I’ve just learned that the Universal Monsters reboot machine has added two more iconic monsters to their Dark Universe lineup and confirmed a third. I said I’d keep up with this and hope for the best. Well, this is where they really test my mettle because they’ve grabbed some favorites.
“We know we’re going to do Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Invisible Man.” — Alex Kurtzman
Dracula was a foregone conclusion after Dracula Untold failed to deliver, but it’s nice to have that official at long last. The ones that have my attention are the ones I thought for certain they wouldn’t touch: The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Both of these films first hail from Universal’s silent era, before Universal Monsters was a thing, before Dracula set the bar. When they do box sets, you never see either of the Lon Chaney classics in those sets. While you do see Chaney’s Phantom marketed for merchandising purposes rather than the Claude Rains version, Quasimodo is almost always absent from every lineup. To my knowledge, he’s not really considered part of the Universal Monsters lineup, even though he rightly should be.
My concern at this point, beyond whether or not they’re good movies, is how they can shoehorn these characters into a modern conjoined universe. The initial stories are very much of their original settings, with the Phantom set with a couple of decades of the turn of the 20th century (there is some wiggle room here), and the Hunchback being very much a character of the Middle Ages. The answer may lie in this quote:
“There are characters within those films that can grow and expand and maybe even spin off. I think that digging into deep mythologies about monsters around the world is fair game for us, as well and connecting the monsters that we know to some surprising monsters could also be really interesting.” — Alex Kurtzman
Surprising monsters? Beyond the name brand monsters we already know? Ok, Kurtzman. You have my attention. Impress me.