Hollywood is pretty obsessed with cinematic universes at the moment, largely thanks to what Disney has been able to accomplish with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There's nothing quite like having a built in audience at the box office. Universal is currently trying to get in on the action with Dark Universe; a bunch of movies centered on classic movie monsters that will all tie together via A-list actors and a weird corporation headed up by Russell Crowe's Dr. Henry Jekyll. The Mummy officially kicked this Dark Universe off over the weekend and, safe to say, it probably didn't go as well as Universal had hoped it would.
Even with the power of Tom Cruise, The Mummy arrived with a thud at the domestic box office. The movie lost out to Wonder Woman, which was in its second frame over the weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, director Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy made a measly $32 million stateside. That is not the kind of number that seemingly justifies a lofty cinematic universe. Much of that has to do with the fact that the reviews for The Mummy were very poor. The movie currently has a dreadful 17 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an equally awful 45 percent audience score to go with it. Not looking good.
So, with all of that being said, is Universal hitting the panic button? Almost certainly not. And there are several reasons for that. For one, as bad as things are domestically for The Mummy, the movie is crushing internationally. It has already made $174 million worldwide and, even against a very steep $125 million production budget, that isn't too shabby. That means that The Mummy will probably still make some money for the studio, even if it is going to die a painful death at the domestic box office.
Now, that is not to say the lack of domestic box office and the bad reviews for The Mummy won't have an impact. Not only is there little interest in this movie out the gate, but if those who do go see it decide they didn't love it, who's to say they will show up for Bill Condon's Bride of Frankenstein in 2019? Granted, that will be a very different movie and is far enough away that Universal can distance it from The Mummy if need be. Building a cinematic universe is an experimental thing and The Mummy was the first part of that experiment. It didn't go as well as hoped, but that doesn't mean Dark Universe is doomed. Not by a long shot.
As long as The Mummy doesn't lose money for the studio, which it probably won't at this point, it was worth it to figure some things out. Look at the DC Extended Universe, for example. Despite success at the box office, both Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad bombed critically. But those divisive movies got us to Wonder Woman, which, interestingly enough, is what beat The Mummy at the box office over the weekend. Much of that has to do with the extremely positive reviews Wonder Woman is getting. It took a couple of less than perfect tries to get there, but we eventually got to Wonder Woman. The same thing can happen with Dark Universe and Universal has no reason to pull the plug just yet.
In fact, Universal has a few things that the MCU and the DCEU didn't have at the start; lots and lots big name talent. Besides Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, they already have Johnny Depp signed on to play the Invisible Man and Javier Bardem on to play Frankenstein's monster. There are also rumors that Angelina Jolie will play the Bride of Frankenstein, and Alex Kurtzman has a wishlist that includes Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence. With talent like that and a shining example of what not to do already out of the way in the form of The Mummy, Dark Universe could very well still be what we all want it to be. Even if it isn't, it is still happening. At least for a couple more movies.