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“Dark Universe” Monsters Aren’t Dead, They’re Just Waiting To Be ReAwakened!

Dark Universe

Universal Monsters Universe provides an update on the “Dark Universe” series.

“We’ve learned many lessons throughout the creative process on Dark Universe so far, and we are viewing these titles as filmmaker-driven vehicles, each with their own distinct vision. We are not rushing to meet a release date and will move forward with these films when we feel they are the best versions of themselves.” – Universal president of production Peter Cramer

Dark UniverseSome time yesterday, numerous cites from CBR, Screen Rant, and Inverse posted about Universal’s “Dark Universe” being buried, just like Ahmanet, after the news that executive producers and creative architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have moved onto other projects. These headlines stemmed from an exclusive written by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Borys Kit and Aaron Couch. In the time since that original article was posted, I’ve seen numerous factual errors being reported across the digital media landscape and as someone who has been engaged with Universal’s “Dark Universe” since before it was even named, I hope I could clarify the story for those interested and those that have continually supported Universal Monsters Universe.

There’s nothing “fake news” about the fact that this summer’s The Mummy under performed at the box office for Universal. The film was not the Iron Man to the “Dark Universe” that the original 2008 Marvel Studios film was to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It didn’t perform as excitingly as 1999’s The Mummy, nor did it stir audiences imaginations in the way the original 1932 classic did. For a picture that was to be the first installment in a grander cinematic universe, one named “Dark Universe”, not “MonsterVerse” (that’s Warner Bros. cinematic series; I’m looking at you THR!), the film was considered underwhelming and thus proved to be more than a speed bump, but rather a silver bullet to Universal’s planned franchise, in implementation only. The series – “Dark Universe” was given the grand announcement, back in May, with the debut of a logo, a photo, and it’s own theme by legendary composer Danny Elfman (you may have heard it play before The Mummy, or just queue up the film on your devices). Following The Mummy would be Bill Condon’s The Bride of Frankenstein in February 2019, followed by a planned The Invisible Man starring Johnny Depp. After The Mummy, Universal had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, much like Warner Bros. after the reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Deciding to re-approach The Bride of Frankenstein, it was decided that to better serve the film project, it would be best to remove the film off the 2019 slate, thus allowing the creative team more time to perfect the film. This news would lead way to speculation that the film was a) cancelled and b) the beginning of the end for the “Dark Universe.” While this wasn’t necessarily the case, one month later we would learn the following…

Dark Universe

L to R: Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Sofia Boutella.

In news that had already been known, Alex Kurtzman, one of the core founders of the “Dark Universe” and director of The Mummy, had decided to pursue other ventures, particularly continuing his work on Star Trek and Star Trek: Discovery. His deal with Universal “lapsed” in September and would lead to an initiative to provide creators more control over their monsters with less of a focus on building the “Dark Universe.” While Chris Morgan’s deal with Universal hasn’t lapsed; he’s still very much a part of the Universal family, he is now at work on developing a continuation of the Fast and Furious franchise – a move that has seen him apparently depart the “Dark Universe.” As of this writing, it has not been confirmed that Chris Morgan is no longer apart of the “Dark Universe.”

Peter Cramer, Universal’s president of production offered the following:

“We’ve learned many lessons throughout the creative process on Dark Universe so far, and we are viewing these titles as filmmaker-driven vehicles, each with their own distinct vision. We are not rushing to meet a release date and will move forward with these films when we feel they are the best versions of themselves.”

Provided and confirmed by sources, along with what THR has reported, is the news that the “Dark Universe” offices in the tony office building on the Universal lot “now sits mostly empty.” I have never seen the inside of the said office building, but it has been written that at a considerable expense to Universal, the offices were “decked out in monster regalia.” I would so love to see those offices! With that said, while there is currently no movement on “Dark Universe” properties such as The Invisible Man or Creature from the Black Lagoon, it cannot be said that The Bride of Frankenstein will not come alive for modern audiences – just not in 2019. As I’ve wagered before on Universal Monsters news, I will wager again that we will see The Bride of Frankenstein and it will be very much centered on a story that is both reverent to the original James Whale picture, but one that revitalizes the iconography of the Bride, herself. However, talk regarding a new Van Helsing is most decidedly not going to happen. Plans that saw numerous writers approach the project will most likely not come to fruition – a minor casualty of the retooling of the “Dark Universe” brand.

While the news of the “Dark Universe” currently not moving forward is a disappointment, especially to us looking forward to the release of a new Universal Monster film each year, it’s refreshing to know that Universal is planning on moving forward in a way that is respectful of their legacy and also with an attention on delivering “the best versions” of these characters. I very much believe that Universal Monsters fans will get much better films because of this and while elements from The Mummy are likely to never be revisited again – Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton and Prodigium, it was fun to have them exist in the way they did.

As always, stay tuned to Universal Monsters Universe for the latest on Universal Monsters and “Dark Universe” related news.

(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemanteIII)

About the author

Steven Biscotti

Mild mannered reporter, Steven Biscotti, has an avid interest in all things comic books, movies, and music (especially pertaining to Coldplay.) He stands 5'7" tall and prides himself on being the same height as Tom Cruise. Steven's favorite monster movie? "The Mummy (1999)."

