Dark Universe (franchise)

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Dark Universe
Dark Universe official logo.jpg
Official logo of the film label, as released by Universal Pictures from The Mummy (2017).
Based onCharacters from
Universal Classic Monsters
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
2014-present
CountryUnited States

The Dark Universe is a franchise of standalone monster-horror films produced by Universal Studios. Originally conceived as a cinematic universe that was officially titled the Dark Universe, with multiple crossovers and inter-connectivity between films, the label is now used colloquially by some media outlets to refer to Universal Pictures' rebooted adaptations of their Universal Classic Monsters.[1]

Conceptualized as and intended to be a shared cinematic universe in the style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Universal reassessed and reconfigured their plans to instead develop individualized films, with stand-alone installments. The first film in the Dark Universe franchise was Dracula Untold (2014), followed by The Mummy (2017), and The Invisible Man (2020). The franchise will continue with multiple future adaptations in various stages of development.

Development[edit]

Originally conceived as a cinematic universe that was officially titled the Dark Universe, with multiple crossovers and inter-connectivity between films, the label is now used colloquially by some media outlets to refer to Universal Pictures' rebooted franchises. Conceptualized as a shared universe, the studio had announced the projects in development with a press release announcing the intellectual property's title, a trailer, casting announcements, and official theme music composed by Danny Elfman. Casting included: Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Edward Hyde, Javier Bardem as the Frankenstein's Monster, and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. They joined Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, as Nick Morton and Princess Ahmanet / The Mummy. Additional rebooted adaptations of characters was also announced, including: Van Helsing, the Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Phantom of the Opera, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan were announced as co-runners of the Dark Universe, with collaborations from David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie.[1]

After mixed critical reception to the first two installments, Universal halted development on further projects, while their plans for future releases were reassessed.[2] Despite this, in May 2018, artist Robert Vargas announced from his social media account that he had attended a meeting with the studio and would collaborate on the Dark Universe character designs moving forward.[3] During this period of time, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan left their roles as co-architects of the franchise,[2] while successful horror film producer Jason Blum had at various times publicly expressed his interest in reviving and working on future installments within the Dark Universe franchise.[4][5] By January 2019, the studio announced plans to develop individualized films, with stand-alone installments.[6] After signing to collaborate on several of the reboots in development, Blum stated in November 2020 that control of the Dark Universe remains under the direction of Universal Pictures.[7]

Films[edit]

Film U.S.
release date
Director Screenwriter(s) Story by Producer(s)
Dracula Untold October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10) Gary Shore Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless Michael De Luca
The Mummy June 9, 2017 (2017-06-09) Alex Kurtzman David Koepp
and Christopher McQuarrie
and Dylan Kussman
Jon Spaihts
and Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet
Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan, Sean Daniel and Sarah Bradshaw
The Invisible Man February 28, 2020 (2020-02-28) Leigh Whannell Jason Blum and Kylie Du Fresne

Dracula Untold (2014)[edit]

The studio's first attempt at launching their shared universe, Dracula Untold was originally developed prior to the plans for a shared universe of horror films. The studio decided to retool the movie to be the first installment of the franchise, with re-shoots adding a modern-day setting at the end of the film. Starring Luke Evans in the eponymous role, the plot incorporated elements regarding the real-life Vlad Drăculea in an fictionalized origin story where he becomes the vampire, Dracula. Released on October 10, 2014, the film's mixed financial and critical reception resulted in the film's presence within the franchise to be downplayed.[citation needed] Evans has remained attached to the role, with potential to return in a future film.[8][9]

The Mummy (2017)[edit]

Originally announcing plans for a reboot of The Mummy franchise in 2012, Universal marketed The Mummy as the first film in the Dark Universe. Alex Kurtzman served as director and co-writer,[10][11] The Mummy was released on June 9, 2017. Critics panned the film. Universal deemed the domestic ticket sales to be, underwhelming box office returns.[12] Due to the poor reception, Universal removed additional films from their scheduled release dates, while the future of the franchise was reassessed.[citation needed]

The Invisible Man (2020)[edit]

The project was initially announced in February 2016 as a part of the Dark Universe with Johnny Depp cast in the lead role and a script by Ed Solomon. By January 2019, it was announced to be retooled as a stand-alone feature film written and directed by Leigh Whannell with an acknowledgement that Depp had the option to remain cast as the titular monster.[13] The project was a joint-production between Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Nervous Tick, and Goalpost Pictures. Jason Blum and Kylie du Fresne served as the producers.

