dark universe

Universal’s Dark Universe Is Doing It Wrong

Universal’s initial announcement of a cinematic universe is one that caught me by surprise. In hindsight, though, I shouldn’t have been that perplexed. “Cinematic universes” are all the rage these days. In fact, the original Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe (UMCU?) in the 1950s was probably the first cinematic universe.

While the announcement of their universe did shock me a little, the more I thought about, the more I was liking their idea. First of all, how many cinematic universes can you name that are horror-based? Freddy vs Jason does exist, but I’m pretty sure everyone forgot about that already. I think we, as the audience, need a horror universe on the big screen. Think about it: a shared universe based off of the properties of the mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s monster? Sign me up!

Nope. Don’t get excited because… it’s an action franchise. That’s right, they managed to take some of the most iconic and frightening monsters of literary history and make it a generic-as-hell action series. Now, I’m not completely surprised of this outcome. The execs at Universal looked at the critical and commercial disappointments of past titles such as I, Frankenstein (2014), Van Helsing (2004), and The Wolfman (2010), and realized audiences probably aren’t interested in another horror-based retelling of these creatures.

So they decided to go for the action route, a move that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I see their justification. Despite the fact The Mummy (2017) sputtered to 17% on Rotten Tomatoes and a mediocre $34M opening weekend, I can see the action route playing well for them. I thought it would be a fun game to take a look at the Dark Universe’s upcoming slate and predict how it could be transformed into an action film.

  • Bride of Frankenstein – Frankenstein’s monster, played by Javier Bardem, teams up with Tom Cruise’s character from The Mummy and fights government agents who have the monster’s bride in custody. The main antagonist is played by Liam Neeson who gets killed by Bardem’s character. There is a heavy CGI-based chase scene.
  • The Invisible Man – In a big city, say New York, a man is hired by a secret government society to go through biological experimentation to make him the ultimate soldier: an invisible man, played by Johnny Depp. The line, “What am I, some kind of invisible man?” will somehow make the final cut of the movie. When the film crushes box office records, Johnny Depp becomes overjoyed that his face is back at being bankable, until he realizes his face was only in the movie for about 5 minutes of screen time.
  • Man of Wolf – A hard-working hitman, played by Dwayne Johnson, is tasked to locate and kill the son of a crime mob boss, played by Zac Efron. The two butt heads in an ultimate showdown, during a strategically planned night – a night when the moon is full. In the post-credits scene, Russell Crowe’s character from The Mummy recruits Johnson into a top secret organization.
  • The Invisible Man v. Van Helsing: Dawn of Darkness – Based off of the box office success of the first Invisible Man, Universal green-lit a sequel, and packaged it with another monster: Van Helsing. In the final battle, Helsing and the invisible man realize that the real threat is not either of them and agree to team up.

Universal should probably hire me because I’m just oozing out ideas. In all seriousness though, they should consider dropping the action-movie angle. They are sitting on a gold-mine of an IP, and can potentially shift the current tide of superhero movies by introducing a brand new world of cinema, with an innovating genre in today’s world. Movie-going audiences will definitely appreciate the different choices in the cinema, and will come in droves to see a horror-based cinematic universe if it’s done well.

The Mummy is currently in theaters. Bride of Frankenstein is set for a February 14, 2019 release.

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