Our Worst Fears Realized; They’re Turning the Universal Monsters Into Superheroes
A few days ago, we published an earnest plea for Universal to not turn their classic monsters into superheroes as part of their grand plan to rebuild the brand. After all, the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man have no business aping the Marvel “shared universe” structure in the first place. They're monsters! Let them monster! Any of our well-intentioned blogging-into-the-wind was too little, too late because the head of Universal has pretty much come and out said that they're taking the horror out of their horror icons.
As part of a larger discussion over at the Hollywood Reporter, Universal's Donna Langley threw up her hands and admitted that they've given up trying to honor what the Universal monsters are and are going to start reshaping them to fit modern tastes. Here's her exact quote for context:
We don’t have any capes [in our film library]. But what we do have is an incredible legacy and history with the monster characters. We’ve tried over the years to make monster movies — unsuccessfully, actually. So, we took a good, hard look at it, and we settled upon an idea, which is to take it out of the horror genre, put it more in the action-adventure genre and make it present day, bringing these incredibly rich and complex characters into present day and reimagine them and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience.
She's right on one level. 2010's ‘The Wolfman’ was a disaster, a bloated flop that had its heart in the right place but fell apart thanks to a production where everything that could go wrong went wrong. However, ‘The Wolfman’ was also a $150 million movie. Why Universal thinks that making bigger, more epic, action-oriented versions of these characters will fix that is baffling. Shouldn't the lesson learned here have been to start making $60 million horror movies instead of $200 million action movies? Universal also seems to have forgotten the failure that was ‘Van Helsing,’ which attempted to do exactly what Langley is describing and the results weren't pretty.
The big question for Universal is whether or not audiences are going to respond to these characters in a superhero movie context. It's a formula that did work for ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The Mummy Returns,’ but that was a long time ago. In all honesty, it feels like they're grasping at straws. They literally have no idea what to do with these characters but don't want to continue sitting on them while other recognizable names are being rebooted and re-imagined to great box office success. Their desperation is understandable, but this is their history on the line. Despite ‘Van Helsing’ and ‘The Wolfman,’ the studio has generally treated their monsters with great care. It'll be shame to see them botch their legacy just to get a taste of that sweet ‘Avengers’ cash.
Right now, the reboot of ‘The Mummy’ is getting ready to begin filming and new versions of ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘Van Helsing’ are not far behind. We'll hope for the best.