With The Mummy starting a new franchise, Universal is aiming for big names to carry upcoming movies. Is there a future for the Dark Universe?
Universal’s budding new franchise, the Dark Universe, kicked off last month with The Mummy, the first movie of many monster movies to come. While Tom Cruise’s presence brought in a big audience, critics argued that the film itself didn’t manage to capture any of what made the original so remarkable.
But the film was far from a flop, and Universal is already planning a whole series of films to expand their new universe, which will incorporate many of Universal’s classic monsters from the past, presumably in a modern setting. They’ve advertised it as a film series in the style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is bound to lead up to an ensemble film of some sort, and are clearly focused on getting famous actors to star in it — especially after their success with Cruise.
We now have a glimpse at the future, with new actors, directors and writers announced for future movies. With such a vast variety of main characters with very different stories, where is this all going?
‘Bride of Frankenstein’ – February 14, 2019
The Bride of Frankenstein is a film classic. The original from1935 actually surpassed its predecessor Frankenstein in reception. It’s clearly a must-have for the Dark Universe, and Bill Condon has been given the part of director.
The presence of Dr. Jekyll in The Mummy might be a way to explain the Bride’s resurgence in modern times — maybe he’s somehow involved in bringing her to life — unless the plan is to create some sort of origin story, which runs the risk of being unremarkable. Although Condon insists, “The Bride of Frankenstein remains the most iconic female monster in film history,” the original Bride of Frankenstein barely shows the Bride herself, and is mostly centered around the Monster. If this is meant to be a feminist story, an exact remake of the original probably wouldn’t be the way to go.
Angelina Jolie has reportedly been offered the part of the Bride herself, and Javier Bardem has already been signed on as the Monster. Both are amazing actors, which points to a promising movie that might have more nuance than The Mummy did.
‘The Invisible Man’ – 2020
Johnny Depp has already been cast as the Invisible Man himself, which will probably be the next movie after The Bride of Frankenstein. With Ed Solomon, director of movies such as Men in Black, on board, and Depp’s own penchant for humorous characters, it seems likely that the movie might have a comedic tone mixed in with its horror.
With a simultaneously funny and depressing premise, the story of the invisible Dr. Griffin will definitely attract audiences, especially given Depp’s fan following. Out of all of the ‘monsters,’ he may also be the easiest one to incorporate as a modern-day character, and might be the comic relief in a group of fierce villains. An origin story like this one might exist to establish Griffin’s angst and eventual acceptance of his condition — and just how twisted invisibility makes him become.
Of course, that’s assuming that Universal opts to go with the same characters and plot of the 1933 film. They might decide to change the character and the story entirely — and frankly, The Invisible Man seems an easier movie to do that to than the others.
‘Van Helsing’ (and ‘Dracula Untold 2’?) – ?
Few of us ever thought that this movie would be back on the table, but The Hollywood Reporter just announced that it seems that Universal is trying to get Channing Tatum to play the lead role in an upcoming Van Helsing film, the script of which is already in the works. It’s a bit weird to think of another Van Helsing, but it makes sense to hire Tatum, since he’s likely to bring in an audience.
The original 2004 film was set in Victorian times, but it seems likely that Universal would opt for a more modern approach this time. Maybe Van Helsing is hired by Jekyll be a part of the team… or maybe he’s being set up to be an antagonist. It’s particularly interesting that the villain in the original Van Helsing was Dracula, a character Universal has recently made a movie of.
Dracula Untold, released in 2014, was originally meant to be a part of the Dark Universe as an origin story for Dracula. But since then, Universal has repeatedly named The Mummy the first movie of the franchise — which makes Dracula’s future confusing. Could Van Helsing be the way for Luke Evans’ Dracula to return, as a hero or an antagonist?
Van Helsing could be a way for Universal to see if there actually is still interest in another Dracula film. A while back, Evans shared his thoughts on the possibility of a sequel:
“There have been talks and conversations. I think the bigger picture is exciting for all the monsters that they own. There is talk about it. I just don’t know how it will all manifest itself. I think it will happen and I think they’re just working out how these monsters interact and how they end up in the same realm with each other.”
We’ll see how it goes, but a movie with both Tatum and Evans would definitely bring in an audience, and might actually be a fun one to watch if the story is well-written.
‘The Wolf Man’ – ?
The original 1941 film was already remade in 2010, with Benicio del Toro in the lead role. And yet, a third iteration of The Wolf Man already has a script in the works.
For a werewolf story that is already known and replicated everywhere, a new movie about a man bitten by a werewolf would have the truly difficult challenge of finding something that makes it different enough to bring in an audience. It’s probably safe to say that whoever ends up playing the main character will be a very famous actor, so that Universal feels safe taking the risk of a third Wolf Man movie.
‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ – ?
The 1950s’ trilogy was a story about a creature (sometimes called the Gill-man) that lives in a lagoon in the Amazon and is hostile towards humans… and oddly always obsessed with kidnapping the lead female character. It hasn’t been remade since, but in 2007 there was an idea to do so with a more environmental angle. It didn’t end up happening, but that might be a hint of what is to come.
But with the Anaconda movies already overexposing us to Amazon horror, and the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro movie The Shape of Water touching on a Gill-man-like creature with a more humane tone, we’ll have to wait and see what Universal will do to make this character both scary and appealing.
It’s worth noting that the Creature’s hand might have been seen in The Mummy, in Jekyll’s laboratories. It seems to be severed, though, so either the Creature isn’t the only of its kind, or it’ll already have a pretty convoluted backstory when we next see it. That is, unless this movie is meant to be an origin story set before The Mummy.
There’s more. Universal has an extremely long list of monster movies they plan to resurrect from the dead. Among them are rumored: a Dracula film, a Frankenstein film, a Phantom of the Opera film, and a Hunchback of Notre-Dame film.
It’s not clear if all of them are meant to be a part of the Dark Universe, or if Universal is just going on a remake spree, but at the moment it’s kind of hard to imagine so many different stories converging… though it would make sense for there to eventually be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film, given that we’ll be seeing so much of Jekyll throughout this franchise.
It remains to be seen if Universal’s monsters can really bring them the profit they’re looking for. Hopefully, these movies won’t depend on having big-name actors forever, and will actually bring something new and exciting to the table that will have some of the same impact the originals did.