The Dark Universe is officially dead. Universal’s planned big-budget revamp of its classic monster properties could not get up and running, as first ‘Dracula Untold’, then ‘The Mummy’ crashed and burned. Envious of the Marvel shared universe at Disney, Universal saw its monsters as their ticket to a similar tentpole franchise and enlisted big names like Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, and Johnny Depp to headline these flicks, but audiences weren’t impressed.
Depp was attached to star in ‘The Invisible Man’, but that version of the film has been scrapped, and Leigh Whannell (‘Insidious: Chapter 3’, ‘Upgrade’) has signed on to direct a new take. This picture will be produced by low-budget horror-guru Jason Blum under his Blumhouse studio, one of the most profitable imprints in Hollywood, who specialize in making movies for typically less than $20 million, which then make many times that in ticket sales. Blum first expressed interest in taking over the brand last August.
The Universal reboots fell under the banner Dark Universe, but to mark this fresh start, upcoming movies will be referred to as Monster Legacy. Attention is being turned to filmmakers and their visions, as explained by Universal’s president of production, Peter Cramer:
“Throughout cinematic history, Universal’s classic monsters have been reinvented through the prism of each new filmmaker who brought these characters to life. We are excited to take a more individualized approach for their return to screen, shepherded by creators who have stories they are passionate to tell with them.”
Similarly to Warner Brothers’ evolving approach to its DC Universe movies, less emphasis will be placed on building a shared universe– i.e. splashy cameos between films. Unlike ‘The Mummy’ which was more of an action movie, the new pictures under Blumhouse’s guidance will emphasize these characters’ horror roots.
Universal’s first Dark Universe picture was 2014’s ‘Dracula Untold’ starring Luke Evans and Dominic Cooper. After that film failed, Universal distanced itself from it and announced that ‘The Mummy’ would be the true kick-off to this series. That also bombed. In addition to Cruise, Crowe, and Depp, Javier Bardem was attached to play the Wolfman, and Angelina Jolie was reportedly set to star in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’, although that was never finalized.
Blumhouse’s next release will be ‘Happy Deathday 2 U’, out on February 13.
What do you think of this massive switch on Universal’s part?