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 5.8 out of 10 on IMDb, lower than Dracula's 23 percent and 6.3 out of 10.
Its measly $32 million opening spelled disaster, but overseas it fared much better, with $141 million, bringing it to a worldwide total of $174 million against a budget of $125 million. After two weeks in theaters, #TheMummy is considered to be a commercial success, scoring $68 million in North American theaters and $275 million from international markets for a total of $343 million.
Not only did it have a bigger opening than Untold, it's already out-grossed the vampire's domestic take of $56 million as well as it's global total of $217.1 million. Given the steady climb in its box office receipts, the monster flick could hit $100 million in North America by the end of the summer. These may not quite be the numbers Universal is hoping for, but it could be enough to motivate the studio to press on with its new cinematic universe.
As Universal moves forward, one wonders if Luke Evans's Dracula will be left in the dust. While Untold did get a critical beatdown, one thing that the majority of reviewers enjoyed was Evans's performance in the role. Also, the movie ended with #Dracula in the present day, leaving the door open for a possibility of his return, and that opportunity could come with a future #DarkUniverse movie.
Banking On The Bloodsucker
As it stands, the character of Dracula does not have a stake in the cinematic universe, as it's been stated multiple times that Untold is not recognized as canon. However, should the next few films prove to be successful, and Luke Evans opens up on reprising the role, then it would be a smart move for Universal to take back those statements.
For one thing, it gives the franchise a monetary boost. Even though the box office intake was nothing impressive, $217 million is still a financial gain as far as movie sagas go. Probably the main issue that Universal had was that the studio was expecting it to be a huge hit. However, at the time the movie came out, it was competing against Gone Girl, a critically-acclaimed Ben Affleck movie that was entering its second weekend. The weeks that followed featured: Fury, John Wick, Nightcrawler, Interstellar, Big Hero 6, Mockingjay Part 1, and a plethora of other movies.
Also, audiences are a bit more conservative with their money when it comes to the fall movie season, and when they saw the negative reviews, fans turned their heads towards films with more positive receptions.
Universal wasn't prepared for this, the studio figured that the iconic character would be enough to launch the franchise into the stratosphere, and given the response after the film's run, either Universal's expectations were too high, or the studio was too cocky about the movie's success. One thing is for sure: Universal is lucky that its latest attempt to get the franchise going has worked, because its put way too much emphasis on its importance to the Dark Universe to disown it.
Post-Mummy Success: Building An Audience
Now that the franchise is up and running, Universal is boldly moving forward with its plans. The studio recently announced that Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame will be a part of the universe. However, the next film, Bride of Frankenstein, isn't scheduled to hit theaters until February 14, 2019.
One could argue that not every cinematic universe needs to start pumping out movies every year as soon as possible. After all, it took three years for DC to follow up Man of Steel with Batman V Superman, and Marvel didn't produce yearly entries until after Iron Man 2. But what made these other two universes thrive was that there was a pre-existing audience for these movies — the comic book fans. What got people excited for these movies was the prospect of their favorite characters sharing the big screen, a feat that had never been done before, and that anticipation spread among non-comic book readers.
Not only that, but superheroes were also pop culture icons that had gone through a bit of a rough patch, with movies such as Daredevil, Superman Returns, and Ang Lee's Hulk. Thanks to the first Iron Man movie (plus the only standalone Incredible Hulk in the MCU), there was a bit of a superhero renaissance building in Hollywood. With monster movies, it's a different story.
While Universal Monsters have been a staple of the #horror genre, there never really was a demand for a modern-day reboot set in a shared universe. Although some past remakes proved to be successful — most notably Brandon Fraser's Mummy trilogy — they never attained the amount of fans that would birth the idea of a new franchise. The notion may have been for the Tom Cruise Mummy to attract and build up a potential fanbase, but since the movie didn't sit well with audiences, the question becomes: Where does the franchise go from here?
Universal tried to be edgy and different by giving the mummy an origin story, but what they need to realize is that monsters aren't superheroes; they don't fit in big-budgeted action flicks with extravagant plots and special effects; they're small-scale stories that deal with the themes of fear and macabre.
The Future Of The Character
Dracula is a popular icon among horror fans, but, as demonstrated through Untold, people won't come if the character isn't given the proper onscreen treatment. According to director Alex Kurtzman, there are plans for a different version of the character that strays away from the Luke Evans version, although he gave his performance high praise:
"I think he's brilliant — he can do anything. We have a plan for Dracula that may be a little different than the kind of story that was told in Dracula Untold. So, anything's possible, but I think we have a slightly different idea for Dracula in mind."
Currently, there is a Dracula film in development, but not so much as a peep on an actor, director, or even a writer. It shouldn't be cause for worry as it is slated as the eighth film in the line-up, which means they'll be plenty of time for Universal to find the right people for the right jobs. Assuming that this whole franchise doesn't crash and burn after a string of bad films, we will eventually see how the legendary vampire is handled in the Dark Universe.
What are your thoughts on the Dark Universe? How would you like to see the character of Dracula be handled? Sound off in the comments below!
(Source: Digital Spy)