There are a number of issues with The Mummy, but one of the movie’s most eye-rolling moments occurs before the actors ever appear on screen.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the opening credits of The Mummy, so if you’re looking to avoid anything at all, stay clear.]
Once the lights in the theater dim and the Universal logo makes its way across the screen, The Mummy doesn’t begin. Instead, there’s another, ostentatious logo for Universal’s “Dark Universe,” the monster cinematic world that the studio is launching off the back of The Mummy. The entire point of the logo is to make itself known and, like Marvel and DC’s animated introductions that play before the beginning of their movies, reaffirm that this film belongs to a universe of related films.
Except it doesn’t. Not yet.
This isn’t a series of movies that have slowly built up into their own empire, introducing characters to audiences over the course of a number of years. Right now, Universal doesn’t have a cinematic universe, but merely the promise of one. By adding the logo at the very beginning of the movie, complete with a similar score to the one Warner Bros. and Marvel use for their own movies, it cultivates an idea that Universal can’t deliver on yet.
To put it into perspective, Marvel’s logo has gradually evolved since the first time it appeared on screen for a live-action movie 2002. Beginning with Spider-Man, which was produced by Sony, Marvel used the same logo for Marvel Comics up until Thor: The Dark World in 2013. At that time, a new introduction was incorporated into the films which specified that new Marvel movies were being made under the Marvel Studios umbrella. But it wasn’t until 2016 and the release of Doctor Strange that Marvel finally introduced the first cinematic-themed introduction.
It took more than a decade of Marvel films — and 13 movies produced by Marvel Studios — until the cinematic universe was acknowledged in an introduction.
It wasn’t like Marvel didn’t have the idea for a cinematic universe before then. They teased it in 2008 with Iron Man when Tony Stark meets Nick Fury during the post-credits scene and learns about the “Avengers initiative.” This sets up future movies without ever having to hammer in the idea that Iron Man belongs to a cinematic universe. The focus remains on Iron Man and the film succeeds because of this.
The Mummy, however, begins with the introduction of a cinematic universe before the movie has a chance to succeed on its own — and this seemingly inconsequential decision ripples throughout the actual movie. As said in our review, The Mummy acts as a vessel for a universe that doesn’t exist yet and the constant reaffirmation that it exists when it doesn’t.
To use another example, it took Warner Bros. and DC four movies until they introduced a new logo dedicated to their cinematic universe. Those who may have seen Wonder Woman will have noticed the fancy new logo — seemingly based on the animated Justice League series that ran between 2001 and 2004 on Cartoon Network. It includes all of the characters that have either appeared or have been introduced in previous films.
Like Marvel, DC and Warner Bros. waited until they’d established their cinematic universe before promoting it in their own films as such.
Marvel and DC slowly built up their universes, especially the latter, before introducing a noteworthy opening — one designed to appeal to fans. This is a celebration of the characters that have been introduced thus far and a promise of what’s to come. Universal hasn’t introduced any characters beyond one at this point. It doesn’t have a cinematic universe at this point.
When the logo played out before the movie started, the audience who were seated for the screening audibly groaned and then laughed at it. It wasn’t like the logo was funny — the design, although loud, was fine. It’s a symptom of studios trying to get their foot in on the cinematic universe trend, especially when there aren’t enough movies for a universe at this point.
The Mummy will be released on June 9.