Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have currently been re-developing a relaunch of the Universal Monsters films. Here is everything we know so far about the project.
By now you know we’re excited about the in development Universal Monsters Universe. After all, Universal Studios were the first to start a somewhat cohesive “universe” with their monsters, long before Marvel had their Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC had their DC Films. But even with The Mummy in development for a June 9, 2017 release and Johnny Depp being cast as The Invisible Man, there isn’t that much else known. We’ve spoken about the cast associated with the Universal Monsters Universe, but we’ve yet to talk about the Universal Monsters Universe itself. After a little digging, Universal Monsters Universe is ready to present everything we know so far on the Universal Monsters Universe!
Back in 2013, all fans knew for certain was that Van Helsing was being planned as a reboot. Before Roberto “Bob” Orci and Alex Kurtzman had their amicable split, Orci spoke with IGN about the nature of Van Helsing and where that sat with the much grander tradition of making monster movies.
“There’s an interesting thing at Universal where they have this amazing library of their old monsters and these kind of heroes, and the idea of trying to think of creating a universe for Van Helsing and producing The Mummy for them, we’re kind of imagining updating these kind of things so you don’t want to just make remakes when you do a thing unless it’s really worthy of something that actually can be made different and yet being true to what it was. We just had a notion of how to make it modern and how to make it just a slightly different tone. It’s not just going to be a remake.”
At this time, Tom Cruise was associated with the role of Van Helsing and The Mummy went through a few different directors like Len Wiseman and Andy Muschietti. I spoke in greater detail about this in the previous article, “The Mummy; What We Know So Far!”
After Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s creative partnership took a break, Kurtzman, along with Chris Morgan, the writer behind five installments of The Fast and the Furious franchise, were announced as the creative architects of the Universal Monsters Universe. Deadline reported this in July 2014. The article goes on to mention that Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan will oversee and develop a connected group of monster movies and that the partnership will start in full with The Mummy. However, it is interesting to note that Dracula Untold does come up as that is seen as a “preexisting” Universal monster movie.
Part of their duty will be to work closely with production, marketing, promotions and consumer product to support the revival. They will also reevaluate projects which have preexisting attachments, and bring it under one cohesive strategy.
It would make sense that Dracula Untold will be included in the Universal Monsters Universe as opposed to having the studio recast the role of Dracula in such a short span of time. In my “Dracula Untold” review, I did mention that the film contains a reshot ending that was done under the supervision of Kurtzman and Morgan to see that it could be retrofitted into the unified monsters vision starting with The Mummy.
Finally, in November 2015, reported exclusively in Variety, Universal confidently announced its plan for the Universal Monsters Universe. “Taking the time to get it right,” Donna Langley, chair of Universal Pictures said “the characters will interact with each other across movies.” Taking inspiration from the highly successful Marvel Studios formula, it became clear that Universal’s plan is to release one monster movie a year, with the first being The Mummy. The other film characters announced were Dracula, Van Helsing, Bride of Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man. Interestingly, The Invisible Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon were not mentioned, yet only a few weeks ago Johnny Depp was cast as The Invisible Man.
Variety reports that Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have been obsessively watching “Universal monster films made with the likes of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and to broaden the sense of genre, augmented that with a diet of Hammer Horror* pictures and other creepy works.”
*and we included Hammer’s The Mummy in our “The Mummy Movies Over Time.”
“We’re creating a mythology, so we’re looking at this canon and thinking, ‘What are the rules?’ What can we break and what are the ones that are untouchable? The idea is that we have a deep bench of brains to consult with about how their monster fits into our world as we go forward.” – Alex Kurtzman
In “creating a mythology”, Kurtzman and Morgan have a brain trust, of sorts, that consists of storyboard artists and designers, along with the selected filmmakers of each respective film, to oversee a unique yet unified vision for each individual monster.
“Heroes tend to be perfect, but most people in an audience aren’t ever going to know what it’s like to be the smartest, strongest or fastest person alive. But there’s a darkness inside everybody. And everyone wants to be able to turn a curse into empowerment. The monsters have been in the shadows, and now it’s time to bring them out into the light.” – Chris Morgan
The idea of creating a connected series of films based off of the Universal Monsters is very exciting. The “deep bench of brains” working on this project seem to know what they are doing and it’s inspiring to see them turn to the original classics while also viewing some of the Hammer films. It will be very interesting to follow The Mummy as it comes together this year for its June 9, 2017 release. Despite Dracula Untold, it would appear as if The Mummy will be the best look at what’s to come.
Chris Morgan is right. The “monsters have been in the shadows” for far too long. And Universal Monsters Universe could not be more excited to bring the news about them into the light, just as much as the filmmakers will bring them back to the big screen.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)