The 10 New Things You Need to Know About ‘The Mummy’

There’s a remake of The Mummy coming out on June 9, 2017, but it’s more than just another horror remake. This film is an ambitious, potentially blockbuster thriller that sets up a whole new world of gods and monsters. It’s the first in what could be a long line of interconnected “Universal Monsters” movies, which will eventually reintroduce the world to the iconic motion picture versions of the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Invisible Man and more.

That’s one heck of a giant undertaking, and to kick it all off, Universal selected Alex Kurtzman as the director of The Mummy. It’s Kurtzman’s biggest directorial effort to date (he previously helmed the 2012 dramedy People Like Us), but he’s no stranger to blockbusters. He’s co-written Star Trek and Stark Trek Into Darkness and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, to name a few, and he seems ready to step into the big leagues behind the camera as well.

The trailer for The Mummy just debuted just a few minutes ago online, but a select few members of the press were given a sneak preview earlier this week, and we also had some time to pick Alex Kurtzman’s brain about this trailer – or as I have coined it, a “teasler” – as well as the film we’re about to see, and what’s to come in the Universal Monsters universe.

It was a very long conversation, so let’s break it down into bullet points. Here are the ten things you need to know about The Mummy!

Tom Cruise is Dead Because He Needed a Challenge.

Making a monster movie with a renowned action hero like Tom Cruise in the leading role brings with it a whole series of challenges, and one of the the most important things for Alex Kurtzman to do was create threats for the actor that would surprise audiences. Did you notice that Tom Cruise screams in terror in the new trailer? That’s not something you see in a lot of Tom Cruise movies.

According to Kurtzman, “When we were developing the script and I knew that Tom was going to do the movie, the first thing that we talked about was, I said, ‘Listen…’ I’d worked with Tom on Mission [Impossible] III, and I said, ‘I have 30-plus years of embedded ‘Tom Cruise is going to save the day’ in my experience and my relationship to you, as an actor. And the problem is in a monster movie, the scariest monster movies are the ones where the protagonist starts to feel very out of control. So how am I going to believe that you’re really out of control, because I know you’re going to save the day, you know?'”

“And what we came to is the idea that if you present him as somebody who thinks he knows what’s going on and then you throw the craziest thing at him in the world, which is ‘Oh shit, he dies and then comes back up in that morgue,’ now I go, ‘Okay, he doesn’t know what he’s into, I don’t know what he’s into, I don’t know that he’s going to save the day.’ And everything became very unpredictable at that point. So in terms of what I want the conversation to be about there, it’s interesting you said ‘Oh my god, I’ve never heard Tom scream in fear before.’ That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. He’s never been in that position before.”


Tom Cruise May or May Not Be ‘The Mummy’ 

That plot point, where Tom Cruise’s character comes back to life, raises another question about the franchise. What if he’s “The Mummy” of the title?

I asked Alex Kurtzman point blank. His response was, “Great question” followed by a long pause, and then a segue into another reporter’s question.

Hmmm… makes you wonder. Or maybe he’s just allowing me to speculate wildly in order to add to the film’s mystique. Either way, it’s fun to think about.


Dr. Henry Jekyll is in The Mummy for a Reason.

Russell Crowe turns up in the trailer as Dr. Henry Jekyll, whom fans of the horror genre (or anyone with even a vague awareness of it) probably know eventually turns into the monstrous Mr. Hyde. When we meet him in The Mummy he’s in charge of an organization that deals with monsters, and it does seem as though he might be showing his sinister side before the end of the film.

But why not save Dr. Jekyll for his own movie? Why start the crossover right here, right now, with this character? Alex Kurtzman has the answers…

“In looking to figure out how to place The Mummy in a larger context and setting up this organization that has actually been dealing with monsters for longer than any of us have been around, it became clear that we needed somebody to be the voice of that organization,”

Alex Kurtzman says. “The next thought was like, ‘Well, it could be Joe Mcgillicuddy, or we could actually go into another character that makes sense organically.'”

“It was a real point of conversation with Tom [Cruise]. If we’re going to bring in Henry Jekyll, how is bringing Henry Jekyll into the mummy story not a detractor from the mummy story? How does Henry Jekyll become part of this story in an organic way? And part of what Tom’s character, Nick, learns about the mummy and about the history of the mummy comes through Jekyll’s very deep understanding of monsters and how monsters have existing quietly in this world for eons.”


DraculaFrankenstein and the Other Universal Monster Stories Don’t Exist.

When the protagonist of The Mummy meets the mummy herself, or even meets Dr. Henry Jekyll, he doesn’t ever say that he’s heard of them before, or read a book about them, or seen one of a hundred movies that have already told their stories. Does that mean that, in the context of the new Universal Monsters franchise, none of those stories have been told yet?

“That’s funny, people ask me the same question on Sleepy Hollow [the tv series] about Ichabod Crane, and no,” Alex Kurtzman clarifies. “I would say no. These characters do not exist as characters in novels or in films, let’s say. They are in their own universe, so these are real people in the real world.”

Which raises the question of what horror movies are like in the “real world” of the Universal Monsters movies, if Dracula and Frankenstein and all the other monsters never existed in fiction, but that’s either another story for another time or a WAY too geeky thing to think about right now. In any case, don’t expect anybody to reference the other movies or books in The Mummy or any of the other films.


The Mummy is Now, and Always Has Been, a Romance.

