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John Landis comments on the Dark Universe; says it's "not a new idea"

John Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is a seminal monster movie classic, fit with a style that mixes camp humor with terrifying horror, featuring make-up work from Rick Baker that’s as sure to entrance you as it is to haunt your dreams. In short, he has some clout when it comes to talking about movie monsters, and recently he had some thoughts about the newly released THE MUMMY, and the Dark Universe idea as a whole. In even shorter, he ain't so down.

The director spoke to Irish publication Entertainment.ie recently about many a’thing, but what stuck out from the interview were his thoughts on the upcoming shared monster universe, which will include such classic ghouls and creepies like Frankenstein (Javier Bardem), The Invisible Man (Johnny Depp) and more. The director got honest, dropping a bit of movie history on all of us to back himself up:

First of all, it's not a new idea. If you remember with Universal back in the '40s, once they made all their classics, they started cross-pollinating. House of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf-Man - you know what they used to call those? Monster rallies! (laugh) And then of course, one of the great ironies is what was considered... OK - it's over now!... was Abbot & Costello Meets Frankenstein, which is actually a very funny movie and very respectful of the monsters. I think, y'know, maybe that's one of the problems with Universal's Dark Universe is that it isn't respectful of the monsters. Y'know, when they want to reinvent and sometimes it works great - look at David Cronenberg's The Fly or John Carpenter's The Thing. It can be done.

Anyone versed in the history of film knows exactly what Landis is referring to. Classic movie monster mash-ups were commonplace once it became apparent the atmospheric, German-expressionist style of the original Universal movies – like FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA  – wasn’t selling to audiences anymore. Even though THE MUMMY was a shaky start to the series, Universal hopes to do similar mashing-up in the Dark Universe, and thanks to a terrific global opening weekend (counter-acting the subpar $32 million stateside opening) they will get a chance to do so.

But on the whole Landis doesn’t seem privy to the idea of shared universes of any kind, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying that after all this time the movies have begun to blend in with each other (with movies like WONDER WOMAN being the exception):

I'm just... truthfully, I'm bored shitless with the Marvel Universe now. All the superhero movies tend to be interchangeable, you always have these mass destruction of cities and huge computer-generated extravaganzas to the point where you could take a reel from any of the Marvel superhero movies and put it any of the others and nobody would notice. They're very well-made, it's just they're the same thing over and over again. But, I don't know, people are showing up. One of the reasons Wonder Woman has been received so well by the critics is that it doesn't destroy cities! (laughs) Even the superhero stuff is on a very human scale, it's the gods! We're not seeing skyscrapers tumbling! (laughs).

Landis has never been one to pull his punches, and here I think he makes some astute observations. There’s nothing coming from the DU that we can’t already see in some form in past monster flicks – albeit with a lack of cities being expensively destroyed and a sprinting Tom Cruise. THE MUMMY failed to distinguish itself from other messy blockbusters, which doesn’t inspire confidence other DU movies will do the same. As long as Universal can make quality movies they may have a shot at creating something legitimate like Marvel, which manages to put out consistently good work. Basically what I'm getting at is the monsters need to team up against some sort of galactic villain. Is there a space Dracula that's just pure bonkers out there?

THE MUMMY is in theaters now.

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