Ah yes, the Dark Universe – remember that? It began in 2014 with Dracula: Untold, and then again in 2017 with The Mummy (no Brendan Fraser in sight) directed by Alex Kurtzman, who was also set to helm the universe.
Neither movie was a hit, critically or commercially, and then Kurtzman departed The Mummy franchise, leaving the Dark Universe up in the air. In May 2018, artist Robert Vargas reinvigorated hope for the future, posting to Instagram about his meeting with Universal.
But it's been a long time since then and we've only had one film in the Dark Universe version 2 – The Invisible Man. With The Invisible Man garnering generally positive reviews there seems to be more hope than not that the shared universe will take off. Here's everything we know about the Dark Universe.
The Dark Universe: How it started
From the 1920s to the 1950s, Universal Studios released a plethora of monster movies starting with silent films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera.
When 'talkies' were developed, they began to make hits like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride Of Frankenstein, The Wolfman and Creature from the Black Lagoon and their own spinoffs and sequels.
There were also lesser known titles, which could prove fertile ground for future remakes. They include Weird Woman, The Frozen Ghost, Pillow Of Death and The Mole People.
The Dark Universe: Where we are now?
February 2020 has seen the first film in the thrice rebooted Dark Universe, The Invisible Man. It stars Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia, a woman being tormented by her ex – who is supposedly dead.
The film is a metaphor for domestic violence, in particular the manipulation of one partner by the other known as gaslighting. As Cecilia describes it: "This is what he does. He makes me feel like the crazy one."
Unlike the previous attempts to start the Dark Universe, The Invisible Man is doing well both at the box office and with critics. The movie is on target to make $30 million in its opening weekend on a $7 million budget.
That's a much better foundation to start a movie universe.
The Dark Universe: What was it supposed to be?
The original plan for the Dark Universe was for its films to be linked via the Prodigium, a secret society dedicated to hunting supernatural threats (think SHIELD.), run by none other than Doctor Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) a sort of Dark Universe version of Nick Fury.
Only that's not happening anymore. Instead, Universal is moving away from a linked universe to a more tangentially connected universe...
The Dark Universe: What is it now?
The Dark Universe isn't a shared Universe the way the MCU is, no matter how hard Universal tried to make it so. Now, instead, it will be an umbrella term that encompasses films featuring Universal's monsters, and original ideas.
This is a move similar to Warner Bros recent shift away from a connected Worlds of DC. Joker, for example, is part of the Worlds of DC but doesn't have any plot, character, or world links to the rest of the DC movies.
Warner Bros other successful outing, Shazam!, is more connected plot-wise to the Worlds of DC but did not feature a single cameo of another DC movie character. This has proved fruitful for WB, and it looks like Universal has taken a page from their book.
Likewise, The Invisible Man's director told CinemaBlend: "At no stage did someone call me and say 'oh hey, by the way, we'd love it if we could have a cameo from Dr Jekyll in the movie' or 'we'd love if you could come in and look at some of our plans.' It was only ever treated by Universal as a standalone film."
So, the future of the Dark Universe looks like it will be several stand alone films. What's coming up after The Invisible Man.
The Dark Universe: What comes next?
Supposedly still in the works is Dark Army to be directed by Paul Feig (yes, of Last Christmas!) which is sort of the Avengers of the Dark Universe. According to Universal president Peter Cramer: "It’s hard to describe the tone of [Dark Army]." (via New York Times).
Deadline reported that "the project will include characters from Universal’s classic monster library and original characters created by Feig."
The Invisible Woman
Yep! Elizabeth Banks (Charlie's Angels) will direct and star in The Invisible Woman – no relation to the aforementioned Invisible Man. The screenplay comes from Erin Cressida Wilson (The Girl on the Train).
Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman) is set to direct Renfield, about a minor character in the legend of Dracula. In it, he's the count's henchman but he also eats spiders...? So that's a thing. Cramer described him as: "The guy who has to work for Dracula, which is the worst job ever."
There's not a lot of information about it available, and Cramer only said: "there’s a cool filmmaker involved, but it’s a little early to talk too much about that." However, there were previous rumours that James Wan could be involved with Frankenstein, but we have no confirmation of that as of yet.
That's all we know for now, but bookmark this page for more on the Dark Universe as it's released.
The Invisible Man is now playing in cinemas.
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