Oh, the irony! It burns!
According to a report by THR, Universal's vaunted Dark Universe - which would have eventually seen the likes of The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man all appear in a shared franchise - is now as dead as any of their characters. Both Alex Kurtzmann and Chris Morgan - the two architects behind the franchise - have now left it behind and gone off to work on their own, separate projects.
Kurtzmann's efforts are tied up with Star Trek Discovery, the Netflix / CBS All Access project that's been garnering critical acclaim for revitalising Trek as a television property, whilst Chris Morgan has gone back to the Fast and Furious franchise and is also penning a spinoff with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Not only that, THR's report states that the long-in-gestation Bride Of Frankenstein film with Bill Condon directing Angelina Jolie has stalled entirely - and is unlikely to meet its 2019 release date. THR's report also says that the expensive production offices built for Dark Universe are now lying empty, with no sign of any activity coming from them.
All of this shouldn't come as much of a shock to anyone who's been following the story. Considering that Dracula Untold was originally supposed to be Universal's first crack at this, it's no surprise that it hasn't worked. The Mummy, meanwhile, made just $409 million worldwide against a production budget of anywhere between $125 million to $195 million. In fact, compared to The Scorpion King - which was a spinoff of the Brendan Fraser series of Mummy movies - it had a better opening weekend of Tom Cruise's The Mummy. A lot of this, however, is down to the choices made by Universal and the talent they've put in front of and behind the camera.
As Universal Monsters aficianado John Landis - yes, the director John Landis - told us when we interviewed him a few months ago, "you announce that Tom Cruise is in The Mummy, you know you're not going to see a horror picture! It's not gonna be The Mummy, it's going to be the Tom Cruise Show."
There's a way out of all this, of course. Instead of trying so desperately to make a shared universe ala Marvel and DC, make good films on their own with experienced directors who can enrich the property. Imagine someone like Mark Romanek getting to make his version of The Wolf Man? What about someone like Sofia Coppola or Jennifer Kent taking on Bride Of Frankenstein? What about a Dracula film by the director of Raw? There's endless possibilities, and with the right talent rather than marquee names, it can be done.
You can read THR's full report here.