Universal Studios really, really wants to revive its Classic Monsters franchise for a new generation of entertainment fans. It tried to relaunch those characters within a "Dark Universe" franchise, but its kick-off film bombed with audiences and critics. So Universal is trying again, this time turning to one of the hottest names in horror.
Jason Blum will co-produce a reboot of The Invisible Man with Upgrade and Insidious: Chapter 3 director Leigh Whannell, Variety reported today. Blumhouse has become a leader in the horror genre and a staple at Universal's annual Halloween Horror Nights on both coasts.
Universal planned to unite its Classic Monsters in a Marvel-like cinematic universe, but the studio abandoned that course after the 2017 film The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, lost millions and failed to generate adequate fan enthusiasm for the project. This time, Variety said, Universal is trying a more open approach toward reviving its original franchises.
"We are excited to take a more individualized approach for their return to screen, shepherded by creators who have stories they are passionate to tell with them," Variety quoted Universal's president of production, Peter Cramer. Individual movies no longer will have to tie into a common story arc that unites all the monsters.
Here's the lesson: Great entertainment franchises cannot be reduced to industrial products. Yes, big businesses spend millions of dollars to develop and promote them, but all that industrial planning cannot save a franchise that does not resonate with audiences. At their heart, an entertainment franchise must offer some spark of art that makes people want to care about it.
...And spend their money on movie tickets, merchandise, and theme park visits, of course.
The Mummy had the weight and power of Universal Studios behind it, but it didn't offer that creative spark that touched audiences. Universal needs to find the notes that resonate with the audiences... before even thinking about orchestrating the chords that bring those notes together. If that means turning directors loose to explore these characters and their stories in fresh ways, so be it.
But let's take a moment to appreciate Marvel's Kevin Feige. Universal and Warner Bros. jumped to order the Dark Universe and the DC Extended Universe because Feige made what Marvel accomplished look so easy. Turns out, this stuff is hard. Feige's work to guide a coherent meta-story for Marvel while allowing directors enough freedom to engage audiences with their stories represents one of the great creative accomplishments in cinema history.
Truth is, though, that Marvel didn't create the Marvel Cinematic Universe right away. It took years and multiple projects at several studios before Feige and Marvel could bring the MCU to life. DC endured several turkeys before it found directors who could connect with audiences, and Universal may end up needing several go's at it before it can revive its Classic Monsters successfully, as well.
A revived Classic Monsters franchise could provide fertile creative ground for new theme park attractions, especially as Universal looks to add at gate at the Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Hollywood devoted one of its Halloween Horror Nights mazes to the Monsters last year, providing a taste of what Universal might be some day do with these characters, given a bigger budget, a permanent installation... and a beloved new movie franchise to make fans want to visit them in the parks.Tweet
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