Universal’s monster universe entries designed to feel like standalone films

4 min read
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With Universal Studios’ plans to create a shared monster universe akin to the Marvel or DC cinematic universes, there were a lot of people who complained that the studio was simply just trying to cash in on a good idea. The truth though is that Universal has actually had a shared monster universe since the 1920s when silent films The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera were released. While they served as standalone films, the idea was for them to exist within the same world and over time there were a few crossover movies like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man or House of Frankenstein from the 60s.

I don’t expect you to have seen these movies though, as I certainly haven’t. So consider Universal’s attempt at creating this shared universe more of a reboot than an attempt to copy Marvel. Although, you can’t deny that the success of the Marvel universe is a big reason for this move by the studio.

Another thing which Universal wants to do with their universe is keep the focus on standalone movies, rather than worry about trying to make stories that consistently tie into the other. This comes as producer Chris Morgan, who is one of the key people putting this universe together for the studio, shared with Collider how the films would act as more standalone films than parts in a bigger narrative, unlike how Marvel and DC are doing with their films culminating in big Avengers and Justice League events:

We kind of designed them all to be kind of standalone sorts of franchises that have kind of similar things between them. And as the scripts came in, then we started putting them in a, ‘Well this would be a good order. We reveal this here’ so now it really comes down to, again, it’s a studio decision on which film is coming out next. Just with all the films we’re working on, Bride of Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, Invisible Man, and on and on and on, it’s a real embarrassment of riches in terms of awesome, fun characters. I always say it this way: I’m in my office right now and I’ve got a Werewolf head mounted on the wall. It’s pretty good to come into your office and—that’s what you’re working with, you’re working with monsters that are 80, almost 100 years old. There’s a real legacy, a real respect, the fact that this studio, I don’t think, would have lasted if it wasn’t for the monsters, it really built up.

This is good in my opinion as I would rather have a series of great movies that don’t quite tie into each other than a series of average movies that at least connect well into a larger narrative. The focus should be on telling the story of each monster properly and add small elements here and there to show that they all exist in a shared universe of some sorts.

Considering that you kind of want most monsters to be defeated in the end, it’s a little difficult to think of how all the movies would get a lot of sequels, though I have no doubt that we will be seeing many sequels with these monsters. Morgan went on to discuss how their approach using the monsters actually gives them a completely different edge than using the current approach of 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. 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.

What we’ve seen from The Mummy reboot so far looks amazing and if they can get that incredible vibe through all of their movies, then Universal has the potential hits on their hands.

Last Updated: April 11, 2017

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Craig Risi

A man of many talents, but no sense how to use them. I could be discovering the cure for aids or finding ways to achieve world peace, but I'd rather be watching movies and writing here instead.

  • Captain JJ

    We live in a time where remasters and greatest hits movies are the norm while no one seems to care for the lack of creativity.

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