After years of preparation, Universal Pictures finally launched its interconnected monster franchise, the Dark Universe, with this past summer’s The Mummy. Unfortunately, the Tom Cruise starrer was critically panned and commercially lackluster, bringing in a relatively small $409 million worldwide on a budget of over $125 million, plus $100 million more in marketing. With the film deemed a failure, two of the masterminds behind the Dark Universe have parted ways from Universal, leaving the future of the series in peril.
Writer-producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan (The Fate of the Furious) have both officially departed the franchise, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The pair were working with David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie as the architects behind the entire DU, with Kurtzman directing The Mummy from a script by Koepp and McQuarrie.
The writing was on the wall when Universal pulled Bride of Frankenstein out of pre-production in early October. Bill Condon was set to write and direct the second DU entry, and while insiders maintain he’s still attached, Universal apparently wasn’t happy with the script. Last we heard, Javier Badem was signed on to play Frankenstein’s creation, while Angelina Jolie was being sought for the title character. With no date set to resume production and no lead actress, the film’s previously announced February 14th, 2019 release date has been abandoned.
Other planned Dark Universe movies included a Johnny Depp-starring The Invisible Man, and presumably films following Dracula and the Wolfman. Russell Crowe was introduced as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in The Mummy and was intended to be the thread that tied all the characters together. With the Universal lot office building that used to be filled with arrays of monster imagery now sitting largely vacant, however, it seems unlikely the Dark Universe will stitch itself together any time soon.
Still, that doesn’t mean all the Universal monsters are dead. The studio may pursue individual ventures with each character, or perhaps find a new group to course correct the Dark Universe concept. “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,” Universal president of production Peter Cramer told THR. “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.”
In the meantime, Kurtzman, whose deal lapsed in September, is now fully focused on his CBS projects, including Star Trek: Discovery. Meanwhile, Morgan is returning to the Fast and Furious franchise by penning a spin-off starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.