Universal has confirmed that Len Wiseman has dropped off Universal’s reboot of The Mummy franchise, which will get a new round of movies after the last reboot trilogy grossed north of $1.25 billion worldwide before running out of steam. Do we need another Mummy? I wouldn’t think so, but apparently we do need to reopen that sarcophagus, especially since studios are whiffing badly in attempts to create new intellectual properties. They instead seem bent on running tried and tested past successes into the ground.
Leaving The Mummy might be the best thing for Wiseman, a props man who got off to an impressive start as a director by launching the ambitious Underworld. He helped hatch that series, which added some real flourishes to the vampires and werewolves genre. Since then, Wiseman has gone through a succession of sequels (Live Free Or Die Hard) and remakes (Total Recall), becoming a symbol of a time where Hollywood studios place too little emphasis on originality and instead prize utterly familiar product studios hope might put up big global numbers. Wiseman needs an original movie, and fast.
Why does Hollywood go back to the well so often on tired retreads? Because, as this summer has proven, it’s damn near impossible to create new intellectual properties that are not based on bestselling book series with vast reading audiences like Twilight Saga or The Hunger Games. Some of this summer’s non-sequel misfires, like After Earth, The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D., surely deserve to be one-offs. But even worthy, imaginative films like Pacific Rim have it rough. They get measured and dismissed quickly, not helped by the fact that press coverage has become reliant on imprecise tracking service estimates that give journalists a touchstone to dismiss movies even before anyone has seen them. Early low tracking on Pacific Rim fueled advance stories that the movie would be a flop, which it wasn’t. When The Wolverine‘s opening weekend didn’t match high advance tracking estimates, journalists bashed the movie (which is quite good), and not the faulty tracking services that overestimated the opening weekend numbers in the first place. Pacific Rim also wasn’t helped by a marketing campaign straight out of Transformers, and it wasn’t until too late that Warner Bros switched to spots that showed the movie had heart and wasn’t just a collision of robots and over-sized alien monsters from beneath the sea.
If there are two originals this summer worth sequel-izing, I would nominate Pacific Rim and World War Z. Despite being real crowd-pleasers, these will not be easy decisions because their high production budgets require each to do upwards of $400 million worldwide before serious sequel talk even begins. WWZ passed this threshold and is at $475 million, while Pac Rim is at $226 million but playing strong in Asian territories including China. All of this raises the currency of worn franchises like The Mummy. (more…)