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
Some 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…
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)