The dubbed Dark Universe of films, designed to showcase 21st century updates of Universal’s beloved classic black-and-white monster movies, have hit a snag. With Universal using this past summer’s The Mummy as the intended franchise starting point, director Alex Kurtzman and producer Chris Morgan were to be the grand visionaries for the ensuing films. However, after notable setbacks and delays, that will no longer be the case.
In a devastating development for Universal’s monster movie revival plans, appointed continuity masterminds Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, whose deals lapsed in September, have left the Dark Universe for brighter pastures, reports THR. The duo had been attached to oversee a lengthy list of Dark Universe follow-ups, starting with the 2019-scheduled Bride of Frankenstein, which has Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon attached and courted Angelina Jolie as its star. Other would-be entries include The Invisible Man, Van Helsing, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and The Phantom of the Opera.
The exits are the latest link in an unfortunate chain events that started when this past summer’s release of The Mummy missed its mark tremendously. The Kurtzman-directed film revival seemed to have a solid plan for success by nabbing megastar Tom Cruise to headline and introduced a female version of the titular bandaged baddie, played by Kingsman: The Secret Service femme-fatale Sofia Boutella. However, the film was generally seen as formulaic and lifeless, failing to resonate with audiences. While managing to gross $409 million worldwide, the film was a financial failure within the economics of the industry and its domestic take of $80 million failed to cover its exorbitant $125 million budget.
Thus, with the Dark Universe’s opening cinematic salvo ending up an embarrassing boondoggle, talk of going back to the drawing board had already started immediately after The Mummy unwrapped. In fact, the report describes the sad state of an empty office building on the Universal lot, which, elaborately decorated with monster movie themes, was to serve as the nerve center for the now-stalled film ventures.
It serves as a costly lesson for Universal, one that the studio intends to use effectively as it continues to move forward with inevitably-altered Dark Universe designs. As Universal president of production Peter Cramer explains:
“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.”
Thus, similar to movie-climactic fates delivered to some of the signature monsters that will inhabit the cinematic continuity of the Dark Universe, the franchise plans may appear dead, but are simply biding time for a physics-defying resurrection.
As for the exiting Dark Universe cinematic stewards, Kurtzman will shift focus back to his television projects, notably Star Trek: Discovery, Hawaii Five-0, Scorpion and Salvation. Morgan, on the other hand, will reportedly go to work on writing the script for the upcoming Fast and Furious film franchise spinoff, which will team Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs with Jason Statham’s Deckard.