Elisabeth Moss and Oliver Jackson-Cohen were cast as the lead characters, Cecilia Kass and Adrian Griffin / the Invisible Man, respectively.[14][15][16] Principal photography commenced in July 2019, and continued into September 2019.[17] The Invisible Man was released on February 28, 2020.[18] Later, Whannell stated that the movie was developed as a stand-alone installment, and was not developed with a greater cinematic universe in mind.[19]

Other films in development[edit]

Film U.S.
release date
Director Screenwriter(s) Story by Producer(s)
Dark Army TBA Paul Feig Paul Feig and Laura Fischer
Renfield TBA Dexter Fletcher Ryan Ridley Robert Kirkman
and Ryan Ridley
Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst and Sean Furst
Frankenstein TBA TBA Robbie Thompson James Wan
The Invisible Woman TBA Elizabeth Banks Erin Cressida Wilson Elizabeth Banks Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman
Monster Mash TBA Matt Stawski Will Widger Matt Stawski Marty Bowen
The Bride of Frankenstein TBA TBA David Koepp Amy Pascal
Dracula TBA Karyn Kusama Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay Jason Blum
The Wolf Man TBA Leigh Whannell Lauren Shuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo Ryan Gosling
and Leigh Whannell
Jason Blum and Ryan Gosling
Little Monsters TBA Josh Cooley Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman
Invisible Man sequel TBA TBA TBA Leigh Whannell Jason Blum
Untitled film TBA TBA Wes Tooke Reid Carolin Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin, Peter Kiernan and Aditya Sood
Van Helsing reboot TBA Julius Avery Eric Pearson
and Julius Avery
Eric Pearson James Wan
  • The Bride of Frankenstein: Originally announced with Bill Condon as the director for the reboot of the titular character, with a script written by David Koepp; the movie was scheduled to be released on February 14, 2019.[20][21] By November 2017, the movie was pulled from its initial release, with the studio stating that the filmmaker and all creatives involved had wanted to delay the film in favor of further refining the script.[2][22] In January 2018, development on the film continued with Condon hiring a production team consisting of cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler, production designer Sarah Greenwood, composer Carter Burwell, and costume designer Jacqueline Durran.[23] By November 2019, Condon confirmed that though the film had entered pre-production at one point, it was ultimately halted due to the outcome of the release of The Mummy. The director also confirmed that Koepp remains involved with re-working the rebooted franchises.[24] By February 2020, it was announced that Amy Pascal will serve as producer, with the project becoming a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures and Pascal Pictures. The studio is courting David Koepp to continue his work as screenwriter. Filmmakers John Krasinski and Sam Raimi have individually had discussions with the studio regarding potentially directing, while Variety reported that Krasinski was given options to develop films from the roster of monsters owned by Universal Pictures.[25][26] In June 2020, Koepp stated that, in addition to still being actively involved with the project, and stated that he was inspired by the success of The Invisible Man.[27] He stated that the story will explore the modern-day desire to extend our lives, create life, and cheat death. Furthermore, the filmmaker intends to include plot devices that are relevant to the #MeToo era, stating that "it's horror effortlessly lending itself to metaphor."[28]
  • Dark Army: In September 2019, it was announced that the film, featuring monsters from the original movies as well as new characters, was in development. Paul Feig will serve as director, from a script of his own. He will serve as co-producer with Laura Fischer. The project will be a joint production between Universal Pictures and Feigco Productions.[29] In October of the same year, the filmmaker confirmed that "the Dark Universe people" were reviewing the first draft of his script, while stating that The Bride of Frankenstein will be a major influence on his project.[30] By February 2020, Feig stated that he was working on the second draft of the script, after receiving input from Universal Pictures.[31] By May of the same year, Feig stated that he had recently finished the second draft of the script and described the tone of the film as closer to the original films, when compared to Whannell's The Invisible Man. The filmmaker reaffirmed that it will be a horror movie, but that it will portray the monsters as rejects, similar to the original films. He further stated that the studio is still deciding which of the projects they have in development will enter production first.[32] Variety reported that Feig was given the option to develop films of any characters from the roster of monsters owned by Universal Pictures, prior to his chosen project.[25][26] In February 2021, Feig stated that he plans to further develop the project after finishing production on The School for Good and Evil, noting that the script and its main character are among the favorites he's ever written.[33]
  • Renfield: In November 2019, it was announced that a film centered Count Dracula's henchman, R. M. Renfield, is in development. The project was greenlit following a pitch to the studio from Robert Kirkman. Dexter Fletcher signed on as director, with a script by Ryan Ridley. Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst, and Sean Furst will serve as producers. The film will be a joint-venture production between Universal Studios, and Skybound Entertainment.[34]
  • Frankenstein: Beginning in June 2017, the project was initially announced as being in development as one of the films to be an installment in the Dark Universe.[35] Javier Bardem was cast to portray the titular monster.[36] Following changes to the release slate and an reevaluation to technique, it was announced in November 2019 that James Wan will serve as producer on a reboot of the Frankenstein film series.[37] Jason Blum expressed interest in joining the production in a producing role.[38] In March 2020, it was announced that Robbie Thompson was hired to serve as screenwriter, with the plot revolving around a group of teenagers who discover that a neighbor is creating a monster in their basement. The project will be a joint production between Universal Pictures and Atomic Monster Productions.[39]
