Universal is proud of its monsters – from the classic horror pictures with Boris Karloff and Claude Rains to recent reboots with Hugh Jackman and Brendan Fraser. The original THE MUMMY first rose from his tomb in 1932 and over the course of two decades the studio got several instalments out of the tightly-wrapped menace. That ended with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY in 1955 before writer/director Stephan Sommers created an Indiana Jones-inspired series in 1999 that saw DARKMAN star Arnold Vosloo take the title role.
That franchise ended with the belated whimper of THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR by which time Sommers had jumped ship. UNDERWORLD’s Len Wiseman was attached to a revival, but when he bailed also MAMA director Andy Muschietti came aboard. Like Wiseman he was lured by the prospect of bringing the character back with a darker angle but now he too has opted to close the sarcophagus. It’s thought this is due to Universal wanting to take things in a more family-oriented direction, so it could be a case of “I hate Mummies!” all over again.
It’s not a great sign when two directors of differing styles abandon a project, but when two of the producers – Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) – split up also you can’t help but wonder if some variety of ancient curse is at work. I should point out that the Kurtzman/Orci separation is unrelated to Muschietti’s and they will continue to work together, just not on movie productions.
The new script for THE MUMMY is by Jon Spaihts (PROMETHEUS) and relocates the scenario to modern day. How will an ancient Egyptian priest fare in the 21st century? It could well be the subject for a comedy, but Universal are banking audiences will be petrified enough for a new wave of creature features – another version of VAN HELSING is planned, the last of which showcased a maniacal multi-pack of Dracula, Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.
It’s a gamble to see if such traditional fare can compete with the likes of INSIDIOUS and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. 2010′s THE WOLFMAN with Benicio del Toro was a great homage to the golden era but was generally a disappointment. With the spectre of DRACULA 2000 looming from the bargain bin of the DVD shop, the modernized Mummy has some big, bandagey shoes to fill.