There have been tons of questions about Universal’s new The Mummy movie, directed by Alex Kurtzman, since the trailer came out. One of the biggest questions appears to be why choosing to include Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), while a huge character from horror literature, was never one of Universal’s biggest monsters – despite appearing in 1953’s Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Why him? Why now? Kurtzman said it was all for the story.
“There was a lot of debate about whether or not to put Dr. Jekyll in The Mummy 2017 movie,” Kurtzman explained, “because the minute you say ‘Oh, it’s The Mummy, but also Dr. Jekyll’s in it,’ you guys probably say ‘are you trying to sell me on a shared universe all of a sudden?’” Which seemed reasonable. In the footage, Dr. Jekyll introduces Tom Cruise‘s Nick Morton to Prodigium, the secret, monster-finding organization which will likely reflect the S.H.I.E.L.D. of the universe.
“We wanted to understand the context of the Mummy in the larger world,” he claimed, “and we wanted to explore that monsters have existed for millennia, and we knew as the story evolved we wanted there to be an organization that was maybe cataloging them, following them, collecting them.” There necessarily needed to be someone who knew that world, and could lead Morton into it. “We could make up a character to fit that role,” Kurtzman said, “or we could look at monster mythology and say ‘is there a character who could organically fit into The Mummy 2017 story, that wouldn’t detract from The Mummy story, but would in fact enhance it?’”
Kurtzman said there has to be a skilled, professorial, medical and scientific sort to be that character, a reminder of the classic movies in which there was always a skilled doctor who helped in the monster battle in some way. (Fun fact: Most of the time in those ancient films, it was a character portrayed by Edward Van Sloan).
This brought Kurtzman and company to the character of Dr. Henry Jekyll, though to include him, it must be a mirror of the Morton character’s untrusted, conflicted nature. His character is cursed by the Mummy and that divides him between good and evil. “You’re discussing a character and a movie that’s really going to show how much human and how much monster is going to exist within this guy,” Kurtzman continued. “Where is the line between them, and can both exist within one character? Well, I could also be talking about Dr. Jekyll, so that’s when we said ‘these guys are really reflections of each other.’ Now there’s an explanation why putting him in the movie, because he’s a reflection of Nick’s character arc.”
But don’t expect The Mummy to be filled with tons of other Universal Monsters characters. He claimed, Jekyll aside, it is a Mummy film and this won’t be a backdoor team-up kind of films. Kurtzman took The Avengers as the way of doing it right, by presenting each individual hero first, was importantly began by Universal with their monster team-up films. Don’t keep your hope too high, however, for a full nation of monsters in one movie.
“The promise, the excitement of bringing [all the Universal Monsters] together,” Kurtzman said, “is they’re likely going to mess up pretty badly. It’s not going to be a pretty room with those guys in it, and that’s a lot more fun than people who are going to act nobly and predictably.”
It is how a shared universe of heroes has to largely behave in its true nature. “That becomes a much more interesting prospect,” he claimed, “so the question is, how do you get them to work together? I don’t know yet. Also, to what end? Why would you bring them together? There also has to be some unifying reason. And we might not bring them all together. We might just do one or two.”
As exciting as it would be to watch a The Monster Squad-style united of all of the Universal crew, it might be more peculiar if we only get certain pairings. In any case, I shared the sense from Kurtzman that the universe of Universal Monsters is very important to him, and the individual movies must insure any kind of fan-loving character included.