There’s going to be a whole new cinematic universe this summer when The Mummy shambles out of its tomb and into theaters, but the filmmakers say the “Monsterverse” is going to be very different from the big superhero franchises that currently dominate screens. At least, that’s what the producer claims, but he might be selling superhero movies a little short.
While speaking to Collider, producer Chris Morgan (who is perhaps best known for writing the last several Fast and Furious movies) explained that audiences can connect with Universal’s classic monsters in a way that they can’t with heroes.
“We live in a world of superhero movies now—and by the way, I love them and I see them all and I have a great time, but I can’t identify with them as closely as I want to because I know I’ll never be perfect like that,” Morgan said. “Whereas the monster movies are saying that everybody has darkness in them, everyone has secrets and things they are ashamed of and don’t want to say or something that feels monstrous and dangerous about them. We’re just kind of embracing that and saying, ‘That’s ok.’”
Morgan’s making an interesting point, but he makes a few assumptions and oversimplifies the issue. The Mummy looks like a pretty fun action movie starring Tom Cruise, but based on the first couple trailers, Sofia Boutella’s city-destroying, four-eyed mummy doesn’t seem that easy to empathize with. Her character will no doubt be (literally and figuratively) fleshed-out in the final film, but assuming that an audience will connect with characters in a film is anything but a given.
Morgan also paints superhero movies with a bit of a broad brush. Famously, one of the reasons Marvel comics took off in the company’s early days is because their younger characters, like Spider-Man, were relatable in a way that DC’s godlike heroes were not. Spider-Man wasn’t much older than his target audience, and, heck, his entire origin story is about having great power and majorly fucking up when it comes to “great responsibility.” The Thing from the Fantastic Four gets transformed into a literal rock monster, and he harbors a little resentment. DC’s heroes have, over time, gained additional dimensions as well.
Some of the best superhero stories involve the characters coming to terms with their failings, and Marvel movies have been pretty good at this. Spider-Man: Homecoming seems to center around Peter’s insecurity and another one of his mistakes, while Iron Man’s character has been driven by atonement since the beginning, for the most part. Morgan’s certainly right in that, at the end of the day, these characters are heroes. They’re ultimately good people to look up to, yes, but they’re only better in that they’re “superpowered.” They’re not perfect.
Monsters, meanwhile, also have fantastic powers and rich inner turmoil. The only difference is that they’re evil, victims, or both. In that case, the only real difference between the Monsterverse and the MCU is that the former is pessimistic, while the later is optimistic. And, frankly, the DC Extended Universe is already pretty pessimistic.