The future of Universal's monster-filled Dark Universe in doubt

Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Sofia Boutella were the key stars of Universal’s Dark Universe (Photo: Universal)

It looks as though Universal’s Monsters are in jeopardy…

The Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, and the Invisible Man were all supposed to be getting their own movies in the so-called Dark Universe, but now the creatives behind the project have been scared away.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have already abandoned the franchise following the appalling critical reception to The Mummy.

“Universal’s cinematic Dark Universe is in danger of being mummified,” the Reporter quips. “Just five months after Universal released a much-discussed cast photo promising a slew of movies starring the likes of Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe and Javier Bardem — all drawn on characters like the Invisible Man, Wolf Man and Frankenstein in its stable of classic horror films — none of the projects appears to have a pulse.”

The big problem can be summed up in two words: The Mummy.

Although The Mummy was intended to launch the studio’s ambitious Dark Universe — a film franchise based around some of cinema’s most iconic monsters — the move was met with a harsh critical reception. And the film’s meager box office haul didn’t help either — earning just $409 million worldwide on a budget of $125 million-plus.

And this seems to have given Universal cause to pull the plug on the entire franchise.

According to THR, Universal halted preproduction on the next film, Bride of Frankenstein, because the studio believed writer-director Bill Condon’s script needed work. The studio had eyed Angelina Jolie for the lead, but she is no longer involved, and the film is no longer on track for its slated February 2019 release date.

Now, to make matters worse, Kurtzman and Morgan are out, too. They were brought on as architects of the Dark Universe but both have departed to focus on other projects. Kurtzman is focusing his attention on Star Trek: Discovery, while Morgan is working on the Fast and Furious spinoff starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.

The Reporter also notes that the franchise was given its very own office on the Universal lot, which, following an expensive themed makeover, sits mostly empty.

Universal is now reportedly reconsidering its options for the franchise, which could mean focusing on more one-off installments rather than trying to build a connected universe.

So it’s too early to say the plan has been completely scuttled. After all, there’s one thing we know from the movies: these monsters are hard to kill.