As Doc Brown might inflect, 'That is some pretty mediocre photographic fakery!' No, they didn't cut off Johnny Depp's hair. But as we're learning today in a scathing report against Tom Cruise and the production of The Mummy, the image that Universal Pictures sent out to announce their monsters franchise Dark Universe is a fake. A fairly decent one, but it's still not real.
Variety's report on The Mummy is a blistering take down of Tom Cruise and his dictatorship like ways when it comes to making any movie. Apparently he's a micro-manager who basically directed the first entry in the Dark Universe himself, always looming over director Alex Kurtzman's shoulder, telling him what to do at every turn. He had full artistic control over the project, if we're to believe the report. It sounds like Universal knew they were in trouble, and as a last ditch effort to get some eyes on this prize, they decided to make their bold Dark Universe announcement to help usher The Mummy into theaters.
Problem was, it was a rushed job. According to Variety, Universal knew it would be competing against Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 this summer, which had a built in audience from not only the previous movie being such a hit, but the entirety of the MCU never seeming to do anything wrong. And as Wonder Woman started to make its way towards opening night, critical praise was overwhelmingly positive. The Mummy was tracking very poorly, so Universal went ahead with their big Dark Universe announcement to get more people interested.
The announcement confirmed that Johnny Depp will be playing the Invisible Man. And long rumored Javier Bardem has officially signed onto play Frankenstein's monster. But as the studio scrambled to get this all together, they discovered that it was impossible to get all the heavy hitters together in the same room. So, the photo, which you can see below, had to be cobbled together from existing photos of the actors involved, which include Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp and Sofia Boutella. It was all done in a rush. All in all, the photo doesn't look too bad.
No harm no foul, really. Except that it shows just how desperate Universal was in their last ditch marketing efforts. The fake photo isn't as scandalous as faking the moon landing. And photoshopped images are common place. Problem here was this image was supposed to represent the solidarity amongst the team players. One that doesn't entirely exist. It's not the worst thing a studio has done in a hurry. But it's an interesting side note for the history of this Monsters franchise, which could be doomed depending on how audiences react to Bride of Frankenstein in the coming years, with the movie set to hit theaters in 2019, which is two years out.
While Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe should have been a major selling point for The Mummy, Variety notes that the big names who once ruled Hollywood just aren't inspiring the same type of love from younger audiences. And older audiences are sick of reboots and sequels of movies that haven't been absent from theaters that long.
While The Mummy tanked at the domestic box office, losing out to Wonder Woman, which enjoyed a healthy second weekend in release, the movie has been winning over international audiences. The domestic gross currently sits at $38.1 million. The Foreign market has won $140.7 million. And the worldwide tally currently sits at $178.9 million. All this against a $125 million budget. So it's made its money back. And Dark Universe will carry on for the time being. But success in the U.S. is tantamount to keeping any American franchise afloat. If America doesn't want it, the budgets will dwindle, and the stars will fade, and it's possible that low budget horror mavens Blumhouse could take over the entire operation. Blumhouse already has plans to make a few smaller movies held with in the Dark Universe, so it will be interesting in the long run to watch this all play out. Here's that Dark Universe photo that launched The Mummy. Are these real actors? Or Wax statues on loan from Madame Tussaud's? You decide.