  • The Invisible Woman: In November 2019, a reboot of The Invisible Woman was announced to be in development. Elizabeth Banks will star in, and direct the film, with a script written by Erin Cressida Wilson from a story pitch written by Banks. She will co-produce the project with Max Handelman.[40] Variety reported that Banks was given options to develop a film from any characters in the roster of monsters owned by Universal Pictures, while she chose the Invisible Woman.[25][26]
  • Monster Mash: In February 2020 a musical, titled after and centered around the novelty song "Monster Mash", was announced to be in development. Grammy Award nominee Matt Stawski will make his feature film directorial debut, while Will Widger will serve as screenwriter, from an original story written by Stawski, and Marty Bowen serving as producer. The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures and Temple Hill Entertainment.[41]
  • Dracula: By March 2020, Karyn Kusama was hired to direct a film centered around Dracula, from a script co-written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay. The plot will reportedly take place in a modern setting. The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions.[42][43] In June of the same year, Kusama stated that the film will be a "faithful adaptation" of Bram Stoker's Dracula, including the plot device of being told from various perspectives.[44][45]
  • Wolfman: In May 2020, it was announced that Ryan Gosling has been cast as the Wolf Man for an upcoming reboot of the titular character. Lauren Shuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo co-wrote the script, from an original story pitched by Gosling. The actor had previously been in negotiations to also serve as director, though he passed on the opportunity to instead focus entirely on acting.[46] By July 2020, Leigh Whannell was in early negotiations to serve as director, while Jason Blum joined the production team as an additional producer. The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures, and Blumhouse Productions.[47]
  • Little Monsters: In July 2020, a film titled Little Monsters was announced to be in development. Josh Cooley was hired to serve as both writer and director, with the story said to not only set a departure from other Universal Monster films, but to also serve as a "love letter to classic Hollywood and the history of film-making with a story that takes a multi-generational approach to the monsters and a more PG-rated, lighthearted family-friendly tone in the tradition of the classic 80s Spielberg films from Amblin Entertainment to match as well". The movie will be a live-action/CGI hybrid, with Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman serving as producers. The project will be a joint production between Universal Pictures and Mandeville Films.[48]
  • Untitled Invisible Man sequel: In February 2020, after the release of the first film, Leigh Whannell and Elizabeth Moss stated that the movie was standalone with a definitive ending. Whannell explained that once the movie is released, and some time passes he may consider working on a followup movie.[49] In May, Leigh and Jason Blum stated that discussions regarding a sequel were ongoing.[50] By June when asked about a sequel, Moss stated: "Look, if people want it that’s kind of a big part of what we need in order to do it. So put the word out there that YOU want it and then I’ll help!"[51] In July 2020, it was officially announced that Leigh Whannell is working on the story for a sequel to The Invisible Man.[48]
  • Untitled Scorpion King reboot: In November 2020, it was announced that a reboot of The Scorpion King film series is in development. Jonathan Herman will serve as screenwriter, with the plot taking place during modern-day and involving a contemporary adaptation of Mathayus of Akkad / Scorpion King. Dwayne Johnson, who started his acting career as the titular role in the original films, will serve as producer alongside Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia. The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures and Seven Bucks Productions.[52]
  • Untitled film: In November 2020, it was announced that a project is under development with Channing Tatum as its star. Wes Tooke will serve as screenwriter, from a story written by Reid Carolin. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller will serve as co-producers alongside Tatum, Carolin, Peter Kiernan, and Aditya Sood. The plot is described as "a modern-day, tongue-in-cheek thriller", while being "a bold genre reinvention of one of the studio’s most beloved characters from the Monsters Universe.” The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures, Lord Miller Productions, and Free Association Productions.[53]
  • Van Helsing: Originally announced in 2015, with Rupert Sanders in early negotiations to serve as a director, with a script co-written by Jon Spaihts and Eric Heisserer;[54][55] the project was ultimately placed on hold with the rest of the franchise.[6] In December 2020, it was announced that the project had re-entered development with Julius Avery serving as director, as well as doing a rewrite of an original script by Eric Pearson. James Wan will serve as producer. The project will be another joint-production venture between Universal Pictures and Atomic Monster Productions.[56]
  • Untitled Dracula film: In February 2021, it was announced that a film described as a futuristic science fiction-western, centered around Dracula is in development. Chloé Zhao will serve as writer, director, and producer. The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures, and Highwayman Films.[57]

