Universal's MONSTER UNIVERSE On Hold

I hope you weren't waiting for a bunch of new monster movies coming out soon. It would seem that Universal's Shared Cinematic Monster Universe, the "Dark Universe" has run into some problems and would seem to be put on hold.

Then again, I'm not shocked.

First up, what happened:

The two main guys that were hired to pull of this Marvel-like shared movie universe, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, have left for greener fields. Kurtzman is working on CBS's new Star Trek project, and others for CBS, and Morgan is working on the Fast and Furious spinoff with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.

And why not? Let's look at what Honest Trailers had to say about the latest entry to the Dark Universe, The Mummy:

"A film without a soul,
Lacks the fun of the Brandon Frasier version,
Misses the horror of the original,
Settles into action block buster cliches (that kills all hype for the dark universe),"

And those comments were in the first 30 seconds past the sponsor announcement.

IMDb folks gave the film a 5.5/10, and got a 16% from the critics under Rotten Tomatoes.

So what went wrong? Lots. Let's look at a bit of recent history...

When 2014's Dracula Untold came out, that was going to be their first film in this Dark Universe, but when it did not perform as expected, or they hoped for, they decided to call The Mummy their first film. That alone was lame and sent a crappy message to fans.

But I liked this original spin on the ages old blood sucker!!! But the marketing failed it miserably.

( Dracula Untold movie review here on Cinema Static )

Then after The Mummy, we heard that they were going to be developing The Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Invisible Man, and Phantom of the Opera. Wait? What? Notice they were looking to already reboot their take on Dracula?

Then we had started hearing casting rumors about Johnny Depp being the Invisible Man, or Angelina Jolie playing some other character. But now... 

Things are on hold.

Check out what Universal’s president of production had to say about this (Peter Cramer):

“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.”

I wonder how it is they think we buy these pat excuses they put out as "press?" Sounded like he's blaming the directors here.


Other rumors are saying that Universal might tap Jason Blum, the guy behind the Paranormal Activity franchise, or that they are now going to possibly do one-off films instead of an entire universe bringing all the monsters together under one umbrella.

When I first saw the list of monsters they wanted to make films for, I lost total interest. There were too many. Plus they were really mixing up fantasy horror monsters with tragically cursed characters.

What I mean by that is, There's the horror, the real monsters: Dracula, Mummy, Black Lagoon.

Then there are the cursed characters: Frankenstein, the Bride, Hunchback, Invisible Man and Phantom.  I know you could argue that Drav and Mumm or cursed, but they have more supernatural powers than these others.

Their hopes for a collective was like stuffing a Fast And Furious story inside a Star Trek movie. If they had asked me, I would have stuck to one or the other grouping instead of such a huge collective.

There was a 2003 film from 20th Century Fox called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which pulled together a team of "extraordinary" characters to face off against a mad man of a villain. The characters included Alan Quatermain, vampiress Mina Harker from Dracula, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, a secret service agent named Sawyer, Captain Nemo, and Dorian Gray.  Boom...  They kept to the cursed humans and it netted a 5.8/10 on IMDb and got a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. But when it comes up on TV, it doesn't suck to watch.

Instead Universal tries pulling in huge names to draw crowds, screws up their announcements by denouncing films that don't perform as they liked, screwed up the marketing of The Mummy (see the Honest Trailers clip... they nail that one near the end) then apparently something was going on behind-the-scenes that drove out Kurtzman and Morgan, so poof!

Now what?

For one Universal, quit trying to be like Marvel. Marvel did it first, they did it right and they win! They already had a base to begin with - their comic franchise titles. And comics have been doing cross-over titles forever, in attempts to draw new clients into other titles.

I'd suggest going with some indie producers (code for cheaper), new talent that can deliver (another code for cheaper) , and use that shoe string budget like mode like Blum to create something decent that will make people want to see these films.

But that's just me... what do I know, I'm just a part-time blogger by night and by day a scientific data analyst!  (that has got to be a tagline for some comic book character somewhere, right?)


Honest Trailer's take on The Mummy


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