The word franchise tends to conjure up images of shopping centres populated by reams of major brands, whether it’s McDonald’s, ASDA, WH Smith or Starbucks. It refers to big business, aggressive expansion, and precise duplication, and it possesses all the romance of a motorway service station in the middle of the night. The franchise: it’s every capitalist’s dream come true.
It’s not all bad, though. Franchising is the reason why our favourite stores are able to move into town and, more to the point of this article, why beloved movies and video games are able to remain relevant over the decades. Popular narratives live on through remakes and adaptations across different platforms, for instance, a film released in the 80s can be given a new lease of life and the opportunity to appeal to new generations of audiences through sequels or TV/literary spin-offs.
An obvious upside to this approach is that a franchise benefits from plenty of different perspectives over time and can draw influences from real-time events and cultural shifts. However, there are risks in the form of losing money, tarnishing the reputation of the original and letting fans of the franchise down. Unfortunately, these risks only become greater with each successive release and this almost inevitable crash is referred to as ‘sequelitis’. This concept has plagued even the most seemingly successful of franchises like Marvel, who have developed numerous spin-off and origin series, like Agent Carter, only to see most of them cancelled in recent years.
A prime example of a blockbuster classic that has had its name dragged through the mud is The Mummy (1999). For the most part, this franchise has remained relevant to audiences over the past twenty years due to the release of sequels and remakes.
In addition, adaptations of the beloved bandaged baddie in video games have kept the original story ticking along, too. Japanese media conglomerate Konami released their video game iteration following the release of the 1999 classic, while in recent years, the gaming site PartyCasino, one of the highest-rated outlets in America according to the Bonusfinder comparison site, has released its own fully-licensed game called The Mummy: Books of Amun Ra. Evidently, the narrative, characters and exotic Egyptian setting have become firm favourites for fans beyond the scope of cinema as these games remain popular to this day.
There was an attempt at a reboot in 2008 when The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was released, once again starring Brendan Fraser. However, critics weren’t kind. Following this, the most recent film remake in the franchise appeared almost two decades later in the form of the much-maligned The Mummy (2017), which somehow managed to achieve the unintended feat of killing off two franchises at the same time.
What Went Wrong?
Sadly, High Priest Imhotep needs bandages more than he ever has before. Post-2001, and following the losses of Rachel Weisz (Evie), Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep), and Oded Fehr (the enigmatic Ardeth Bay) from the series, the story abandoned its Egyptian setting in favour of new pastures. The movie was instead based against the backdrop of China and producers made the baffling decision to replace Weisz’s Evie in a like-for-like swap for Maria Bello’s Evie, a change that was much more obvious to fans than when Marvel recast Thanos after the first Avengers movie (though difficult to believe, yes, this is the truth).
Closer to the present, the Mummy franchise is now all but abandoned due to the 2017 remake’s inability to grasp what made the original two movies so delightful. The cast, led by 90s A-lister Fraser, somehow managed to create nuanced and comedic performances in a horror-adventure film. It was camp and silly, yet there was never any doubt that Imhotep didn’t have Rick and Evie’s best interests at heart.
There’s still a huge market for swashbuckling adventures, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones, but the Rick O’Connell character played by Tom Cruise in 2017’s The Mummy simply lacks the kind of charming but reckless charisma that Fraser embodied. Perhaps a more affable actor like Chris Pratt would have done a better job but, due to a series of easily avoided missteps, we may never find out.