Main cast and characters[edit]

Character Film
Dracula: Untold The Mummy The Invisible Man
Prince Vlad Drăculea III
Dracula
Luke Evans  
Mirena Drăculea Sarah Gadon  
Îngeraș Drăculea Art Parkinson  
Nosferatu
Master Vampire
Charles Dance  
Sultan Mehmed II Dominic Cooper  
Sgt. Nick Norton
Set[58]
  Tom Cruise  
Princess Ahmanet
The Mummy
  Sofia Boutella  
Jennifer "Jenny" Halsey   Annabelle Wallis  
Dr. Henry Jekyll
Mr. Edward Hyde
  Russell Crowe  
Chris Vail   Jake Johnson  
Cecilia Kass   Elisabeth Moss
Adrian Griffin
The Invisible Man
  Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Det. James Lanier   Aldis Hodge
Sydney Lanier   Storm Reid
Emily Kass   Harriet Dyer
Thomas "Tom" Griffin   Michael Dorman

Additional crew and production details[edit]

Title Crew/Detail
Composer Cinematographer Editor(s) Production
companies
Distributing
company
Running time MPAA rating
Dracula: Untold Ramin Djawadi John Schwartzman Richard Pearson Universal Pictures,
Legendary Pictures,
Michael De Luca Productions
Universal Pictures 1hr 32mins PG-13
The Mummy Brian Tyler Ben Seresin Paul Hirsch, Gina Hirsch
Andrew Mondshein
Universal Pictures,
Dark Universe,
Perfect World Pictures,
K/O Paper Products,
Conspiracy Factory,
Sean Daniel Company,
Secret Hideout
1hr 50mins
The Invisible Man Benjamin Wallfisch Stefan Duscio Andy Canny Universal Pictures,
Blumhouse Productions,
Goalpost Pictures,
Nervous Tick Productions
2hrs 4mins R

Reception[edit]

Box office and financial performance[edit]

Film Box office gross Box office ranking Video
sales gross
Worldwide
net income
Budget Worldwide total
gross income
Ref.
North America Other territories Worldwide All time
North America
All time
worldwide
North America
Dracula: Untold $56,280,355 $164,249,843 $220,530,198 #1,536 #569 $18,481,733 $239,011,931 $70,000,000 $169,011,931 [59][60]
The Mummy $80,227,895 $329,852,780 $410,080,675 #996 #215 $16,677,622 $426,758,297 $195,000,000 $231,758,297 [61][62]
The Invisible Man $70,410,000 $73,999,677 $144,409,677 #1,294 #1,294 $12,254,529 $156,664,206 $7,000,000 $149,664,206 [63][64]
Totals $206,918,250 $568,102,300 $775,020,550 x̄ #1,275 x̄ #693 $47,413,884 $822,434,434 $272,000,000 $550,434,434

Critical and public response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
Dracula: Untold 25% (137 reviews)[65] 40/100 (30 reviews)[66] A-[67]
The Mummy 16% (313 reviews)[68] 34/100 (44 reviews)[69] B-[67]
The Invisible Man 92% (402 reviews)[70] 72/100 (58 reviews)[71] B+[67]

References[edit]

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