Universal is, in many ways, the house that horror built, so it is little wonder they view their various famous monster properties as some of the key assets for them as a studio. I am not remotely shocked to learn that they are interested in rebooting “The Mummy.” After all, the most recent incarnation has already spawned two sequels and at least two spinoff films, and at this point, it would be preposterously expensive for them to try to get Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz back to play their characters again.
Instead, it looks like they’re headed in a very different direction with the film, and if they want to freak out film fans, they’ve certainly made the right choice. Len Wiseman is reportedly the choice the studio has made, and while I understand the reasoning on the level of “he’s made films of a certain budget in the past and is capable of managing a big-budget movie,” I would be hard-pressed to believe that there are any hardcore Wiseman fans. The “Underworld” series is profitable enough to support however many movies they’ve made so far, but I don’t get the feeling they’re particularly well-liked. A quick survey of audiences after the release of “Total Recall” this summer probably wouldn’t yield many people able to mount more than a passing defense, and while I was kinder than most, I would also say that Wiseman has yet to really prove that he can develop a script to the point where it really lives and breathes. His movies feel like the description of a movie I should like, but there’s something missing. He makes Real Doll movies. They’re synthetic, and while they look like movies, they don’t satisfy in the way a real film does. I’d love for him to prove me wrong, too.
That’s not to say he can’t do it. It starts with the script and it sounds like Universal has Jon Spaihts working on it. I like Spaihts, and I think “Passengers” is one of those scripts that some smart director is going to nail someday. In fact, I’d rather see a studio give Wiseman the “Passengers” script and have him shoot that. I’ll bet he’d make it look marvelous, and with the right cast, it’s pretty much foolproof. “The Mummy,” on the other hand, is one of those things that can pretty much be anything, and that’s a little scary in terms of what the audience expects or wants. The Stephen Sommers movies were ’30s adventure movies that owed more to the Indiana Jones movies than the Boris Karloff movie of the actual ’30s. After all, a movie made in 1932 isn’t a period film if it’s set in 1932. But when they made the movie in 1999, that’s exactly what the charm of it was. It sounds like this new take, according to Michael Fleming, is going to be set modern-day, which immediately makes it a very different thing than what Sommers did.
Also, giving Spaihts full credit for the take seems wrong, since it sounds like Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman came up with the basic approach to the film and pitched it to Wiseman and Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks, who have been producing the films since 1999. Whatever Spaihts is writing, he’s doing so with a lot of other voices in the mix. There’s a lot of marketing speak in the quotes in Fleming’s piece, but I always want to believe that they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. When there are quotes about “creating mythology,” that’s certainly a big goal, and I hope they are doing something smart and fun with it. I would love for them to get it right. Here’s the quote that closes the piece, from Wiseman.
“One of the things that interested me with this mummy is, he’s still in essence a man. They haven’t turned his brain into a monster brain. He still has a personality and is very cunning and calculating. He’s a true character in any form and in creature form, even if he is that staggering creature, it becomes more important that he’s a thinking calculating person.”
I don’t know what i think about that description. It all depends on tone. Is he a serious monster? Is he sympathetic? Is he pure evil? What does he want? Revenge? To rule? It almost goes without saying that there are other properties Universal could get serious about that are part of the Universal Monsters world, and the Blu-ray box set that’s coming out very soon is an important part of keeping the characters active in the minds of viewers of all ages.
We’ll see if they can get this thing made and released to theaters by Summer 2014, which appears to be the current plan.