IF ONLY Tom Cruise had a cape, cowl or shield.
Universal is daring to go where superheroes successfully tread these days, trying to fashion a connected cinematic universe out of its classic monsters, including the Mummy, the Invisible Man and Mr. Hyde. But following the Marvel model by stitching together creature features comes with raised stakes: What if Universal can’t breathe box-office life into this Frankenstein’s monster of a multicharacter universe?
Domestically, the first warning sign arrived over the weekend with “The Mummy.” The remake, this time starring Cruise and Sofia Boutella (“Star Trek Beyond”), grossed only $32.2 million in its North American debut, according to studio estimates (final numbers are due Monday afternoon).
The film’s safety net is the international box office: “The Mummy,” which has a reported production budget of $125 million, grossed an additional $141.8 million overseas.
Still, the less-than-impressive domestic debut raises a few concerns about the viability of Universal’s Dark Universe, with “Bride of Frankenstein” (starring Javier Bardem) due in 2019, with Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll (introduced in “The Mummy”) and Johnny Depp’s Invisible Man eyed for the pipeline.
The question becomes: Can the modern connected-universe model, as constructed with DC and Marvel characters, be profitably adapted for non-superhero blockbusters?
Highlighting the current advantage enjoyed by comic-book crimefighters was the sophomore-weekend success of WB/DC’s “Wonder Woman.”
The Patty Jenkins film — starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine (who coincidentally starred opposite Boutella in “Star Trek Beyond”) — grossed $57.2 million, topping this weekend’s domestic box office. The well-received “Wonder Woman” also reversed a recent trend for DC films: “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” each plummeted at least 65 percent in their second weekends; “Wonder Woman” dropped just 45 percent.
“Wonder Woman” has grossed $435.2 million worldwide — already vaulting it to the eighth-highest-grossing of the year. And domestically, “Wonder Woman” ($202 million) is the year’s fifth-biggest film — with “Fate of the Furious” ($224.5 million) and “Logan” ($226.2 million) next in its sights.
For decades, many Hollywood actors have sought the reliable relevance and box office of a steady franchise. Now, the billion-dollar question is: Can an A-lister land in a smash connected universe going forward without donning the comic-book cape?