Why Shared Universe Franchises Are Crushing Hollywood

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … a space saga fueled a very 21st century gimmick. It’s not George Lucas’ fault, but the filmmaker set in motion a trend that’s crushing modern storytellers.

And, subsequently, audiences.

The “Star Wars” films did more than change the face of Hollywood blockbusters. They set the stage for a shared universe Disney is currently exploiting with films like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

The Marvel Cinematic Universe perfected this technique. Films like “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” share a similar story thread. Each new MCU movie adds something new, and rich, to the cinematic tapestry.

All of which brings us to “The Mummy.” And, more depressingly, the new “Dark Universe.”

What’s that?

It’s how Universal plans to re-introduce the classic movie monsters to a new generation of fans.

Frankenstein’s Monster

The Invisible Man

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

And, up first, The Mummy.

Tom Cruise stars in “The Mummy,” the film setting up the new Dark Universe. The movie offers a peek at the title character’s origin along with how the creatures will eventually come together. Blame Dr. Henry Jekyll, played campily by Russell Crowe. He’s out to capture these evil doers to put an end to their monstrous ways.

Or something like that.

“The Mummy” spends so much screen time setting up the franchise universe it forgets something important. Storytelling. Scares. Characters. Dialogue. All four essential traits are treated like afterthoughts in the new film.

And that’s the scariest part of all. The studio apparently didn’t care.

Hollywood is so in love with the shared universe concept it’s putting it above everything else. It’s why “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” part of the DC Extended Universe, kept grinding to a halt so the characters could set things in motion. And it explains how “The Mummy” keeps tripping over its own soiled bandages rather than tell a rip-roaring yarn.

We’re about to get a franchise extension via Dwayne Johnson’s “Fast and Furious” character. The 2016 letdown “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is an attempt to squeeze more life out of the Harry Potter realm.

And if “The Mummy” is any indication, we could be in for a string of awful monster reboots.

Normally, audience indifference can stop a franchise cold. It’s why we won’t be seeing a “King Arthur 2” or “Lone Ranger: Tonto’s Revenge” anytime soon.

Both reboots flopped beyond reason.

Yet in the case of “The Mummy,” a potential box office belly flop might not crush the franchise. Universal has plenty of stake in the Dark Universe already. It lined up big stars like Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp, and Cruise to bring it to life. And while “The Mummy” may implode at the domestic box office, overseas sales are expected to be brisk. That means the Dark Universe may continue … no matter what U.S. moviegoers think.

And we’ll see more shared universes around the proverbial corner.