Readers Comments (12)

  1. Rick-O‘Connell November 9, 2017 @ 11:46 am

    It sucks that we’ll have to wait a couple of years before we get our next monster movie.
    I really hope the next monster film is going to be a straight up r rated horror movie, just imagine the wolfman shreding everyone to pieces!
    Do you think these new “universal monster movies” are going to be horror movies Steven?
    And do you still think “Bride” is going to be the next one? Possibly coming in 2020?
    Great article as always BTW!

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading, as always, Rick-O’Connell. I absolutely believe “Bride of Frankenstein” is going to be the next film. While I do think it will be a somewhat different film than the one we would have gotten, it’ll probably be the closest to what fans want as I do feel Universal understands that the Universal Monsters brand is monster and horror, not so much action/adventure. I do think there’s a possibility that “Bride” will release in 2020, but I wouldn’t start getting hopes up too high just yet.

      Reply
  2. Great article Steven! And another casualty of Universal’s decision regarding Dark Universe is that your website won’t have a steady stream of news to report about in-development movies. Not to mention that Tom Cruise wasn’t able to truly start a new franchise for himself.

    You mentioned in the article “With that said, while there is currently no movement on “Dark Universe” properties such as The Invisible Man or Creature from the Black Lagoon…”. And certainly with the current state of affairs, all the movies being developed are going to be reconsidered. Yet it was March 31, 2017 that Deadline reported Will Beall was writing a script for Creature From The Black Lagoon. Do you have any word if Beall completed his work on that then?

    http://deadline.com/2017/03/creature-from-the-black-lagoon-will-beall-aquaman-universal-pictures-1202057300/

    Reply
    • Hey CinemaConFan, thanks for reading and the comment. Yes, that’s true and it’s sad to know that 2018 won’t be a year filled with as much “Dark Universe” movie news as 2016 was. I was really looking forward to chronicling “The Bride of Frankenstein” throughout next year, but UMU will be here when the film finally goes into production. And yes, that’s true – it was so exciting to have Tom Cruise apart of a cinematic universe. I really don’t think there was any film universe better suited for him than “Dark Universe.” I’ll go ahead and say it – it sucks that we won’t see a continuation of Nick Morton’s story.

      Yes, I did write that in the article and while “The Bride of Frankenstein” will happen – as to when, I’m not too sure – I don’t even think Universal is too sure, I’d still wager to keep fingers crossed for 2020. However, from what I understand of the situation and from my sources, I could “confidently” say not to get too excited or wait for the talked about other Universal Monsters films. I look at it like this – they released an invitation to a really cool and mad monster party with some pretty great headliners. The headliners have friends, but they weren’t on the invite. So, with that said, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Universal continues to prioritize “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Invisible Man.” As for “Van Helsing” and the others, those won’t happen. Maybe under a different direction, but the films we would have had under “Dark Universe” will be retooled.

      Reply
  3. Universal needs to stop making their monster movies CGI infested action adventure films. These are gothic classics, horror, scary etc… movies…let them be that. Less cartoon looking scenes with a billion things going on at once and weak story lines, and more foggy cemeteries, spooky castles, atmosphere and good acting/storylines. Sometimes less is more. And oh yeah, go back to the classic monster looks too. That’s how fans know them and will always see them anyway.

    Reply
    • I believe there is room for both action adventure films and that gothic horror you speak of. Creature from the Black Lagoon should be a BIG movie. Dracula doesn’t have to be a big movie.

      Reply
      • Sadly, I think going forward, we’re going to be getting smaller films. The big approach to “Dracula Untold” and “The Mummy” didn’t connect with as many as would have hoped. It’d be great seeing a big “Creature from the Black Lagoon” film, but as GDT’s “The Shape of Water” looks to prove, a small scaled homage could work just as well, if not better, than the big.

        Again, it’s so early to say what we’ll see. Hopefully, 2018 brings some word on continued development.

        Reply
        • From what I understand, Bill Condon was going for a big Bride of Frankenstein take. My suspicion is that it will still be big, but possibly downscaled slightly…so as to make profitability more likely and possibly allow it to be more of what most fans would want. I’m one of the few that would prefer all these movies to be BIG. Some people have the idea that “BIG” means quality goes out the door. The reality is that any movie is its own thing – and both high quality BIG and SMALL movies can be made.

          Reply
    • With “The Bride of Frankenstein” I’m almost positive we’ll get a Bride and Big Frank that pays homage to the work Jack Pierce did. While Universal has time to reevaluate their Universal Monsters properties, I think it’s almost certain that after “Dracula Untold” and “The Mummy”, we’ll be getting monster movies… horror movies. The kind that we all really want to see!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jesse, and thanks for the read!

      Reply
    • Damn well said, they biggest mistake the producers made was not understanding the source material.

      Reply
  4. I don’t think the film makers ever actually sat down and watched the old films. I think they heard of them and tried to cash in on the Avengers shared universe by pumping out big action movies without understanding the source material.

    Reply

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