When Universal Pictures announced they were bringing their classic monsters back to the big screen, fans were excited that the likes of The Invisible Man, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and The Bride of Frankenstein would get to be seen (sorry Invisible Man) again.
However, things took a turn when Universal revealed that Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan were developing a shared universe and a roster of movies on the fast-track. The Dark Universe kicked off with The Mummy starring Tom Cruise which was an instant hit with audiences and critics. No, wait, that didn’t happen at all. The Mummy lost Universal money, and the already in development Bride of Frankenstein directed by Bill Condon was put on indefinite hiatus. All of a sudden, that highly publicised photo of Cruise, Johnny Depp (Invisible Man), and Javier Bardem (Dr Frankenstein) was a tad premature.
I had hoped that Universal was going to make mid-budget horrors to remind audiences how scary their old school titans of terror remain. Instead, we got a big budget adventure movie that lacked the fun of Stephen Sommers’ 1999 romp and single-handedly killed a franchise dead in the face. During a #AskBlum Twitter session, horror producer Jason Blum was asked by a fan if he would be willing to take over the Dark Universe, and he answered a resounding yes.
— Jason Blum (@jason_blum) August 17, 2018
While a one-word response is thin by anyone’s standards to base a whole article on, the more I think about it, the more it makes perfect sense. Jason Blum has a ten-year first-look deal with Universal that won’t expire until 2024. He is the master at producing high-concept low budget horrors including the Academy Award-winning Get Out. Blum could produce the entire Dark Universe for less than the cost of The Mummy (as much as $195 million by some insiders).
The Blumhouse model of filmmaking is one that other studios are keen to replicate. Even the ones that flop rarely lose money thanks to robust Home Entertainment, and streaming rights revenue. Universal’s biggest mistake with the Dark Universe was going down the summer tentpole movie path. Did Van Helsing teach you nothing?
Universal doesn’t have any superhero franchises, and the temptation to create a world of heroes and monsters on a big scale is understandable, but it’s not the right fit for these iconic characters. I know I’m in a small group on this one, so be kind. I don’t totally hate the extended cut of The Wolfman. Plagued by production problems, going significantly over budget to the point that Universal knew it wouldn’t break even (it tanked). For all its many faults, The Wolfman was entertaining with the extended cut upping the gore.
There haven’t been any updates on Universal’s plans for the Dark Universe since both Kurtzman and Morgan exited as the creative forces powering the franchise. Thanks to Fast & Furious, Despicable Me, Minions, and Jurassic World, Universal isn’t short of a bob or two. So, why not just cut Jason Blum a cheque for $200 million to make half a dozen movies, after the poor reception to Dracula Untold, and The Mummy, what have they got to lose?