Over the past few days, stories have been written (including on this website) about how Alex Kurtzman, the director of the new series The Man Who Fell to Earth, really feels about working on 2017's The Mummy in the wake of a new Bingeworthy podcast interviewing the director. Not a huge surprise, but he feels... not great about it!
Ultimately, it appears that the Dark Universe was doomed from the start, as executives and creatives clashed over the most basic of storytelling decisions. Kurtzman told Bingeworthy that “[The Mummy] was probably the biggest failure of my life, both personally and professionally. There are about a million things I regret about it… I didn’t become a director until I made that movie, and it wasn’t because it was well directed–it was because it wasn’t.” Star Tom Cruise was also allegedly at the helm of a lot of the film, even going so far as to tell Kurtzman how to direct, according to a report in Variety.
In a recent interview with Eric Heisserer (who was slated to take over Van Helsing if Universal’s Dark Universe had ever panned out) on the Playlist, Heirsserer dug into the chaos of the pitch meetings at Universal: “You had a lot of voices and none of them could agree on much. Much like when I’d visit my relatives for Thanksgiving and everyone’s arguing with each other.”
Look, I can’t believe I’m going to bat for a Tom Cruise action vehicle meant to jump start (yet another) massive franchise wherein distinct intellectual properties are tied together in a knot of Gordian proportions, but here I am. The Mummy wasn’t a bad film! It just didn’t make any money and suffered, as has been stated before, from a corporation’s eagerness to make money off other properties to the detriment of the story it was initially trying to tell.
If you cut out the info-dumpy scenes where Russell Crowe (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) introduces the Dark Universe to Tom Cruise (as Nick Morton), you have a tight 90-minute blockbuster that’s got decent effects, doesn’t try to be 1999's The Mummy, and brings a little bit of horror to the screen. I enjoy anything Jake Johnson does, I was content to watch Cruise do his thing, and I’ll admit it, I love to see Sofia Boutella win. And, to be honest, if the whole plot of the story is “a secret society of modern Crusaders gets its comeuppance after stealing one too many sacred artifacts”—like… that’s also not a bad throughline to follow.
The fact is that a film that financially flops doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad film. But when you’re Universal Pictures and you’ve got Cruise as the star? Maybe you take it a little personally. The Mummy was a bit of an odd choice for a modern reboot, considering how beloved the 1999 film is (not to mention the 1932 Boris Karloff original), but it stood on its own, barely even acknowledging the Brendan Fraser cult classic, which is probably for the best. This wasn’t nostalgia bait, and it really didn’t try to be. It was a blockbuster, and while heavy-handed, I don’t think it deserved the overwhelmingly harsh criticism it received from all sides. It was campy and it had conviction. What more do you want out of a creature feature?
Did I want to see the rest of the Dark Universe after coming out of The Mummy? No. I don’t particularly mourn the loss of Johnny Depp’s Invisible Man or a reboot of Van Helsing. (Pour one out for Karyn Kusama’s lost Mina Harker, though.) But would I have paid money to watch Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster? In a second. At least we have Nicolas Cage as Dracula to look forward to.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.