This article contains The Mummy spoilers.
In those final moments, Tom Cruise more than just rides off into the sunset; he gallops into the horizon, commanding a supernatural sandstorm that licks at his feet with the powers of Hell. Or is that the underworld? It’s a bit ambiguous, yet oh so clear: The Dark Universe has begun!
Of course as we glimpse at the film, the world-building of this nascent shared universe may be occurring with a very different type of Mummy than as advertised. Indeed, the ending of the film confirms what some have long speculated: While the eponymous Mummy of the 2017 film is as evil as sin, the one to carry her evil legacy into the larger Dark Universe is Tom Cruise. Gifted with all the powers of Set, Cruise’s Nick Morton is now all but unstoppable.
So wait, how did we get here again, who is Set, and what happens next?!
First of all, Set is the god of storms, the desert, chaos, evil, and war. Hence he was not exactly someone ancient Egyptians liked so much as feared. Still he is not actually the Egyptian god of the afterlife or the underworld—that would be Anubis. But The Mummy seems eager to conflate him with Satan, as Russell Crowe’s Henry Jekyll so cheerfully mentions. And either way, Set certainly had Luciferian elements throughout mythology since he is the usurper god who dethroned and murdered his brother Osiris.
In The Mummy, it seems that Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet made a pact with the evil deity to bring him into our world through a human vessel. And for whatever reason, including perhaps Cruise’s piercing green eyes, she selected the movie star’s Nick for that honor. And the only way to do it is through the human sacrifice method which involved stabbing Nick with a MacGuffin knife adorned with a MacGuffin jewel. The trick worked too. Realizing that like Anubis Set, he would have power over the living and the dead, Nick decided to neither destroy the jewel and save his soul or accept Ahmanet’s embrace. Rather he stabbed himself and took on the powers of Set.
This gave him the ability to take control of Set’s abilities, if only temporarily, and condemn Ahmanet back to death and resurrect his beloved Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) from a watery grave. Now how he was in love with her after a one-night stand and a few intense jogging sessions down London streets is anyone’s guess.
Anyway, Nick thus has the ability to bring back from the dead his best pal Chris (Jake Johnson) and command sandstorms like it’s a Brendan Fraser movie. But what does that mean for the future?
Firstly, The Mummy and Dark Universe at large appear eager to transform their monsters from dangerous creatures to lovable anti-heroes. To be fair, many of the monsters are quite sympathetic in the original canon, including the Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and most especially Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster and Lon Chaney Jr.’s the Wolf Man. But the Mummy never really was one of them. Like Dracula, he was just kind of a bastard, even if he did it all for the love of the woman in his life.
Making said Mummy an actual woman in this film seemed like a novel idea, but the Dark Universe pretty quickly dethrones her own wickedness and replaces it with a heroic kind. Given Javier Bardem’s Monster and likely the Bride of Frankenstein to come will also be sympathetic, as will the Wolfman if they ever get around to him, it’s conceivable that this universe will culminate in an Avengers-esque superhero team. And I’d be willing to bet Dracula would be the big bad of the whole story.
But to get there, it is curious to see where they go next. With Tom Cruise now essentially commanding all the powers of the Mummy—and it left open-ended whether they’ll permanently damage his good looks with makeup—one piece of the puzzle is complete. The next one in the saga will be The Bride of Frankenstein, which is due out on Feb. 14, 2019. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.
No matter how The Mummy is received, we believe this one will end up getting made, if for no other reason than the Bride is a beloved character in pop culture that could be sold from a whole different vantage. Unlike Alex Kurtzman being hired to build a universe into a mummified wrapping, director Bill Condon has a long history with Bride. After all, he won an Oscar for his screenplay in Gods and Monsters (1998). Ironically enough, that movie also starred Brendan Fraser, but perhaps more importantly it also featured Ian McKellen in one of his finest roles that also got him an Oscar nod.
McKellen played James Whale, one of Hollywood’s earliest auteurs, a World War I veteran, and an openly gay man living defiantly in the early 20th century. He also made some of horror’s cornerstone films: Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Obviously a project close to Condon’s heart, the director has reason to strive for something special. The film also is off to a fine start with the casting of Javier Bardem as the Monster. Presumably since this is Universal, he’ll even get to don the flattop. The Creature’s Mate is meanwhile left uncast, but it’s no secret that Universal has long sought Angelina Jolie for the role. That seems still plausible given the studio’s desire to get more distinguished and big-name movie stars. However, if we could make a suggestion, Eva Green seems born to play the role.
Universal also has slated release dates for unspecified films on Aug. 16, 2019 and April 17, 2020, but these notably are not listed as monster movies. Maybe they’re something else (maybe that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham Fast and Furious spinoff?), or just maybe the studio is waiting to see how The Mummy is received.
The studio certainly has its plans in place. Johnny Depp is expected to eventually play the Invisible Man, who is also not one of the studio’s most sympathetic fiends, but that can be rectified with some rewriting. They also have in apparently active development projects built around Dracula, The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
It’ll be curious to see if any of these movies actually are quickened to life. Then again, I still suspect Dracula is the universe’s ultimate big bad, so if that means we get a movie of him allowed to be a monster again, as opposed to a bleeding heart tragic hero, that could actually be a bonus.