The new trailer obviously has a ton of action but the original Boris Karloff version was more of a doomed supernatural romance than a straightforward thriller, and even the swashbuckler 1999 reboot by Stephen Sommers kept that subplot as a driving factor. And yes, Alex Kurtzman’s version of The Mummy will follow in that tradition.

Mummy movies are about romance. They are. And they started that way, and if you look at the evolution of them it’s always about that. Imhotep, the original Karloff mummy, that was a love story. In fact they borrowed from them and paid homage to it in the ’99 movie. It was about, ‘I’m in love with the pharaoh’s wife, we’re having a secret affair, I get found out, they take me away, they bury me alive, and now I’m the mummy,'” Kurtzman clarified.

“And the thing that’s beautiful, I think, about a lot of these monsters is that there are these very central, basic, human emotions that you can talk about when you talk about these monsters. You can talk about Dracula’s longing for love, you can talk about the Mummy’s longing for love. So as messed up as they may be in terms of their behavior, and they are monsters, there always has to be a rooting and an understandable idea behind why they are who they are. And absolutely there will be a lot of romance in this movie but hopefully in a way that’s unexpected.”


There Will Be Easter Eggs for the Other Universal Monsters Movies (But Not Many).

“There will be some Easter eggs,” Alex Kurtzman says. “But again, I feel like I’ve had two reactions to Easter Eggs. When they’re done right, they’re great. When they’re not done right they feel like they’re being forced down your throat for a reason that feels kind of cynical. So again, every choice we’ve made for an Easter Egg had something to do with like, does it make sense in this scene? Does it fit organically into this moment? If so, great! If not, let’s not do it.”


Dracula Untold Doesn’t Count Anymore.

The 2014 supernatural action-adventure was originally supposed to kick off the interconnected Universal Monsters franchise, but after a critical drubbing and unimpressive box office numbers, the studio changed course. The Mummy is now supposed to be a brand new beginning for the Universal Monsters shared universe, which will include films based on The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man (for example), but no official word has been given about the future of the iconic vampire Dracula yet. So does that mean that Dracula Untold might still be part of the Universal Monsters canon?

“No,” says Alex Kurtzman, putting that theory to rest once and for all.

Good. Moving on to the newer monsters!


The Universal Monsters Franchise Will Only Feature the Classic Monsters… For Now.

The classic “Universal Monsters” include Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Frankenstein Monster, The Phantom of the Opera, and so on, but Universal Studios has the rights to a wide variety of horrifying creatures that could – in theory – make an appearance and be brought officially into the Universal Monsters franchise. It’s a long list of newer monsters, including the killer doll Chucky, the underground behemoths from Tremors, the alien from John Carpenter’s The Thing and even Norman Bates, the Psycho himself.

But don’t expect to see them anytime soon. “We’re talking about the classics right now,” Alex Kurtzman clarifies. “I would say that if you want to define our mission statement, it’s to bring a very modern approach to the classic Universal Monsters. It really will be limited – at least in our thinking right now – to the [original monsters].”


The Universal Monsters Movies Won’t Always Be This Big.

The teasler for The Mummy looks big and expensive and action-packed, but the problem with that approach could be that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for the franchise to grow. Fortunately, Alex Kurtzman says that the makers of these movies are dedicated to topping themselves with the “wow” factor, and are more concerned with adjusting the scale the story for each monster, depending on their needs.

“I think it is one of the most essential questions in terms of like, if you’re looking to build a universe, do you say everything is going to be this size or not? I think for me, as an audience member, I start to get inured to ‘Oh my god, the world is ending again, and now cities are being blown up.’ It’s a tricky thing. You can only do that, I think, to a degree. Once you start doing it over and over and over again it loses its meaning and its power and its potency,” Kurtzman explains.

“I think some of the monster movies will require us to go really, really big. I just think, when you start to think about what do you really want from that movie… Okay, well, Creature from the Black Lagoon. I want that to be in the jungle. Okay, we’re in the Amazon. Where do you want to shoot that, on the backlot or in the Amazon? No, we have to actually go there. Okay, if we go there what’s THAT going to…? Well, now you’re talking about a big movie. You know what I mean? And there’s underwater and there’s all the things that you would look for, for something like Creature.” 

But no, that doesn’t mean that we’re getting a Creature from the Black Lagoon movie yet. (The film is expected but not yet officially announced.) Alex Kurtzman clarifies, “I’m giving you a hypothetical,” but he does indicate that that’s the kind of conversation they’re currently having.

“It’s that kind of thing. But I think if you look at something like Creature, the story starts to tell you what it wants to be and how big it wants to be. The beauty of monster movies is that because they’re psychologically complicated, there are certain monsters that are better served by being really intimate and really small, and so I think the goal would be to make room for… they don’t all have to be this size, but it’s certainly good to start that way because I think that’s how we reach as many people as we can. I’d love to think we can do smaller movies too. I would.”


After The Mummy, the Existence of Monsters Won’t Be Common Knowledge.

Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the whole world becomes aware of the existence of superheroes and supervillains, the Universal Monsters franchise will keep an element of secrecy about it. Just because a Mummy appears to be destroying a city in this teasler doesn’t mean everyone knows about the existence of monsters yet, according to Alex Kurtzman.

“I feel like what I’m most satisfied by, as a viewer, is feeling like I was let in on a secret that the rest of the world doesn’t know,” Kurtzman says. “So The Matrix is a great example, right? At the end of The Matrix no one else knows that they live in The Matrix, because of the adventure in this particular movie, I know the reality of that. That was sort of a good marker for us.”


Image Gallery from The Mummy (2017)

Top Photo: Warner Bros.

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most CravedRapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.