Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell and Blumhouse’s update of The Invisible Man hits theaters next weekend, which means we can all move on with our lives and pretend as though the ill-fated Dark Universe never existed. Universal’s last attempt at rebooting their stable of iconic monsters for modern audiences didn’t go too well, with The Mummy quickly following 2014’s forgotten Dracula Untold in falling spectacularly at the first hurdle.
The Universal Monsters had appealed to movie fans for decades because they were all painted as tragic figures in their own ways, so the decision by the studio to try and ape the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s recipe for success and reinvent the characters as the stars of action blockbusters always seemed doomed to fail. Plenty of planned shared universes have fallen by the wayside in recent years because the people in the boardroom are so desperate to rush to the finish line that they forget to establish a foundation for the entire franchise, and simply expect audiences to buy into what comes ahead.
With Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll set to play the Nick Fury role and be the man who links everything together, The Mummy was cynically designed to set Tom Cruise up for further adventures alongside the likes of Johnny Depp’s Invisible Man, Javier Bardem’s Frankenstein and his Bride played by Angelina Jolie, while wild rumors even hinted that Universal were looking at Dwayne Johnson for the Wolfman.
After The Mummy bombed in the wake of behind-the-scenes turmoil though, the Dark Universe collapsed into itself, with Universal deciding to go in a different creative direction. And in a recent interview to promote The Invisible Man, Universal Chairwoman Donna Langley finally admitted what we all knew, and flat-out called the attempted shared universe a failure.
“We had an attempt at interlocking our monsters, and it was a failed attempt. What we realized is that these characters are indelible for a reason, but there’s no urgency behind them, and certainly the world was not asking for a shared universe of classic monsters. But we have gone back, and created an approach that’s filmmaker-first, any budget range.”
With an upcoming slate of projects that includes Paul Feig’s Dark Army, a Monster Mash musical, a possible John Krasinski-helmed Bride of Frankenstein and the potential involvement of Ryan Gosling, let’s hope that the mistakes of the Dark Universe are not repeated and the upcoming monster movies can stand on their own merits.