Eviscerated by critics and largely ignored by domestic audiences, Universal Pictures’ reboot of The Mummy crumbled under the self-instilled pressures of a blockbuster gone awry. Its tepid U.S. debut was amplified by the film’s position as the cornerstone of the “Dark Universe,” a planned cinematic universe featuring reimagined versions of the studio’s classic monsters, from the Invisible Man to the Bride of Frankenstein.
As often is the case when a multimillion-dollar feature stumbles at the box officer, questions arise about what — or, better yet, who — is responsible. According to Variety, in the case of The Mummy, the culprit may very well be its star, Tom Cruise.
In a thorough post-mortem, the website notes the action star’s contract granted him broad creative control, with Cruise having input in virtually every step of production, from the script to editing to marketing. He brought on two of the film’s writers, and “gave his blessing” to the selection of director Alex Kurtzman, an established writer and producer whose only previous directorial credit is the low-budget drama People Like Us. (The effects-heavy Mummy is believed to have cost $190 million to make, and another $100 million to market and distribute.)
In response to the finger-pointing and accusations of micro-management, Universal released a statement about Cruise’s level of involvement. “Tom approaches every project with a level of commitment and dedication that is unmatched by most working in our business today,” the statement read. “He has been a true partner and creative collaborator, and his goal with any project he works on is to provide audiences with a truly cinematic moviegoing experience.”
While Cruise’s approach may have worked in previous decades, the climate in Hollywood is considerably different now. Intellectual properties are increasingly more important to the box office than the name of the actor on the marquee, with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe serving as a prime example. A number of on the studio’s actors and actresses were cast based on their suitability for the role rather than any established box-office appeal.
Universal will need to act quickly when picking up the pieces of the “Dark Universe,” as Bride of Frankenstein is slated for an early 2019 release. In theaters now, The Mummy stars Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Russell Crowe.