I’ve recently became interested in the films of Pre-Code Hollywood, particularly with horror movies. Those about Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and others. With the first three characters they have even made mash-up movies, which were pretty much successful. And only recently I have found out that Universal Studios is planning to start a new series of films, and not just series, but a whole new universe, shared by Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy and characters listed above, with the exception of Mr. Hyde.
What was more surprising for me is that they already launched the Universe two years ago, in 2014, with Dracula Untold. You can already see what movies are planned, with only two having release dates settled: The Mummy (2017) and to-be-titled Wolf Man film (2018). The other planned movies (all to-be-titled) are: Van Helsing, Creature from Black Lagoon, Bride of Frankenstein (Angelina Jolie looked for title role), The Invisible Man (Johnny Depp looked for title role). Tom Cruise will be featured in both The Mummy and Van Helsing films.
But there are pitfalls the producers must be aware of. With the existing and expanding Universes of Marvel, DC, Star Wars and Transformers, building another Cinematic Universe might not be the best idea. The creation of so many Universes will split the attention of the viewers and, as a result, drop in incomes – which will affect all studios. The viewers wouldn’t be too happy with having to memorize tons of information about plots and twists of each film and general universe plot.
If they are to build a Universe, it must be finite. We’ve got to see where the end, be it 10 or 15 years from now. It must feature finite amount of characters – all those listed are enough. Universal shouldn’t go on expanding the cast, like Marvel did in the second phase and like it’s going to do in the third phase. In the former the number of Avengers increased from six to eleven (not counting the Guardians), and it will increase in the latter to almost twenty (not counting the Inhumans), and not counting supporting characters in each upcoming solo movie. A very unstable situation is developing – the cast is growing, there may not be enough actors for every new Universe. If the actors will go from one Universe to another, it will just add more misunderstanding.
Another good idea for Universal would be to stay away from the origins – Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man – those characters are just too well known for them to start every reboot with an origin story. Catching them right in the midst of action would be a better and more peculiar start.
The advantage of UMCU would be the genre – MCU and DCEU are of super-hero, Transformers – action, Star Wars – Space Opera. Universal Monsters – horror. It is very important not to loose this string – that’s what will make UMCU unique.
Overall, I’m looking forward to see the story play out with Dracula, Mummy and Wolf Man as the closest to release.