The New 'Mummy' Movie Is a Backdoor Pilot

Welcome to the Monsterverse.

The second trailer for the new Brendan Fraser-less Mummy reboot grabbed viewers’ attention with action-packed scenes of Sofia Boutella’s ancient Egyptian terror ruining Tom Cruise’s day. However, the most important part of the trailer was much more subtle. They don’t explicitly say this in the spot, but Russell Crowe is playing Dr. Henry Jekyll. That’s because The Mummy is just the first step in a plan for a sweeping shared “Monsterverse” featuring all of Universal’s Classic Monsters.

The original Mummy, starring Boris Karloff of Frankenstein and How the Grinch Stole Christmas fame, came out in 1932. It’s a good but surprisingly slow movie, and it bears very little resemblance to the upcoming 2017 reboot aside from the bare-bones plot: an ancient Egyptian mummy comes back to life and does bad stuff. At no point in the original does Dr. Jekyll make an appearance (nor does Mr. Hyde, for that matter). Universal is including him in the new Mummy to set the groundwork for an interconnected, genre-bending action-horror franchise.

Right now, The Mummy is the only movie in the series with a release date. Universal is also planning on an Invisible Man movie starring Johnny Depp, a Bride of Frankenstein film starring Javier Bardem as the Monster, as well as films about the Wolf Man, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and Van Helsing, to start. There aren’t a ton of firm details about any of these movies, but they all hinge upon The Mummy laying the groundwork — and not flopping at the box office.

It’s not the first time that Universal has made an expanded film Universe with its roster of monsters. Although the original films in the 1930s were standalone films, by the ‘40s they’d started to crossover. Frankenstein met the Wolf Man in 1943’s aptly named Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and the popular comedy duo Abbott and Costello would go on to meet just about every major monster in a series of comedy-horror flicks. Now, Universal’s trying to recapture that magic in the era of the shared Univers (thank/blame Marvel). It’s not organic, hence the Jekyll cameo in the latest Mummy trailer.

The Mummy needs to do more than just scare you. It needs to establish an entire world of monsters and make you want to go revisit it.

Hilariously, this isn’t the first time Universal’s tried to start a shared Monsterverse for the 21st Century. The 2014 film Dracula Untold was supposed to serve as the first installment in the new franchise, but Alex Kurtzman, director of The Mummy remake, says it’s no longer canon.

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