Universal Studio’s ‘Dark Universe’ Cinematic Universe… Um What?
I recently saw the 2017 remake of ‘The Mummy’ starring Tom Cruise and directed by Alex Kurtzman. I have to be honest, I really liked it. Was it perfect? god no. But I really enjoyed the unique perspective of the story. The characters were fun to watch, even Tom Cruise, and I thought about how I would love to see them again. Then I remembered how that was meant to happen. Back in 2017 I wasn’t interested in ‘The Mummy’ but I did hear about some sort of monster film franchise that was meant to spawn off of the film. So…. What ever happened to that?
The Dark Universe was a concept based around the modern hit of “cinematic universes” and applying it to the world of classic movie monsters. Originally, the film franchise was meant to start in 2014 with a vampire played by Luke Evans in ‘Dracula Untold’. Evans was signed on to do multiple movies, and the film ended setting up a sequel as well, but we haven’t seen the character again. Although the film was a box office hit (especially for it’s low budget) it was panned by critics. The sequel was never made. Three years later, Universal announced the Dark Universe but Luke Evans’ character wasn’t joining the team. ‘The Mummy’ came out and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars overseas but again was panned by critics here in the United States. It was actually nominated for several Golden Raspberry Awards including “worst movie”, “worst director”, “and “worst actor” to which Tom Cruise won.
So what about the rest of the films? A remake for ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ was announced with rumors that Angelina Jolie was attached to the project. It was meant to release in Feb of 2019 but never happened. The studio said they “postponed” it due to wanting to make sure the it wasn’t rushed. There is no new date announced. Last October, Paul Feig said the next movie in the franchise would be ‘The Invisible Man’, originally meant to be played by Johnny Depp. After the results for The Mummy, the movie has been refocused as a stand alone horror remake developed by Blumhouse. It is set to be released in Feb 2020. Universal has agreed to only distribute the movie and have no creative involvement.
Paul Feig also announced in Nov 2019 the third film in the franchise would be ‘The Dark Army’ which would involve Frankenstein’s monster. Originally the character would be played by Javier Bardem. The project has had no other news released. Several other movies were originally planned, or teased, including The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, and The Wolfman which was rumored to star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The show-runners for the Dark Universe, Chris Morgan and Alex Kurtzman have announced they left the project. There are several other films said to be planned but for all intents and purposes, the Dark Universe is dead after its first movie.
The weirdest part of this story for me personally is the reaction to this idea. There are people that think it is a direct rip off of Marvel (which it kind of is) or those that just flat out think it would never have worked. The thing is… it already did. Two specific movies come to mind to me: ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ and ‘Van Helsing’. These two movies, from the early 2000’s, had fans. Both took that edgy 2000’s approach to combining a team of characters from the classic monster characters. Even though there was a lot of hate for the movies, personally I like both. I think there is some real value in “rebooting” the formula while also adding more depth to the individual characters in seperate movies.
On the other hand, I can also easily use these films as justification as to why the concept wont work. Both were set up for sequels that didn’t happen. League of Gentleman was apparently so bad it made Sean Connery quit acting. It’s really hard to get these classic monster characters to resonate with modern audiences, no matter who you cast or what style you add. Action style team-ups might not work on 100 year old stories that were metaphors for the downfall of man or the evil that lives in our hearts. Also, in most of those stories, the monsters weren’t the main characters. I think Marvel and other comic book franchises shouldn’t have a monopoly on the concept of “cinematic universe”. However they also seem to be the only one’s doing it right so far. In the back of my mind I root for the Dark Universe and hope Universal Studios can get the backing they need. The Mummy was fun and I know there’s an audience out there that agrees.
Strange tale discovered and article written by: Troy Smith