Let’s face it, Universal’s Dark Universe was a very ambitious plan that no one really was on board for. Though contemporary takes on the classic Universal monsters sounded like a good idea on the surface, the results were anything but that. It all started with The Mummy, the Tom Cruise-starring vehicle that was supposed to launch the universe. The film performed well-below expectations, and what followed made things even worse for the potential universe. Bride of Frankenstein, directed by Bill Condon and starring Javier Bardem as the Monster and possibly Angelina Jolie as the title character, had been put on hold. Reports stated that it was to fix some of the script issues. While that may be true, it was a sign that things weren’t going well. And this latest bit may be the final nail in the coffin.
According to a new report, the Dark Universe may be dead as key figures like Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan are now leaving it behind, forcing Universal to rethink the interconnected monster world that they are creating. More on the story below.
THR says Kurtzman is leaving to focus more on TV, while Morgan will make his return to the Fast and Furious franchise. While this is far from a confirmation that the Dark Universe is dead, it is sure leading up to it. Which is unfortunate because the franchise had some real potential and major star power behind it.
Films like Bride of Frankenstein would have had Bardem and Jolie in it. But now that has been put on hold. It’s still not clear what will happen to The Invisible Man starring Johnny Depp. And who knows how many films Russell Crowe signed up for. His character, Dr. Jekyll, was basically the Nick Fury of the Dark Universe. He had all the knowledge of the monsters and creatures that have lurked for thousands of years.
But The Mummy was not a complete and total bust at the box office, grossing $409 million. However, in addition to the production, you have to factor in the cost to market the film, which can eat away at those profits. While tentpole busts are a dime a dozen, this was not a good way to kick things off. Signs of this universe collapsing followed up when Bride of Frankenstein was shelved. At the time of its development, they were attempting to court Jolie to play the title role, now that it has been put on hold, it appears that she is no longer attached to the role. Although Condon is still attached to direct, there is no word yet on when it will start production. And as production continues to be pushed back, it is less likely that the film will ever make its February 2019 release. The studio has not even announced a new release date.
So, Universal is exploring its options, starting with offering the IP to high-profile filmmakers or producers like Jason Blum of Blumhouse, with ideas for one-off movies not connected to a larger universe. Another option they may be considering is finding a new figurehead to oversee the development of the Dark Universe.
To be honest, they should have approached the idea of a Dark Universe to Blum to begin with. Not all films need to be these major blockbuster summer tentpole films. I understand the appeal, and how it could make huge amounts of money. But Blum is practically the master of making a very cost-effective movie. Look at that track record he has. As much as an interconnected monster universe sounds, there are obviously rules that filmmakers have to abide by, which limits their creativity and if they feel confined, it could make the film a huge disaster.
That being said, if they want to stick with this interconnected universe, they are going to have to find someone who can bring these filmmakers on board. It’s not easy, especially when that filmmaker wants to use their voice and not be constricted by the rules of a universe. Plus it doesn’t make their film unique or special, it’s just another cog in the machine. So if that new figurehead can get the directors into believing in the Dark Universe, there may be a chance that the Dark Universe could work.
We’ll just have to wait and see.